4 excellent eco-logical greek stores

Eco-conscious shoppers in Athens now have plenty of top quality option when searching for the perfect accessories, jewellery, clothing, and home decor items. As with vegan-vegetarian restaurants and stores selling Greek and global natural, organic cosmetic products, more and more stores catering to the ethically-minded are sprouting up around the capital. Here we showcase our top choices!

Convert Art (24-26 Pallados, Psyrri)

Used tyres, used inner tubes and electronic materials are skilfully up-cycled to create super-stylish and original convertible bags, wallets, belts, and jewellery. Created in 2012 by designer Marina Griponisioti after she found inspiration from the disposable items she found in a garage, this is Greece’s first upcycling company, with a choice of over 400 designs. You can also check out Convert Art’s online store on Etsy.

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Trash4Flash (9 Voulgaroktonou St, Nea Smirni)

Plastics, metals, rubber and other materials are upcycled to create necklaces, earrings, neck-wear, cufflinks, and bracelets that may not suit every taste but certainly present a singular style.
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Plastikourgeio (Asklipiou 51, Exarcheia)

Both a shop and a mini-factory/lab, this store follows the eco-philosophy of the global Precious Plastics movement and sells alternatives to plastic as well as their own upcycled plastic creations. With a plastic shredder, 3D printer and other machines the owners have created themselves, as well as collaborations with creative Greek designers, they showcase some exciting eco-options in jewellery, home decor, and accessories. Here you’ll also find bamboo dining sets, stainless steel straws, handmade lunch-bags and other trendy utilitarian items that don’t need to be dumped after use.


Living Green (Harilaou Trikoupi 53, Exarcheia)

In this innovative, brightly-lit and thoroughly-stacked store you’ll find everything from home decor items to children’s construction toys and other games, sophisticated gardening equipment like a rollable compost basket and sprouting jars, cosmetics, jewellery, lunch bags, office accessories, and hobby items. The store has a chain in the northern suburb of Kifissia as well as an online store.

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amazing ways to start the day

In Greece people use the saying “how your day will turn out is shown from the morning”; personally I’m not a fan of this saying because it suggests superstitious thinking and if believed, can essentially determine one’s mood for the entire day if the morning proves particularly unpleasant. I prefer to think that any moment of the day, regardless of what has passed before, is a moment when we can hopefully start afresh and change its course for the better. However, the positive habits and rituals that we dedicate ourselves to in the morning can indeed help boost our state of mind, mood, physical resilience and flexibility and overall outlook so that the day ahead flows in a more upbeat, dynamic and enjoyable way. The tips I will write here come from years of research – books, websites, interviews and of course tried and tested techniques to which I’ve added my own touches and wanted to share with you. As the mom of a preschooler I’m well aware that there is often little time to spend doing some of these morning rituals, but if you can slip in even a few minutes of some of them or one on different days, or do some after you’ve dropped your kid/s off to school, a little later in the morning, that will still make a positive difference.

So as Maria said in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning!” at the exact point that you wake up (either because your child has decided to tap you on the shoulder and offer you a handful of slime that he has “cooked” for your breakfast or because your alarm clock just rang so you can get your ass to work or because, oh you lucky blessed one, you have had a full night’s sleep and have woken up naturally).

Give Thanks

Whether you can lie in bed for half an hour meditating on gratitude or just speedily run through a quick list in your mind of the top things you are grateful for – even that your little one thoughtfully “cooked you some slime for breakfast”, that you are still here, that it’s a new start to your life, that you have a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, hot water to shower in or food to eat, gratitude is the highest vibration to connect with at any time, and especially at the start of your day. “Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” according to Eckhart Tolle. Even if you wake up feeling particularly miserable and disgruntled with life, go deep to findat least one thing that you are thankful for – maybe simply that you are breathing!

Stretch

Whether you do a full yoga session or just a few Winnie The Pooh stretches up and down, or stretch your body out in bed into a star shape and upon sitting up at the edge of your bed let yourself do some backward twists to flex your spine, a little stretching goes a long way to reawakening your body and gently releasing any stiffness from your sleep. After saying good morning to our dog, who in turn taps her tail enthusiastically onto the wooden floor in response, my son and I greet her in a quick downward dog and she gets up to do her own natural stretch to mirror us. This makes stretching fun and easy.

