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From Sardinia, 5 healthy plants
Myrtle, prickly pears, thyme, helicrysum and rosemary are plants that with their medicinal properties contribute to the wellness of your body.
With its luxuriant vegetation this island of the Mediterranean holds treasures for our health and beauty. Precious elements are found in the leaves, flowers and roots of a few plants native to Sardinia. Thanks to phytotherapy, let’s discover which plants can help us improve our wellness in a natural way.
Known and employed for ancient times, this herb has sweetly scented flowers with golden stamens and dark green shiny leaves and stalks permeated with a spicy aroma. Since the Middle Ages myrtle is used for ornamental, culinary and even therapeutic purposes. Its essential oil is balmy and antiseptic and the tannins it contains have an astringent and antibacterial effect. This is why myrtle is one of the most common ingredients in Sardinia and in other areas of Italy used to prepare balmy teas and recommended mostly in case of bronchial disorders: its leaves and flowers are used fresh or dry for the purpose. Some use its berries and leaves to savour grilled meat while some vegetarians prefer its flowers to enrich fruit salads. Myrtle is also the central ingredient of a famous liqueur produced in Sardinia, mirto. Through the distillation process to extract its essential oil an aromatic liquid is obtained, which in the past was called “water of angels”, because it has beneficial effects on the face skin.
It is recognisable for its yellow flowers, whose umbrella-like shape depends on the many heads it is composed of. It’s not by chance that its name means “golden sun”. Its flowers are used to prepare decoctions, infusions and mother tincture. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and balsamic properties, helichrysum is recommended in case of sunburn and chilblain; this is why it is the main ingredient of some creams. Its hydroalcoholic extract is used to treat psoriasis and eczema in the form of decoction or infusion. The positive effects of helichrysum in the treatment of skin problems were recorded in italy by Dr Leonardo Santini (1904-1983), who found improvements not only in the patients who suffered from psoriasis, but also in those having arthritis and arthrosis. Helichrysum infusions and decoctions are used to alleviate the cough and are beneficial in case of varicose veins and rheumatic pain.
There is plenty of thyme in Sardinia as in many other regions of Italy. There are many varieties – including maritime and creeping thyme (which, in its turn, includes the golden variety and the golden lemon variety) – and they are all better exposed to the sun. Although all its different varieties have medicinal properties, the creeping thyme is the most beneficial one. The infusion of its leaves are an excellent tonic for digestion. Decoctions and infusions alleviate respiratory system diseases, particularly in case of cough. Its essential oil – that shouldn’t be taken orally because it is toxic – has antiseptic properties: adding a few drops of oil into the bathing water alleviates joint pains. To ease rheumatism pain, you can prepare an infusion with marjoram, creeping thyme and sage (a teaspoonful of each plant) and add it to the bathing water.
Its Latin name means “dew of the sea”. In ancient times, this plant was used for the fumigation and purification of the environments. In phytotherapy its leaves are used in infusion form because they trigger the blood flow and foster digestion; rosemary has beneficial effects even on arthritic and rheumatic pain. The infusion also functions as a natural mouthwash and because of its antibacterial properties it can be added to the bathing water. Its essential oil – that should be avoided during pregnancy – has expectorant and fluidising properties and it should be inhaled in case of sinusitis, otitis and cough.
The prickly pear, a plant native to Mexico, thanks to its ability to adapt to extreme climate conditions (hot weather and lack of water), developed important nutritious properties. The fruits contain calcium, iron, phosphorus and vitamins (B1, B2, PP, A, C) and the flowers are rich in flavonoids, so they have antioxidant properties. Cladodes, their juicy leaves, are rich in fibers and mucilage and lower the glycemic index in the blood. Its oil is rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, which have antioxidant properties too. Traditionally, it was used to treat scars because it makes the skin elastic and tonic, regenerating cells.
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