Located in Zeytinburnu, Istanbul, the Medical Plants Garden boasts hundreds of different plants that are known for their medicinal properties.

Zeytinburnu Medical Plants Garden is located in the old peninsula of Istanbul, on the European side. Featuring more than 700 plants, it offers visitors a breath of fresh air as well as knowledge about medicinal plants.

A bee visits an Echinacea flower in the Zeytinburnu Medicinal Plants Garden.
A bee visits an Echinacea flower in the Zeytinburnu Medicinal Plants Garden. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

The Garden opened to the public in 2005. Tugce Agba, a biologist who has been working there for eight years, says it is spread over 14 decares and has plants in open air, a small zoo, as well as a greenhouse for non-native plants.

Rabbits and chickens (not pictured) live at the back of the garden. Cats roam more freely.
Rabbits and chickens (not pictured) live at the back of the garden. Cats roam more freely. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

According to the book Medicinal Plants Garden, written by Prof. Dr. Kerim Alpınar, Turkey is home to more than 11,000 plants, of which 3,300 are endemic (i.e. native to the country), which is considered a rich heritage.

A species of flowering plant within the verbena family, Lantana camara can become invasive. It is also good for keeping mosquitos away.
A species of flowering plant within the verbena family, Lantana camara can become invasive. It is also good for keeping mosquitos away. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

The plants on display are labeled with their Turkish, English and Latin names, but not much information is given about their specific medicinal use even if you were to scan their QR codes. This is to prevent misuse by visitors, the museum guide pamphlet informs. However, poisonous plants are labeled with a warning sign.

Amaranthus retroflexus (pigweed) is used to produce yellow and green dyes, as well as in Chinese medicine. In the Western world, it is used more in decorating gardens.
Amaranthus retroflexus (pigweed) is used to produce yellow and green dyes, as well as in Chinese medicine. In the Western world, it is used more in decorating gardens. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

Agba tells TRT World that plant leftovers are used as natural fertilisers and that the caretakers try to avoid synthetic fertilisers and chemicals.

“The best time to visit our garden,” Agba says, “is from May to mid-July, when most of the flowers are in bloom.” Annual plants start to fade after that window, while perennials are as vibrant as ever.

The greenhouse houses plants that are native to warmer climates.
The greenhouse houses plants that are native to warmer climates. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

Plants harvested in certain times are first dried, then packed and frozen for a few days, then labelled and kept in drug cupboards. Flowering plants are dried while being pressed, taped onto cardboard, held in the freezer, labelled and kept in herbarium cupboards.

It is possible to encounter tortoises in the greenhouse - in this case, next to the aloe vera.
It is possible to encounter tortoises in the greenhouse - in this case, next to the aloe vera. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

In the seed bank that was formed to contribute to biodiversity, seeds from various plants around the garden are kept as well as seeds received from all over the world.

Another flower in the greenhouse is hibiscus, commonly seen in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey.
Another flower in the greenhouse is hibiscus, commonly seen in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

In the laboratory, scientists examine the morphology and anatomy of plants, make essential oils, produce tinctures, ointments, creams, perfumes, eau de colognes, soaps, make kefir, and prepare plant extracts against pests.

The sundial at the centre of the garden divides the year into 52 weeks.
The sundial at the centre of the garden divides the year into 52 weeks. (Selin Alemdar / TRTWorld)

There is a sundial in the garden showing 12 months and 52 weeks of the year. The zoo in the back is kept to familiarise children with household animals and to endear nature to them.

Interested parties can purchase essential oils, honey and kefir from the Garden. The Zeytinburnu Medicinal Plants Garden is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm daily. Groups and schools can call ahead and ask to see the premises while accompanied by a guide.

Source: TRT World