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NLM Herb Garden
Healing totem in the herb garden at dawn

Started in 1976 as part of National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Bicentennial celebration, the herb garden at the National Library of Medicine showcases the healing power of nature at its very richest. Located directly in front of the main Library building (38) across the oval driveway, the garden's lush variety of herbs captures the endless curative, aromatic, and useful qualities that made these healing plants integral to the development of modern medicine.

Designed under the direction of Thomas Cook, former Chief of the NIH Grounds Maintenance and Landscaping Section, the garden was first planted with perennial hedges of boxwood, lavender, and thyme and has since grown to a size of approximately 100 varieties of herbs. Its ties to the Library have been present from the very beginning, with the layout of the garden initially patterned after the architecture of the NLM building.

The garden is maintained by volunteers from the Maryland Master Gardeners of Montgomery County, and the Herb Society of America, Potomac (MD) Unit, who took on the project in 1986 as a form of community service. Many of the original plantings still grow in the garden. Herbs remain relevant in the modern medicinal world, having found renewed appreciation from doctors and herbalists alike.

While the garden is certainly a source for study by herbalists and botanists, many patrons and employees enjoy the garden as a center for peace, rest, and meditation, and a place to watch butterflies. We hope you will seize the many pleasures of the garden for yourself!

Last Reviewed: March 18, 2024