Chelsea Physic Garden and Plant Medicine During The War

Did you know that the Garden contributed many of its medicinal plants to support both World War I and World War II?

The Garden was considerably affected by both conflicts; with the Home Front fully mobilised to do everything it could to support the war effort, Chelsea Physic Garden was no different.

Plants and medicines were in short supply in both wars, and the public was encouraged to start collecting or growing plants to help with the effort. Many of the plants had previously been imported from Europe, and this was no longer happening. The Government even issued leaflets helping people to identify plants outdoors and with advice on growing essential plants. The types of plants that needed to be grown were similar in both wars, and the Government issued lists of these plants. (Ayres 2015) 

Kew Gardens contributed to growing food for the Second World War effort, but Chelsea Physic Garden made other contributions; in light of the enhanced need for medicine, the Garden made use of their extensive medicinal collection. The Garden sent belladonna and Digitalis (heart medicines) and Hyoscyamus (anaesthetic) to the University College Hospital in 1940, and they also supplied  Atropa belladonna to the Ministry of Health in 1943. During World War II the demand led to a resurgence in the interest in medicinal plants. (Minter 2000)

Chelsea Physic Garden was naturally well placed to assist, and you can still see these plants grown in the Garden today.