The monkshood plant, if ingested, will make a person’s heart beat irregularly, but used topically will numb skin and reduce fevers.

The tall, skinny plant was one of over a dozen at the University of St. Joseph medicine garden at Elizabeth Park that Japanese students viewed, smelled and learned about Tuesday morning.

Seven high school students from Tokyo and their school’s dean have been in the U.S. the past two weeks, learning about the country and what college is like through a collaboration between St. Joseph and Otsuma Women’s University.

Students met with University of St. Joseph School of Pharmacy students and assistant professor Dayne Laskey in a garden outside one of the Elizabeth Park greenhouses Tuesday, medicine bottles and boxes situated next to different plants.

View a Fox 61 video and a Hartford Courant video of the students at the Park with Dr. Dayne Laskey.

“The purpose of the garden is to kind of bridge the gap between modern pharmaceutical medicine and natural alternative remedies,” Laskey said. “Many people have this misconception that, that natural medicine and pharmaceuticals are two different things and we’re here to show that, in many times, they’re one in the same thing.”

Manae Yoshiki, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she wants to be a doctor like her grandfather and is interested in pharmacy studies. She said she found the program to be interesting and helpful.

“It was a very important experience for my life,” Yoshiki said.

The students have been staying in St. Joseph dorms the past two weeks, and have visited the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, the Mark Twain House and Museum, as well as taken a day trip to New York City to see the Empire State Building and the Museum of Modern Art.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity to not just immerse these students coming from Japan in STEM-based fields but STEAM-based fields instead,” said Christina Alevras, a biology professor at St. Joseph who coordinated the two-week trip. “They are immersed in the arts and the culture, education.”

Takayori Mizusawa, the international dean at Otsuma Nakano Junior and Senior High School, said experiencing the U.S. firsthand and being exposed to college life are a rewarding takeaways for students.

“It’s a very precious and very helpful experience for the students,” Mizusawa said. “It has a very strong impact on them.”

Story by Mikaela Porter, Hartford Courant