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Atkins Medicinal Garden

The Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden offers a unique venue for trainees and visitors to learn about medicinal plants and their historic and current uses.

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Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

The Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden is a garden oasis in the midst of the busy University of Illinois at Chicago medical center (west) campus situated in the Illinois Medical District located on the corner of Wood and Polk Streets next to the College of Pharmacy. During the spring and summer months, The Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden provides a scenic backdrop for those enjoying a quiet break. Those lunching or reveling in the scents and colors of the Atkins garden may overlook the fact that the plants surrounding them have played a crucial role in the history of medicine. But thanks to the generosity of Dorothy’s husband, Dr. Robert A. Atkins, Dorothy’s life as a pharmacist and her interest in medicinal plants are honored and commemorated by the garden.

Atkins Garden features plants researched by the UIC Botanical Center

Not just an island of beauty and calm on the University of Illinois campus, the Atkins Garden is also a rich resource for educational and research activities with over eighty different medicinal plant species. Featured plants have a long history of use. Before the modern medicine emphasis on synthetic chemistry, these plants provided the primary source of organic chemical compounds used to treat disease. With an increase in the use of dietary supplements derived from plants today, there is a renewed emphasis on the study of these plants and their role in modern health care. Plants which are under study by the UIC Botanical Center are featured in the garden including red clover, hops, black cohosh and ginger among others. Other plants in the garden include: birch bark which is studied for the anticancer properties of betulinic acid and the may apple which is the source of the anticancer drugs etoposide and teniposide.

Dorothy Bradley Atkins Annual Garden Walk and Community Outreach event

In an effort to engage and answer questions from the public about botanical dietary supplements and the plant origins of early medicines, Center researchers hold an annual Garden Walk. Initiated in 2007 by the Garden’s curator, botanist Dr. Djaja D. Soejarto and the Center Director at the time, Dr. Norman R. Farnsworth, the Garden Walk offers a tour of the garden from the perspective of UIC researchers and features a lecture from a distinguished natural products scientist. Visitors also receive a sample of one of the plants grown in the garden which is generally found as an ornamental garden plant.

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