Thursday, 9 July 2015

Les herbes de la Saint Jean

Today, a friend and I set off on a 'Sortie Botanique' which was led by a M. Everard, who is an ethnobotaniste. The purpose of the excursion was to discover 'Les herbes de la Saint Jean'.  These are seven or so herbs which are traditionally gathered on the morning of the Summer Solstice, before the dew has dried upon them, when they are supposedly at their most powerful. They are then made into poultices & potions etc; that are used to ward off illness in the year to come.  More plant-power is awarded if the gatherer is barefoot which presumably would leaves one's feet in need of at least one of the said potions to treat the inevitable bites/stings and prickles.  What's more, for optimum power, the gatherer is to approach the plants backwards and preferably use a golden knife which will undoubtedly result in a fall of some kind, and quite possibly a mugging, thus requiring more treatments.  There's a strange symbiosis in it all! Anyway, in spite of the mystical mumbo jumbo, we all know that a great many of our modern medicines are derived from plants and M. Everard said that 80% of the world's population rely on herbal medicines...

The weather has been really dry so we didn't find the full set but we come across St John's Wort (a natural 'prozac'), Wild Lettuce (said to have opiate-like properties) Yarrow, (antiseptic and good for intestinal parasite removal) Artemesia or Wormwood (for 'wimmen's disorders'?), Marguerite (for wound healing), as well as mint, verbena and plantains.  We talked of trees and this being France, we, of course, also discussed mushrooms and their role in maintaining a healthy humus in the forest.

A very pleasant way to spend the morning.

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