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The Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden: Unique Venue and Resource

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. The garden is a unique resource for researchers, trainees, and visitors alike to learn about medicinal plants, their historic, and their current uses and value for human health. Particularly 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.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Dorothy Atkins' husband, Dr. Robert A. Atkins, Dorothy’s life as a pharmacist and her interest in medicinal plants are honored and commemorated by the garden and its associated activities.

The Annual Garden Walk: A Community Outreach Event Heading link

Atkins Garden Features Plants Researched by the UIC Botanical Center

Every summer, scientists from UIC’s Pharmacognosy Institute hold an Annual Garden Walk Event (typically in July/August), in an effort to engage and answer questions from the public about botanical dietary supplements, the plant origins of medicines, and the role of edible and medicinal plants in human health.

The Annual Garden Walk invites visitors for guided tours, led by medicinal plant scientists, a lecture by experts in the field, and has included virtual tours when in-person participation was not possible.

The first Annual Garden Walk was initiated in 2007 by the Atkins Garden Curator at the time, botanist Dr. Djaja D. Soejarto, and PCRPS 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.

Overview and Mission Heading link

Atikins 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 Medicinal Plant 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.

About 150 species of perennial temperate medicinal plants are growing in the Garden. We see the beauty of this garden at its peak during the summer months, especially during the months of June to August. Plants are arranged in Plot Locations marked A to J. Each plant is fully labeled, providing the common and scientific name (Latin binomial). The garden features plants studied at the UIC Pharmacognosy Institute, such as the UIC Botanical Center (P50 AT000155, 1999-2022) including the prominent botanicals Red Clover, Hops, Black Cohosh, and Ginger. Other plants investigated at the UIC College of Pharmacy that grow in the garden include: birch the bark of which is studied for potential anticancer properties and the may apple, which is the source of the anticancer drugs etoposide and teniposide.

The mission of the Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden is to support health education and research at the UIC College of Pharmacy and to serve as a public education resource on medicinal and dietary supplement plants and their value for human health. While fulfilling these missions, the Garden also serves as a place of solace to members of the UIC and greater Chicago community, who seek a peaceful place in a busy urban environment or take a daytime break in the summer months to enjoy the beautiful, lush, and colorful scenery.

Atkins Garden Funding for Educational & Outreach Heading link

Dr. Janet M. Riddle

Dr. Janet M. Riddle Health Professions Education Fund (2021-2025)

Established in 2021, the Dr. Janet M. Riddle Health Professions Education Fund supports the activities of the annual Garden Walk, in the Dorothy Bradley Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden, at the UIC College of Pharmacy.  Representing a generous gift in the name and memory of Dr. Janet M. Riddle (photo), the fund supports activities in the 2021-2025 period that will focus on, but are not limited to, elements that enhance the educational value of the garden as a unique resource for academic learning and general education about the essential roles of plants in human health. As part of these efforts, we have recently been providing virtual tours are part of the Annual Atkins Garden Walk, which can be attended live via teleconference media.

Funding Opportunities for Medicinal Plant Education and Research

The educational and outreach activities of the Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden provides funding opportunities for individuals and organizations.

Interested parties are welcome to contact for inquiries and further information.

Essential Information about the Atkins Medicinal Garden Heading link

Atkins Medicinal Plant Garden at the UIC College of Pharmacy Heading link

833 South Wood St., MC 877, Chicago, Illinois 60612