On Saturday, I made the long trek from Vidigal to Santa Teresa to meet with a nutritionist friend to discuss teaching an Aromatherapy workshop in her space (we booked March 22 if you want to come). Santa Teresa is an amazing neighborhood, full of old, decaying, pillared buildings and vibrant, eclectic artists. In addition to having an inspiring boho-chic house, Sissa, my nutritionist friend also has a huge roof-top garden filled with Brazilian medicinal plants. I immediately asked for a tour.
Peixinho da Horta
I initially thought this was a variation of Mullen; the cuddly North American leaf that is used by some Native Canadians as toilet paper and is a fabulous tonic for lungs, however it is not. Peixinho da Horta translates as “little garden fish” because the leaves smell like fish that has been left on the counter for too long. Peixinho da horta is used primarily as a culinary herb where it is battered and fried with eggplant and bell peppers. Once you fry, all the nutritional benefits are lost.
This is a green leafy vegetable with a strong, bitter flavor. It is tastes a little like licorice with a lemony bite at the end. It is often used in salads to increase the nutritional properties and provide a flavourful punch. As a medicine, Erva Cidreira, known as Melissa or Lemon Balm in English, is traditionally used as a mild sedative and nervine tonic. Additionally, it is useful as a mosquito repellent and to treat gastrointestinal track issues. This isn’t surprising given its bitterness.
I positively love this plant. It has an amazing purple colour and tastes just like freshly distilled vinegar. It is also used primarily as a culinary herb. It is astringent in nature. While I couldn’t find any medicinal research in English, I suspect that it is a liver detoxification herb.
Boldo is a staple in Brazilian lives, kitchens and gardens. In the pharmacy, there are little boldo tinctures to help those who may have imbibed a bit too much the night before. Drinking in Brazil is a national pastime. Boldo is a strong and powerful liver detoxifier and tonic. It smells a little bit like marijuana and tastes like sage, rosemary and thyme mixed together.
This is perhaps my favourite herb of the plant tour. Arruda, also known as Rue or Herb of grace is used both in culinary and preventative ways. Arruda, originally from southern Europe, has a strong, pungent aroma that is used to clear the mind and provide protection from evil. It is not uncommon to see people with a small stem of Arruda tucked behind their ear. As a culinary herb, it can be used minimally in salads, in teas or steamed as a green to impart a flavour punch. I am going to see if I can get enough plant material to make an infusion or flower water.
I am so excited to be learning about the native plants, oils and butters that are readily available in Brazil. For someone who loves blending and making medicines, this is a dream come true. Perhaps I will even come back to North America with a few new tricks and tinctures up my sleeve. Stay tuned!
With a flowing, loving heart,