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Woodstock resident helps install a healing garden near Ross Island Bridge

by: Elizabeth Ussher Groff Woodstock resident Dr. Glen Nagel points out coneflower/echinacea, while giving a tour of the new Min Zidell Healing Garden. The labyrinth, pavilion, plus more herbs and some ornamentals, can be seen in the background.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents, by necessity, often relied upon herbal folk medicine for health and healing. Garlic and celery for blood pressure control; peppermint for digestion; calendula/marigolds for wound salve.

On Earth Day of this year, Woodstock resident Dr. Glen Nagel saw his dream fulfilled, when an 11,000-square-foot 'healing garden' was planted - with some of the same herbs our ancestors used - in a former parking lot next to the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) clinic and campus at 049 SW Porter Street, at the west end of the Ross Island Bridge. Nagel is on the faculty of the college.

You may have caught sight of the garden, if you stay left leaving the Ross Island Bridge to turn up onto Barbur Boulevard southbound. You can also see it from the nearby OHSU aerial tram.

Called the 'Min Zidell Healing Garden', the ugly parking lot has been transformed into a botanical, teaching, meditation and healing garden. Five circles of paths, a labyrinth/exercise circle, and a beautiful pavilion, mingle with seventy-five herbs from both the naturopathic and Chinese Medicine traditions.

The garden was funded with $150,000 from the Zidell family and is named after the 87-year-old family matriarch Min Zidell, a philanthropist and longtime patient of naturopathic medicine. Susan Hunter, Vice President of Advancement at NCNM, secured donors and steered organizing, and even joined co-workers in some of the planting.

Drake's 7 Dees won the landscape contract, and brought in landscape designer Vanessa Nagel (no relation), who oversaw the design in conjunction with Dr. Nagel and NCNM's Dr. Paul Kalnins.

On a recent tour of the garden, Glen Nagel identified for THE BEE some of the medicinal herbs and explained their properties and the garden's purpose.

'Here at the college and in the clinic, Chinese and western doctors work together. This is a student garden, a healing garden, and a community garden. Portland showcases itself as the City of Roses, but here we like to say it's the City of Herbs,' smiled Dr. Nagel.

The intent was to have a garden with as many healing herbs as possible, but also to share the garden's beauty with visitors and neighbors. Visitors from China have been delighted to see familiar herbs in the garden. Many of the medicinal plants can be used, in some cases, to prevent the need for conventional prescription medications.

The garden is surrounded by an attractive fence; and at the entrance students and visitors are greeted by a cast bronze sculpture of 4th century Sun Simao, one of the most influential physicians in the history of Chinese Medicine.

Glen Nagel, who has an Internet website where he wryly calls himself the 'herbal wise guy', is a widely-recognized expert in botanical medicine. His own path toward naturopathic medicine began in northern Wisconsin, when he was an undergraduate in biology and outdoor education.

In the early 1980's in Portland, he set up an herbal extraction lab and production facility for the Eclectic Institute (a nationally respected manufacturer and distributor of herbal medicine), on the original S.E. Market Street campus of the NCNM. That experience turned his interest toward naturopathic medicine.

After enrolling in NCNM and graduating in 1993, Nagel and his wife Mary Frazel, also a naturopathic doctor, had successful practices for eleven years in Montana and Colorado before returning to the Pacific Northwest. Frazel now has a naturopathic family/pediatric practice in Milwuakie and Nagel has been on the faculty of botanical medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) for five years.

You can view photos of the healing garden, and learn about its design, by going online to: www.seasonsgardensdesign.com/NCNM.html . The garden is open to the public Monday through Saturday. Information for on-campus and field study classes given by Dr. Nagel can be found online at: www.herbalwiseguy.com .