Aromatic plants, from tradition to the modern day

Aromatic plants, from tradition to the modern day


I grew up at the Domaine de la Roseraie with aromatic plants growing all around me, rosemary, thyme,
sage... I still remember Fatna who, whenever we had the slightest fall or scratch, produced the ideal remedy
based on knowledge passed down from her ancestors.  Thus inspired by my childhood memories and the
magic of this valley high up in the Atlas Mountains, I wanted to honour the Berber women who were an
important part of my upbringing and to pass on their knowledge.

I remember a tea made of aromatic plants, known locally as "takhlita", which Fatna prepared for me after a
heavy meal and particularly when I had indigestion.  I have kept the habit of making this tea by mixing
various plants without really understanding if this had a beneficial effect for my body.  In all honesty I made
tea as in my childhood because it was comforting and invigorating.

But I nevertheless needed to know more!  I imagined myself as an adult face to face with Fatna, asking her
all the questions which came to my mind about the magical nature of this recipe that she concocted for me
and which miraculously helped me.

- Fatna, what plants do you put in this tea?  I use the plants which I find in the mountains
depending upon the season:  zater (thyme), azir (rosemary), salmia (sage), lartacha (rose
geranium), timija (peppermint)…

- Do you choose the same plants every time? No, all depends on what virtues I am looking for! If I
want to assist digestion after a heavy meal, I add all the plants and include a few grains of green
tea. But remember when you had stomach ache, my tea was more bitter because I only used thyme
and rosemary.

- How do you know which plants to use? That, my dear, is because my mother taught me and her
mother taught her … Transferring know-how from one generation to the next is our education. In
the mountains in my day, schools were rare and the girls didn't go.

This tea which seemed quite simple took on another dimension through the knowledge of these plants.  
This also struck another chord with me, recalling when my father founded the Domaine de la Roseraie 45
years ago to fulfil his dream of creating a unique place where people could come to relax in the nature of
the mountain surroundings.  His vision was strengthened by a meeting at the Roseraie with Doctor Jean
Valnet, the father of modern phyto-aromatherapy, who codified the therapeutic properties of plants in the 1950s.

Fatna, my father and Dr Valnet …all led me to aromatic plants!

Whether in the mountains or on the stalls of travelling salesmen in town, these plants are part of our lives.  
So simple to use for herbal teas and yet with forgotten therapeutic virtues:

Thyme is the greatest ally for intestinal illnesses and indigestion, it cleans and reinforces the body's
immune system.

Rosemary is an antispasmodic but it also has various other virtues: an expectorant, it is perfect for
bronchitis and as a painkiller it relieves rheumatism…

Sage also has digestive properties and relieves the feeling of being bloated.

Peppermint and rose geranium are other antispasmodics but what I love above all about rose
geranium is its perfumed taste which softens the bitterness of thyme and rosemary.

Fatna's recipe: to make your own takhlita at home, buy a selection of aromatic plants or, if you can, pick
them fresh. Mix a few sprigs of each in the teapot and leave to infuse for 3 to 4 minutes in boiling water.  
You can also add mint if you like a more perfumed tea and add a few tea leaves to strengthen the flavour.
If you have a stomach ache, prepare a herbal tea with thyme and rosemary, infuse it for a few minutes and
then strain it before drinking.

The well-being benefits: aromatic plants are often used in the world of well-being with massages,
particularly aromatic bags, sometimes called "Siam tampons". This ancient technique comes from
Thailand.  Small bags of plants (chosen for their specific virtues: stimulants, relaxants) are first of all steam-
heated, then soaked in hot oil which diffuses their properties. The practitioner will then massage the whole
body following its energy lines or meridians.  By using heat, this energising massage eradicates tension and
relieves rheumatism and pain associated with the joints.

For more information: I recommend Dr Abdelhaï Sijelmassi's book "The medicinal plants of Morocco"

which classifies all of the plants and provides their therapeutic virtues.

"Plants care, soften, purify and beautify. They live and impart
to us their life and their powers"

Dr Sijelmassi

Kenza Fenjiro
Spa Director at La Roseraie Spa Retreat

Published in NAFS Magazine – February 2016

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