RTL Today – “More than just weeds”: a phytologist’s advice and tour of Luxembourg’s medicinal plants

Viviane Craig, a plant therapist from Luxembourg, regularly organizes guided tours of the Kirchberg parks. Topic: Medicinal plants. Our colleagues at RTL Infos came together and helped compile a selection of plants with medicinal properties that you might otherwise have mistaken for ‘just weeds’.

“I’m not a doctor. And at the risk of disappointing you, I’m not a witch either,” smiles Viviane Craig. Regardless, the herbalist recognizes the magic in plants, a tradition practiced for thousands of years. Even modern medicine is still largely based on extracting the active ingredients from many plants, she explains.

However, before these herbs were synthesized into tiny pills, people knew how to recognize, fortify, and prepare them to treat certain conditions. Craig laments the loss of this tradition:

“Luxembourgish people have forgotten the power of these plants. I realized this when I spoke to elderly people in rural Luxembourg, who recalled the 1970s when they still relied on certain plants for medicinal relief. But the generations after that told me they preferred ‘real medicine’ ‘ on the plants.”

Therefore, the herbalist asks if this new generation can recover some of this ancestral knowledge.

“I studied herbal medicine”

Originally from Scotland, Craig is a translator based in Luxembourg. She explains that her curiosity was suddenly sparked one day when she had a feeling that these herbs could do more than just flavor a salad or look pretty:

“I was curious to learn what characteristics the aromatic plants in our garden had. Like anyone else, I started doing research on the Internet, but I always kept landing on websites about medicinal plants, herbalists, phytotherapists…”

She then made the big decision to study herbs and general medicine at the University of East London in 2011. After five years, Craig graduated with a degree in herbal medicine. “I studied plant chemistry, which looks at how these plant molecules react with our bodies to produce healing effects.”

Her passion is definitely more than a hobby: she sees it as her duty to pass on her knowledge through walks in the parks of Luxembourg City, with the support of the Kirchberg Fund.

However, she cautions that herbal medicine is not for beginners. “I don’t recommend self-medication, always make sure you get a diagnosis before using any medicine or herb, as they may not have [desired] effects depending on the health status of a person. The risk of overdose, mixing two plants or intoxication is not low. And be careful when choosing your plants, as they may be sprayed with herbicides.”

Here are eight plants that our colleague at RTL Infos discovered during Craig’s tour, along with a dozen other curious minds who gathered with them on Friday.

The identifying characteristics and properties are based on a booklet made by Viviane Craig, in collaboration with the Kirchberg Fund.

1. Curly dock

Name:Rumex Crispus (Latin); Botterblatt (Luxembourg); Krauser Ampfer (German); oseille crpue (french)
Family: Polygonaceae
HABITAT: culture, wasteland, canals

Properties: Plant roots absorb iron from the soil, which is then converted into organic iron. Therefore, the plant is often used to treat anemia. Herbs are used as a tonic with dandelion, dock and nettle leaves, she adds.

The plant also soothes the liver and lifts the mood. It has blood purifying effects and can be used for skin problems such as psoriasis.

anecdote: Viviane is a big fan of her Luxembourgish name because it tells a story: “The literal translation of ‘Botterblatt’ is ‘butter leaf’. It comes from the fact that curly dock was traditionally used to wrap butter.”

2. Dance

Name: Tanacetum Vulgare (Latin); Wurmkraut (LU); Rainfarn (D); Tanaise (FR)
Family: Compositae/Asteraceae
HABITAT: Grassy areas, roadsides, open bushes

Properties: Tansy leaves repel insects, especially flies and their larvae. “In the Middle Ages, people put Tansy on the floor to perfume their homes and discourage gnats and worms. That’s why flesh was rubbed with Tansy.”

Internally, Tansy is used to regulate menstruation and can also be used as an anti-parasitic. Externally, it is used to treat scabies, lice and fleas.

Careful : Tansy contains thujone and therefore should not be used in early pregnancy as it may affect the fetus. It can also lead to allergic reactions, warns Craig.

3. Yarrow

Name: Achillea Millefolium (Latin); Dausendblietchen (LU); Schafgarbe (D); Millefeuille (FR)
Family: Compositae/Asteraceae
HABITAT: Grassy areas, roadsides, hedgerows

Properties: Yarrow is used to treat high blood pressure, menstruation, digestion, breathing and urination problems. Given its long roots, the plant also resists drought, slows soil erosion and brings minerals to the surface.