 

Body Brushing


Body brushing, also known as dry brushing, is a fantastic way to exfoliate your skin and open your pores (that’s why it’s best pre-shower) while also activating your lymphatic drainage system and kickstarting your circulation. For vanity’s sake, it has been shown to firm skin and reduces cellulite, while on a more medicinal level it helps release small aches and pains by causing your energy to flow more freely. Starting at the soles of your feet, brush in firm strokes upward along the inside and then all other sides of your legs, then your bottom, then in a circular direction on your belly area, up your back, up your arms and up from above the breasts in the chest area. 

Tongue scraping
While you sleep, a layer of toxins rises and forms on the surface of your tongue. That can indeed make one cringe at the thought of a morning snog (though it may be well worth it and offer other benefits!). Instead of swallowing them all back into your organism again, the ideal thing to do is to use a tongue scraper or even the back, non-cutting side of a knife or a spoon to gently but firmly scrape the sludge off and rinse it away, several times, before even brushing your teeth (because brushing your teeth before doing this will again involve spreading all the stuff from your tongue all over your mouth). I know it’s icky, and several people I’ve recommended this Ayurvedic practise to have told me they tried it once and felt so disgusted they couldn’t do it again. But. Isn’t it better to remove it? I find it far ickier to swallow it all back down! And I can guarantee that it helps – on mornings after a night out when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, for example, as soon as I do the tongue scraping I feel my mind clear (not completely of course, if I’m particularly foggy-headed, but significantly!).

Enjoy your shower

For me, a complete hydrophile, hydroholic and water baby, showering is a wonderful ritual both morning and night. It cleanses us of stale energy, refreshes our mind and, whether you are using soap or not, offers the chance to massage our body. It’s also a great time to repeat your favourite affirmation for the day, or just sing! Make sure to splash a lot of cold water on your face as well, as this activates the vegus nerve, which lifts your mood, clears your mind and strengthens your immune system.

Colon-cleansing drinks
For 10 days at a time every two or three months, I follow one of these rituals, which help cleanse the intestine, which is the basis of our overall health, by reducing the bad bacteria and detoxifying.

  1. Psyllium husk water: In a tall glass of water add a heaped teaspoon of psyllium husk and stir very very well. Drink it all down at once, and then follow that by drinking yet another glass of plain water. The psyllium swells (like linseed or chia) and becomes gelatinous inside the intestines, absorbing toxins, fats, mucus and harmful bacteria which are then released in your stools. This is a good ritual to do for restoring gut health, especially if you are trying to lose weight, as it also creates a sense of fullness. Only do this in the morning, on an empty stomach, and wait around 15 minutes to half an hour before eating.
  2. Apple cider vinegar water: Add 1 tbsp of organic, unpasteurised (fermented) apple cider vinegar to a glass of tepid water and sip slowly. I just take it around with me and take sips as I’m getting ready. This too detoxifies the intestine, balances your pH, decreases blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol and boosts gut health.

Another common morning drink is warm water with a big squeeze of lemon, and some like to add a teaspoon of organic honey, both of which are packed of nutrients (like vitamin C and antioxidants) and help balance and kickstart the gut.

Power smoothie
There are endless recipes to find online for great breakfast smoothies – from green juices to elaborate fruit and vegetable concoctions, but I’m writing my favourite tried and tested rituals here so these two are the best I’ve tried:

1. For a foggy head and tiredness: a shot of juiced ginger with a big squeeze of lemon and a pinch of cayenne. Fortunately, I don’t need this very often, but it’s definitely a zingy way to start the day.

2. Super-tonic milkshake:
I like my chocolate drinks (chocolate-everything!), but this is the adult, supersonic tonic version, with a few alternate renditions. In a blender add almond, hazelnut or other milk of choice, a heaped tablespoon of raw cacao (high in antioxidants), a heaped tablespoon of adaptogenic powder such as ashwagandha (this is an especially great for women, widely used in Ayurveda as the top health tonic, as it helps reduce stress, balance hormones, offer energy and strengthen immunity – at night it’s great in a warm milk with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and honey) or maca powder (energy booster and even a sexual tonic) or astragalus powder (widely used in China as an immune-system booster), a teaspoon of cinammon (blood cleansing, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, boosts digestive health), a pinch of cayenne pepper (if you like heat) for heart health, a tablespoon of crushed linseeds (packed with Omega 3s) and a shot of espresso (wakey wakey!). Blend all the ingredients with a couple of ice cubes and hey presto! Another version is to exclude the cinnamon and cayenne and instead add a few tablespoons of nut butter – peanut, tahini, hazelnut, whatever you like, for extra protein and other nutty benefits. Yet another option is to add half an avocado and a banana as well, both packed with heart-healthy fats, collagen, B6 and other mood-enhancing vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium). Mixed frozen red berries are also high in antioxidants and vitamin C and mix well with chocolate.

