The power of herbs
Medicinal herbs can be used to cure a very wide range of conditions. Alexandra Federa, herb expert at Health Retreat Park Igls, runs popular herb forays during which she demonstrates the wisdom handed down by the ancients as well as notables such as Sebastian Kneipp and Nicholas Culpeper.
Medicine cabinet made from nature
The 19th century Bavarian priest and therapist Sebastian Kneipp believed firmly that, ‘for every disease there is a herb’, and Alexandra Federa – herb expert at Park Igls Medical Spa Resort – agrees.
Many herbs, wild plants and even tree leaves have astonishing healing properties. Fortunately, all of these grow abundantly here in spring and summer. Alexandra Federa thinks everyone should keep a "natural medicine cabinet" at home, as this allows us to access the healing power of herbs at any time.
Ancient knowledge rediscovered
It is thought that even animals – including primates, sheep, blue tits and monarch butterflies – know about and seek out the medicinal effects of plants, and that early humans are likely to have used them too. Ötzi the 5,300-year-old glacier mummy, for instance, was found to have birch bracket fungi in his pockets, which were presumably used as a remedy. The most famous attestation of the use of herbs in medicine is the Ebers Papyrus, written in Egypt in the 16th century BC.
During the Middle Ages, medicinal plants began to be cultivated, described and used – mostly by monastic orders. In around 1230, the Hispano-Arabic physician and botanist Ibn al-Baitar described more than 1,400 plant-based remedies and their formulas. Today, medicinal plants are used in phytotherapy, and the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacology have finally come to the conclusion that phytochemicals represent a huge reservoir for new and highly potent drugs.
Using medicinal herbs at home
‘The number of active ingredients in daisies is astounding: bitter compounds, minerals, vitamins, tannins and, of course, chlorophyll, the energising antioxidant!’ explains herb expert Alexandra Federa. In 2015, the trained nurse qualified as a herbalist, and she now enjoys leading Park Igls guests on herb forays in the surrounding area. Interest in these walks is growing all the time. Each guided foray means that more people understand the centuries-old knowledge of the healing power of nature, and start applying it to their daily lives.
The foraged plants can be used to make teas, oils, herb salts and ointments for domestic use. Many recipes are easy, and ideal for novices. A good one to start with is the delicious and wholesome daisy butter made from foraged petals: carefully pluck the daisy petals, combine with softened butter, and spread onto a slice of fresh farmhouse bread.