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Herbalism in the High Tatras

THE FLORA in the High Tatras was more than an object of admiration for past generations. It was also a source of healing compounds.

THE FLORA in the High Tatras was more than an object of admiration for past generations. It was also a source of healing compounds.

People living in towns and villages under the mountains believed that its plants held medicinal power beyond any others. Herbalists travelled to high altitudes to retrieve them, following a calendar of the best times for each plant to be picked.

The herbalists then processed their finds, or sold them to doctors, apothecaries and priests, who combined them to make various kinds of ointments.

The best-known treatment was the so-called Liptov Theriac, made from 70 different ingredients, which had universal healing effects. An assortment of herbs, as well as wine and bryndza (a type of Slovak sheep's cheese) were used as part of its preparation.

Another popular herb was Doronicum Clusii, which supposedly treated vertigo, so people took it when going to the mountains.

Although some of these potions seem very strange now, people once used curative plants to treat many illnesses.

But herbalism was a risky trade until as recently as the beginning of the 18th century. In 1717, for instance, Mária Gburková from Závadka was burnt at the stake for using herbs to treat illness in people and cattle.

The Tatras’ vegetation is pictured in this postcard from the beginning of the 20th century, when herbalism was still a common practice.


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