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The Magical Power of Herbs

Author: Danila Mašič

Date: 8. March 2020

Time to read: 4 min

For every illness there grows a flower. But not every flower is for everyone. Whoever wants to use a flower has to learn about it first, as nature also brings forth plants that are detrimental to health, poisonous or downright deadly.

The forests of Slovenia abound with medicinal plants, which are put to use as  food, human and animal medication and pest control in plant protection. There are plenty of herbs whose effects have been well-known and appreciated.

The Line between Witchcraft and Healing

This line was blurred until recently. Not being able to explain natural phenomena, people conjured up images of evil spirits, which they would chase with spells and witchcraft. Herbalists initially enjoyed great respect among common villagers. After the onset of Christianity, however, herbalists were often accused of witchcraft. Ignorant people could not distinguish between healing and magic.

Slovenia has a very rich heritage related to witchcraft and magical healing.

The knowledge of herbs and healing was later refined in monasteries and eventually reached common people, too. Over 3000 different species now grow in Slovenia, which is an extremely high number given the size of the country. The outstanding geographical conditions enabled Slovenian folk medicine to use as many as 500 medicinal plants of domestic origin.

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The Legend of the Frightful Herbalist

The stories of Josip Vandot, born in the heart of Slovenian mountains in Kranjska Gora, depicted the legends set in the Alpine landscape. All Slovenians know the stories of Kekec and his adventures. In one of them, Kekec decides to help his blind friend Mojca. He finds the cure for blindness at the house of the frightful Pehta, who was a good herbalist and who knew of a rare flower that could restore Mojca's eyesight. This is what happens in the end, as the brave shepherd tricks the wicked herbalist after she kidnaps Mojca. It is also thanks to Kekec that Pehta disappears from the area.

Nature-Based Health Today

When it comes to medicinal plants, the most important thing is know-how. If the "magic" is to work, one must have a pure heart. One must not be driven by the desire for money or revenge. In the past, plants were subjected to singing or chanting before use. People believed that this boosted their medicinal effects.

Plants have been used for brews, baths, ointments, oils and incenses, herbal butters, drops and tinctures.

Women were always intrigued by "elixirs of youth". Nowadays plants are used mostly for teas.

Dandelion for Spring Cleansing, Blue Health from the Forest, Lime for Love and Flowers for High Spirits

Medicinal plants that Slovenians are particularly fond of picking include dandelion leaves. These are most typically consumed in the form of salads with potatoes, boiled eggs or fried bacon, pumpkin seeds, beans or chickpeas. This healthy salad is a boost to the immune system: it helps cleanse the blood and boost metabolism, lowers blood sugar levels, helps with gallbladder problems and blockages, alleviates rheumatic complaints and probably prevents many other illnesses, too. Dandelion is also used to make soups, sauces and vegetable juices, tea for weight loss, wine or honey. In the old days people believed in the magical powers of dandelion and used it for fortune telling and divination.

Soon after dandelions appear, nature offers us blueberries. If picked before blossoming, they can be used in brews that reduce blood sugar levels and are very effective at cleansing the body.

Blueberries also make nicotine rather repugnant to smokers. Blueberry juice has anti-inflammatory effects and eliminates bad breath and metabolic disorders. Dried fruits are an excellent cure for diarrhoea. Blueberries have a range of other medicinal effects. Although the sweet fruits taste best au naturel, they are also delicious in pies and rolls. Blueberry is a very magical plant: if we place it under the threshold, it will chase away all unwanted guests.

The honey scent of lime, the symbol of Slovenia, delights us from late May and into June.

Lime blossoms are used against cramps and to prevent sweating. However, overconsumption of lime blossom brews is hazardous for cardiac patients. Lime blossoms are also used for treating kidney diseases and removing mucus from the lungs and trachea. They also cleanse blood and heal intestinal wounds. Lime blossom tea is a very tasty drink with a mildly tranquilising effect. Lime blossoms were widely used in love charms because of their sweet smell.

"Healthy as a cornel" is a well-known saying in Slovenia. Cornel grows at forest edges throughout Slovenia and its fruits contain plenty of vitamin C.

They are used to reduce fever and blood pressure. They can be made into marmalade, soup, sauce or juice. Ripe fruits can be eaten fresh, but they may taste rather sour. Cornel is globally known as goji berries that originate in China. Prior to drying, goji berries are soaked in sweet syrup, which improves their taste and makes them more popular.

Spirit distilling is an ancient Slovenian tradition; spirits thus produced were also used as the basis of herbal liqueurs. Both blossoms and fruits can be steeped in home-distilled brandies. Arnica soaked in brandy was used to treat bruises and contusions. Well-known products include wormwood and juniper brandies used to alleviate stomach complaints.

Effective Awakening from Winter Sleep

The most beneficial plants in spring are those that cleanse and boost our vitality after the short winter days and lack of sun. We can then enter the summer relieved of the weight gained over the winter, of the darkness and our heavy thoughts.