Useful Healing Herbs in Italy

medicinal plant in italy

When we think of the level of sanitation and medical care in Roman

times we often imagine a somewhat dark age, where common ailments would

manifest themselves into serious, life-threatening diseases with little

hope of a cure and that human hygiene was rarely addressed. However

the average Roman citizen would have had access to a wide range of homeopathic

use of plants for medicine mixingmedicines

from all over the world from their vast empire which spanned from the

North of England to Asia. In fact the Romans were by far the most hygienic

and advanced population that the world had known up until that time,

with a personal hygiene second to none and a concise knowledge of healing

plants, adopted mainly from the populations and cultures overthrown

by the empire.

We tend to think of our modern pharmaceutical service as being very

modern and efficient in comparison to these, more “primitive” ages.

Well, in some ways it certainly is more modern with the pharmaceutical

industry making frighteningly monstrous profits every year, more-so

than the arms industry! Take the humble aspirin for example,

asprin pill

with around 80, 000 000 tablets being sold each day in N. America alone

but what about the aspirin, that modern solution to fever, pain and

general aches, but is it really so modern after all?

The painkilling properties of aspirin are derived from a substance

(Salicin) found under the bark of the willow tree (Salix chrysocoma)

and in fact most of the trees from the genus “Salicaceae”, such as poplars

and aspens. In fact the healing properties were well known to the Romans

and already in around 400 B.C the Greek physician Hypocrates was writing

about its use. However long before the Greeks its properties were well

known and was already being used in European folk medicine. Today North

Americans spend around $750,000,000 every year on painkillers

The list of healing plants is endless but the investment on un-locking

and utilizing their potential is still minimal in comparison to the

millions of dollars spent on researching modern, synthetic alternatives.

The plant kingdom offers a cure

for almost every kind of common ailment, and their properties range

from; antibiotic, antioxidant, antispasmodic, ant-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic

to cures for eczema, swelling, blood-clotting and even depression! The

Romans had access to, and (more importantly!) the knowledge of how to

use, these natural products to improve their health, their skin, their

bad-breath and even their state of mind!

herbs for medicinal use

They would have used Lavender to wash and bathe with, olive-oil with

herb-infusions like chamomile to soothe, and render their skin supple,

more beautiful and they would have taken advantage of the humble bay-laurel

as an astringent, to aid digestion and soothe general stomach disorders.

Plants like Malva silvestris had been used since the 8th century for

its strong anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties, a plant which

was still used for toothache in Tuscany up until recent years. Plants

like fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris), a plant that still grows by the side

of every road in Italy, was noted for increasing appetite, digestion

and even… flatulence, which must have been a common problem of the

day considering the vast array of banquets, wine drinking and general

over-indulgence undertaken by the Romans.

bee on medicinal plant

The Romans appear to have had a simple cure for some very complicated

and even socially crippling ailments and this brings one to wonder just

what potential lies undiscovered in the plant kingdom and just what

would emerge from that kingdom if it were to receive the same, massive

investment that the “modern” pharmaceutical industry receives as it

seems that there really is nothing more modern than the past!!

A List of the more common Healing Herbs Still used in Italy:

basilBasil-

lowers blood sugar levels, antispasmodic, reduces fever and irritation

from insect stings.

basil

Lavender- scent, cures stress and stress related headaches,

depression- carminative.

FennelFennel-

relieves flatulence, stimulates appetite, aids digestion,

mild expectorant, increases breast-milk production, eye-wash for conjunctivitis.

MarigoldCalendula

(Marigold)- skin problems such as rashes, antiseptic, eases

swelling, detoxifier.

JuniperJuniper-

strong antiseptic for urinary tract, cystitis, aids fluid retention,

diuretic, anti-rheumatic.

LemonLemon-

strong antiseptic, antirheumatic, antioxidant, reduces fever.


GarlicGarlic-

strong antibiotic, expectorant, antispasmodic, expels worms from stomach.

Why not consider basing your garden around organic vegetables, culinary

herbs and healing plants, after all that’s what an Italian garden always

was! Watch out my herb plant profiles in the next few weeks!

By Jonathon Radford

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