Article by Jennifer Maez
Situated in the horseshoe-curve embrace of the Carpathian Mountains, Romanians have always had a strong connection with the Earth. They have a true reverence for what grows on the earth, and regard plants as true living beings, with feelings, senses, and souls. In many homes, herbs are used in a protective pagan fashion, such as bound with string and hung over doorways, resembling the magick of many centuries ago (magick with a “k” is used to differentiate this type of nature worship from the commonly known stage acts of today). These rituals are done with the understanding that health, happiness, and prosperity are interconnected, and one cannot be too careful with the Spirits. This may seem rooted in superstition to people of the West; but in actuality, it goes back to the time before antibiotics and modern medicine, when plants such as garlic were used to protect from evil spirits that caused disease. These same plants have since been proven to have antibiotic and immune-system boosting effects. Ancient healers knew of the powers of these herbs to cure and protect, and uses of the herbs have continued to modern times through the wisdom of the ancients.
The adoption of Communism, however, has presented challenges to the Romanian healthcare system. The modern healthcare system in Romania has been in upheaval the last few years. With attempts at privatization of healthcare that failed, more of the poor were left without access to good healthcare. Free healthcare is provided by the government, although people often cannot afford the bribes that are required to get them in the system. Corruption and bribery affect this system of healthcare so much that Romania is losing doctors by the thousands to other European countries. This trend has started a push towards traditional medicine, especially in areas of lower income and smaller outlying communities.
The natural medicine practiced by its inhabitants has changed very little, providing a link to the past, and allowing the natural wisdom of the Earth to continue to revitalize its members. Romanians frequently use Comfrey root, which grows wild there, to cure everything from bronchitis, to cancer, to fractures of bones. One common name of Comfrey is “boneset”, and the ability of this herb to help heal connective tissues and skin diseases is well documented.
Another herb that has played an important role in Romanian folk medicine is Henbane. Henbane has long been used in magickal rituals, and as a potent poison that can cause death. It is a member of the nightshade family. “Henbane contains a potent mixture of tropane alkaloids (Atropine, Scopolamine and Hyoscyamine,) which block the normal neurotransmission of the parasympathetic (involuntary) nervous system.” (sacredearth.com). Even small quantities can produce profound effects. It has been used as a psychotropic for centuries to induce visions and a state of ecstasy. The medical uses were primarily pain relief, particularly for toothache and arthritis, and to promote sleep in colicky babies. Weak concoctions were usually placed on the area of pain, with only small amounts of the psychotropic components actually entering the body, therefore causing a sense of relief without the risk of death.
Romanian folk medicine is full of ritual, history, magick, and superstition. As the world slowly comes full-circle back to its roots and away from the system of modern medicine that is failing so many people, we begin to see the wisdom of our ancestors. We begin to understand that their uses of herbs and plants were accurate, even if we have a different reason why. Romanian folk medicine shows us the beauty and power in what grows beneath our feet, and gives nature the reverence it deserves.
Jennifer Maez is a freelance writer who, after living in 12 different states, currently resides in Colorado. She has a B.A. in Psychology. Jennifer enjoys hiking, plant identification, and meditation, and is a self-taught student of natural and holistic medicine. She enjoys cooking paleo dishes for her family, and is currently working on a paleo sauces cookbook.