As we have already written on last week´s post, there are plenty of wild medicine plants on the Camino de Santiago. So here we can watch some more:
- Bay leaves
You can find bay leaves along all Caminos, Camino Francés, Camino Portugués, Camino Primitivo and so on. Bay laurel is an evergreen tree or shrub that belongs to the laurel family (Lauraceae). Normally, it can grow up to 2-5 meters (7 to 16 feet) in height. The leaves are used for their aromatic qualities.
In the legends, bay laurel is depicted as the tree of the Sun god, under the celestial sign of Leo. Bay leaf was prized highly by the Greeks and the Romans, who believed that the herb symbolizes wisdom, peace, and protection. Its compounds are known to have been antiseptic, antioxidant, digestive, and thought to have anti-cancer properties. Furthermore, its fresh leaves and herb parts are superb in folic acid. Bay leaves are an excellent source of vitamin-A.
It can be used both in medicine and cooking purposes. If you are walking the camino in spring or summer and mosquitoes are annoying you, you can rub young bay leaves on your skin since it works perfectly as an insect repellent. Moreover, its scent is really fresh and pleasant. Infusions of herb parts are reputed to soothe stomach ulcers and help relieve flatulence and colic pain
- Fringed rue
The leaves of Ruta chalepensis, also known as herb of Grace or fringed rue. This herb was used formerly by our ancestors but the use of Rue as a medicinal herb has declined in modern times due to its toxicity, and the bitterness of its taste. Regarded from the earliest times as successful in warding off contagion and the attacks of fleas and other noxious insects – one of the ingredients of the famous ‘Vinegar of the Four Thieves’.
Rue is toxic in large doses, you should not experiment with Rue if you are not familiar with using herbs. It should not ever be taken by pregnant women because of it may affect uterine contractions and blood flow.
- Wild Thyme
Thanks to its distinctive taste, thyme has remained a culinary staple to this day. But thyme is also fast gaining a reputation for its medicinal qualities, such as its ability to help treat acne and high blood pressure. It has traditionally used by some healers of Southern Aragón (camino Francés, camino del Ebro) in province of Teruel as a purgative, diuretic and depurative. Thyme is also used as digestive for stomach ailment and dermatitis.
An essential oil from the leaves and flowering tops is used in perfumery, soaps, medicinally etc. It has fungicidal and disinfectant properties. About 150 grams of oil are obtained from 100 kilos of plant material. The dried flowers are used to repel moths from clothing. A good ground cover for a sunny position. It needs weeding for the first year or so.
One other abundant camino plant with medicinal value is calendula, it grows wild on the meseta (usually bright yellow or orange flowers) along with great reefs of wild rosemary and Spanish lavender . you can rub them well and throw them in the water, the pilgrims use to soak their feet. Aromatherapy! The calendula is really great for skin, the rosemary a natural antiseptic and boot deodorizer.
The little daisy-like flowers in the pretty roadside pic are “manzanilla,” (chamomile) popular for after-dinner tea. It makes you sleep well. You can order an “infusión de manzanilla” in any restaurant instead of coffee.
Every step of your camino will be full of fields of poppies and daisies, chamomile and dandelion along the path edge, a shell quietly waiting on a signpost, showing you the way. The flowers and shells will become your companions as much as the other pilgrims on the trail.
“Each of the 17 provinces of Spain has its own Red Book on protected species, so you have a lot of places to research! The protection is generally for the habitat, not the individual plant. That is, developers cannot obliterate a habitat for a protected specie, but it is OK to pluck a branch (with about 5 exceptions for truly rare plants, most of which are in State parks). Worrying about making a pot of camomile tea, or taking some fennel seeds for your marinara sauce may be excessive! Seeing a wildlife officer outside of a national park is probably quite rare. It may be sufficient to avoid killing any plant unnecessarily, that is, no wild flower garlands around your bonnet.” Falcon269, from www.caminodesantiago.me
Photo 1 laurel https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com
Photo 2 ruda https://www.infomistico.com/
Photo 3 thyme http://www.stylecraze.com
Photo 4 calendula http://honeypotherbals.ca
Photo5 chamomile https://www.shutterstock.com/
Buen Camino, amigos!