© Written by Muriel for Nerone the Insider's Guide to Rome
Centuries of written and oral traditions prove that mankind has always recognised the uses of various plants. The oldest texts concerning plants date from 3000 years ago and come from northern China, while the most famous Herbalists come from Renaissance times. There has always been an insatiable curiosity about medicinal plants, but in recent years there has been an upsurge in the desire for natural cures. Herbs known as "Simples" and an infusion of them called Tisanes can be acquired in personalised brews mixed by an authority on the subject.
Unfortunately, the herbalist is a dying breed in many European countries. You can easily find any number of "Health Centres" or "Maison de la Dietetique", but you must select your own range of herbs without help or advice and then mix them at home by yourself.
Italy remains one of the few countries where this ancient profession is still practiced. There are over 260 herbalists in Rome alone. In these shops, you will find someone to advise you and mix the plants according to your desires or needs. You will be told how to prepare the brew, either as a tea or an infusion, which can be drunk with a spoonful of honey.
Here are three examples of tisanes or herbal teas.
(The ingredients are given in Italian to facilitate purchasing them in Rome's herbal shops. A translation is given at the end.)
The first will help you to cope better with the onset of the cold winter.
The ingredients are: marrubio, eucalipto foglie, tiglio, malva, timo volgare.
Make an infusion and leave it to stand for some 10 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups per day.
The second is perfect after a meal.
The ingredients are: melissa, finocchio, arancio dolce fiori, menta dolce, rosa canina frutti.
Make an infusion and leave it to stand for some 10 minutes.
The third is for when you need to rest or relax.
The ingredients are:
tiglio fiori, melissa, arancio amaro foglie, passiflora.
Make an infusion and leave it to stand for some 10-15 minutes. Drink it before going to bed.
While strolling around Rome, we suggest you make a visit to the following herbal shops: Antica Drogheria Condotti on Via Mario de'Fiori, Il Germoglio on Via Otranto, Della Pace on Via della Pace, Il Verbasco on Via Aurelia 34 (near the Vatican), and L'Albero del Pane on Via Santa Maria del Pianto (in the Ghetto).
arancio amaro foglie = bitter orange leaves
arancio dolce fiori = sweet orange flowers
eucaliptus foglie = eucalyptus leaves
finocchio = fennel
malva = mallow
marrubio = harehound
menta dolce = sweet mint
melissa = (lemon) balm
passiflora = passion flower
rosa canina frutti = fruits of dog rose
tiglio = lime (tree)
tiglio fiori = lime flowers
timo volgare = wild thyme