It was used to flavor beer before hops were introduced, and its flowers can be used in salads and sauces. Its leaves can be used fresh, like spinach, or dried as a spice and are rich in minerals.

anecdote: Achilles is said to have used Yarrow to dress wounded soldiers, hence its Latin name herb militaris.

4. Red clover

Name: Trifolium Pratense (Latin); Drijrege Kli (LU); Wiesenklee (D); Truffle des prés (FR)
Family: Leguminosae
HABITAT: Meadows, lawns, roadsides

Properties: While it has been used in Western herbalism for over 200 years, red clover was already a staple in ancient medicine to treat wounds and irritations, but also for respiratory problems it has important cough-relieving properties. Moreover, its leaves are known to have phyto-estrogenic effects and can be used to treat menopausal problems.

anecdote: “Oh yes, I ate this when I was little, it tasted a little sweet,” recalls a participant in the guided tour.

5. Daisy

Name: (La) Bellis Perennis (Latin); Maargrit(chen) (LU); Gnseblmchen (D); Pquerette (FR)
Family: Compositae / Asteraceae
HABITAT: Short grassy areas, roadsides

PropertiesMargarita has been described as a princely remedy for aches and pains by old gardeners and continues to be used externally for bruises, cuts, bumps and skin ailments. Its internal use targets bronchitis and gastroenteritis. Washed leaves, buds and flowers are edible and can be used in soups, salads and sandwiches.

anecdote: The name Bellis dates back to the Romans, who soaked strips of cloth in the juice of the crushed flowers to heal wounds. The Old English term Bruisewort refers to its use for bruises, sprains, cuts and scrapes.

6. Dutch lime

Name : Tilia X Europea (Latin); Lann, Lannebam (LU); Dutch Linde (D); Tilleull (FR)
Family: Tiliaceae
HABITAT: Open areas, roads, parks

Properties: The flower is widely used in modern herbalism to treat high blood pressure, nervousness, headaches and insomnia. “It can be taken without contraindications, even by small children.” Note that young fresh lime leaves are edible.

anecdote: The lime tree can grow to over 40 meters, making it the tallest tree in Northern Europe outside of conifers.

7. St John’s Wort

Name: Hypericum Perforatum (Latin); Haartnol (LU) Johanniskraut (D); Millepertuis perfor (FR)
HABITAT: Forests, bushes, dry grasslands, roadsides

Properties: St John’s Wort treats skin wounds, cuts and burns, digestive cramps and ulcers, kidney and respiratory problems. It is also said to have anti-depressant properties, as well as the ability to regulate sleep disorders and mood swings.

Careful : May cause photosensitivity and should not be used with certain heart medications or contraception.

8. Ponytail

Name: Equisetum Arvense (Latin); Kazeschwanz (LU); Acherschachtelhalm (D); Prile des Champs (FR)
Family: Equisetaceae
HABITAT: Paths, clay soils

Properties: “This is a plant packed with minerals,” says Craig. It is a well-known remineralizing agent used to fight osteoporosis. It helps tissue regeneration and heals slow wounds. Given its high content of silica, potassium, selenium and calcium, horsetail has beneficial effects on hair, nails and bones. Its diuretic effects can also improve some urinary problems and stimulate the production of white blood cells.

anecdote: The field horse’s tail has not changed since prehistoric times. It was called a weed because its crunchy leaves have a high silica content and were used to polish tin and wood.

Practical information

Guided tours organized by Viviane Craig are scheduled until the beginning of September, in Parc Central and Parc Klosegrnnchen.

Hours: from 17:50, duration 90-120 minutes. Limited number of places (15 people). To register, send an email to info@fondskirchberg.lu indicating the date of the tournament and the number of participants. Participation is free of charge.

Remaining dates:

Parc Central:
Wednesday June 26 (in French)
Wednesday 10 July (in German)

Parc Klosegr√ľnchen:
Wednesday 24 July (in English)
Wednesday August 14 (in French)
Wednesday 28 August (in German)
Wednesday 11 September (in English)

You can find more details on the Kirchberg Fund website.

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Image Source : today.rtl.lu

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