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Ancient wisdom rediscovered: Herb workshops in Bergheim

“God has created a plant for every disease”, the famous physician and philosopher Paracelsus is claimed to have once said. Today, this ancient wisdom is undergoing somewhat of a revival, with more and more people becoming interested in the power of herbs. But what herb has what benefits? When should each herb be picked and what is the best way to use it? We learn the answers to these questions and many more during a herb workshop in Bergheim. 

For the past five years now, Bergheim – a bustling town on the outskirts of Salzburg – has given participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of medicinal herbs. It is a broad theme, on which Bergheim Tourist Office in cooperation with the expert herbalists of a Salzburg association known as “Kräuterschnecken” hosts a wide range of events. The specific themes frequently depend on the time of year: detoxification using the first herbs of springtime, for example, as well as how to manufacture natural cosmetics and cook with local herbs and roots. But what was it that inspired Bergheim in the first place to breathe new life into the ages-old knowledge associated with wild herbs? “We are very fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful, pristine nature”, Angela Zechmann of Bergheim Tourist Office tells us. “But only if we are truly aware of the gifts of Mother Nature, do we also appreciate and protect them. We are committed to sharing this knowledge with others and passing it down to future generations.”

What our ancestors knew long ago

On a radiantly beautiful Saturday morning, we gather with ten other participants with a shared interest in herbs, here in front of the New Middle School in Bergheim. Angela is already there and leads our small group into the school kitchen, where all kinds of herbs are laid out just waiting for us to arrive. “In the summer months, we often hold our workshops outside”, Angela explains. “We take a walk to some of the prettiest natural spots in Bergheim. There is one meadow, for example, that the farmer only mows once a year, in September. It is truly remarkable to see the treasures that grow there – all kinds of different herbs.” In the cooler months or when the group is especially large, the workshop take place indoors. And it is there – between an array of pots, pans, Mason jars and herbs – that Brigitte Steinacher-Sigl greets us. Brigitte is a certified herb educator who, in the course of the next two hours, will share as much of her knowledge about wild herbs with us as possible.

“A plant contains more than 100 different substances.”

Brigitte has been producing her own natural cosmetics for over 20 years now and has all kinds of intriguing information to share about herbs. For example, we had no idea that a single plant can contain more than 100 different substances. “A plant is a living being and, as such, there are many different aspects to each of them”, says Brigitte. Today, she brought five plants along with her – plants that have benefits for body, mind and soul. Mustard flower to strengthen the cardiovascular system, a marigold ointment to combat inflammation, St. John’s wort to treat sunburn, a shower gel made with rosemary to wake you up, and a small pouch containing hayseed for relaxation – it seems that there is indeed a plant to cure “whatever ails you”. After a short general introduction, we get down to the “serious business”. Brigitte has prepared five stations for us, where we can learn more about the different herbs and work with them ourselves.

Preserving the sunshine

We stir pots, pour hayseeds into small cloth bags, sample various oils and blend tinctures. As we stand in front of a large bowl of dried marigold flowers and marvel at the reddish gold color of the petals, Brigitte comes over and joins us. “They are beautiful, aren’t they?” We nod. “The marigold basically imitates the sun’s patterns”, Brigitte explains. “In other words, it opens its petals at sunrise and closes them again when the sun goes down. Because of that, when you make an oil or an ointment from marigold, it is almost as if you are preserving the sunshine itself.” A beautiful thought, we feel. After the workshop, we are allowed to take the treasures we have just made ourselves home with us in small bottles and jars. We are also given a brochure, in which the various herbs, their benefits and the different ways to process them are conveniently summarized. In fact, we have brought along one of the recipes to share with you right here!

Homemade oil of marigold extract: It’s as easy as this!

This oil made from marigold is ideal for relaxing massages and is also the basis for a marigold ointment. This ointment, for its part, helps in the treatment of wounds taking a long time to heal, burns, inflammations of the skin and mucous membrane, and at the same time eases the discomfort associated with thrombosis. In other words, this otherwise very modest garden plant is actually a truly valuable herb! To make this oil, you first put fresh marigold – plucked the day before and allowed to wilt overnight – into a screw-top jar until the jar is two-thirds full. The next step involves filling the jar to the rim with organic-quality olive oil or sunflower oil – all parts of the marigold have to be completely covered with oil. With that done, screw on the lid and store in a light (but not sunny) place. For the next four weeks, you will have to shake the oil once a day in order to maintain a balance in the concentration. After those four weeks, the oil is filtered through a cheesecloth and the residue squeezed out. Marigold oil stored in a clean jar will keep for about a year. We hope you enjoy your liquid sunshine in a glass!

Curious to know more? Clink on this link for detailed information about current times & dates for guided herb tours and herb workshops in Bergheim!