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VIDEO: Chicago's Only Medicinal Garden is Fighting Cancer with Plants

By Jackie Kostek | August 19, 2013 7:49am
Chicago's Only Medicinal Garden
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DNAinfo/Jackie Kostek

MEDICAL DISTRICT — Don’t let the white lab coat fool you. Dr. Djaja Doel Soejarto can navigate the outdoors just as well as he can a pharmaceutical research lab.

Soejarto is the director of the Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Garden — a small garden on the southeast corner of Polk and Wood Streets on the University of Illinois Chicago’s West Campus.

The garden — which boasts more than 200 species of medicinal plants — will be the centerpiece of a celebratory event at the campus on Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Volunteer guides will bring visitors through the garden, and Barbara Timmerman, a distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Kansas, will give the event’s keynote lecture at noon.

“Many people have heard about medicinal plants, but many have not seen the plants,” said Soejarto, who is also a professor of pharmacognosy at UIC. “They will have a better understanding of the medicinal property and the scientific value of the plant.”

Soejarto said many of the plants in the garden can be found in drugs that are used in hospitals every day for cancer, heart disease and menopause.

Despite the garden’s many medicinal features, Soejarto cautions against self-prescribing a plant for an ailment.

“Many of the plants that produce drugs actually are a poison,” said Soejarto. “It is medicine in a dose that is regulated, but when you take too much, it can kill you. You have to watch out.”

For a mini-tour of the garden and its most hardworking plants, watch the video.