Monday, September 28, 2009

Herb Stores in Spain and one with a Particular Story

Herbolarios and herboristerias are common in Spain and even though what Americans would consider alternative health care has only started to really blossom in Spain in the last few years, these, usually small, stores have been practicing herbal and nutritional medicine for what seems like forever.

While I was out walking in Valencia Spain, I came upon a  an herboristeria advertising herbal preparations by Maurice Messegue. It is unusual to see mention of Maurice Messegue so it caught my attention.

Messegue was an herbalist and natural healer from a small village in France who went on to treat famous people and be persecuted by the authorities. He wrote a number of books including Of Men and Plants, (Macmillan, 1973) which has appendices on his herbal preparations and growing tips for herb gardens. Laboratoires Messegue makes herbal preparations based on his work see

I had a specific herbal tincture I was looking for and had no success at the other stores I had tried. So I went in asking for uno extracto de Artemisia. The very nice storekeeper explained (all in Spanish) that she had no extractos, only herbs for infusiones (infusions or teas) and she did not have the kind of Artemisia I wanted. She pulled out one of her many wooden drawers filled with bags of herbs and showed me what she had.

As I was saying no thank you, she was continuing to talk in Spanish about the qualities and uses of the Artemisia she did stock, when I heard something about menopause, my ears perked up. Hmm, maybe I should reconsider. So I said, “Si, por favor”. She noticed my chronic reddish rash around my mouth and nose and was telling me how I should not eat trigo (wheat) or leche de vaca (cow milk). I assured her that I ate neither already.

She mixed up a personal tea blend of Artemisia vulgaris, sage, yarrow and mint with instructions for my daily use. She also handed me a foil sample pack of an aloe vera preparation to use directly on my rashy skin.

I left the little herboristeria quite impressed and continued on my errands. Once home, I dutifully made my tea and used the natural aloe vera sample. Well it was all somewhat miraculous, as the aloe vera worked beautifully on my skin, and the tea made me feel better within less than 24 hours.

I went back to the store to see if I could buy a larger container of the aloe vera product. As I was paying for my gel she noticed my change purse, a cloth zippered bag made in Nepal with an Om sign embroidered on it.

Standing behind the counter in her doctor-like white jacket, she became excited and started showing me all of her spiritual pictures and telling me (all in Spanish) that she meditates and chants Om. She then showed me a darling little book, El Corazon de Asia (The Heart of Asia) written by writer, painter and traveler Nicolas Roerich (see English version at ). She leafed through the pages pointing out the photographs of sacred places in Tibet, Ladakh and other Asian countries where Roerich and his family had traveled almost ninety years ago. She was waxing poetic I am sure although I was only getting the gist of what she was saying about the mysticism, connections and beauty of the places and the quality of the spirit.

Our hearts connected and we held hands. She asked what my name was and when I asked hers this herbalist and light-filled person answered, “Remedias."

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