Prepare your medicinal tea

While pottering around the kitchen preparing breakfast and tidying up, I always make time to boil a full kettle and prepare a large jug of herbal tea that I will refrigerate and sip in an ice-packed glass throughout the day (if you’re living in a cold country you can simply skip the ice and sip at room temperature, or add a bit of boiling water to your cp to heat it up before drinking if you want it hot). The key ingredient is the amazing herb that Greeks have used since ancient times because of its high iron content and mightly antioxidant content, Mountain Tea, called Tsai tou Vounou, which recent global studies have proven is also an amazing preventative herbal medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I usually add fresh or dried mint and lemon verbena in summer or chamomile, linden and a stick of cinnamon in winter.

Another jug you can prepare to refrigerate is with vitamin water – just water (ideally filtered) that has chunks of any well-cleaned, ideally bio fruit and herbs chopped into it. The vitamins and minerals from the fruit and herbs will infuse into the water so when you drink a glass of it you’ll get a healthy, refreshing boost.

Walk your walk

I live in a hilly urban landscape and walk my son to school and honestly, that half hour daily up and down walk makes the world of difference to my day. If I were to start the day by just sitting at my computer I know I would feel completely different (as I mentioned in my introduction, everything I write here is tried and tested!). If you are a parent and your kids take the bus to school, try and find a way to add a half hour walk to your morning – if you are commuting to work get off a few stops earlier, if you work from home push yourself to go around the block a few times or let yourself explore different parts of your neighbourhood. If you have plenty of free time, hop on a bus or metro and get out in a place you’ve never visited and just walk around to discover something new.

Meditate or daydream while you do morning chores

I have around 20 plants on my balcony and as I water them with the hose I stop at each one, really trying to observe its individual beauty with my eyes, and speak my favourite affirmation, which I repeat to each plant as I water it (hopefully the plants don’t get together at night and bitch about me! ;)). This way I’m sharing my wishes and affirming to myself at the same time, by offering the plants their sustenance. I also like to talk with myself (it’s apparently more of a sign of genius than madness, haha) or visualize about my dreams, goals and projects while I’m doing mundane things like washing the dishes, chopping vegetables or sweeping. This is all meditational practice – who said you have to sit in the lotus position and chant Om to meditate? Meditating doesn’t need to have a direct spiritual purpose either – you could be letting yourself zen out while feeling the sudsy lather on your hands under the warm running water while you wash the dishes, and in that moment of sensual awareness your state of tranquility may be the perfect time for a great creative or even hardcore practical solution to pop up.

Try Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine
This is an excellent energy medicine sequence that kickstars your organism and clears your mind, while balancing the left and right parts of the brain. Even if you feel too rushed to do it all at once (although it only takes around 6-7 minutes), do parts of it at different parts of the morning. I sometimes do some of the thumps while walking along the street (Ok, first I look around to see there’s no one walking right behind me!). When I was presenting live on the radio I used to do the chest thump and the cross march a few minutes before going on the air. The studio technician started off by pretending not to notice, then asked me one day what the heck I was doing. When I told him he started doing it too!:
Watch Here!

 

 

 

fast food + vegan? sure thing!

Vegan Nation Athens salads
Vegan Nation serves several green and pasta salads daily. This one is with mango and cashew nuts.

Until recently in Athens, if you were looking for fast food, there are chains like Grigoris and Everest, Goody’s and MacDonald’s, neighbourhood bakeries of all styles, serving all kinds of pies, and of course a souvlaki shop around every corner. Now there is also Vegan Nation, located right across Monastiraki Square, where the focus is packaged, meat and dairy-free foods, showcased on cool shelves to be taken out or casually eaten at one of the two tables outside the tiny store. From vegan sushi to one of Greece’s most lauded meat dishes, moussaka, this place offers plenty of no-frills yet tasty options (with several ethnic cuisine twists) to tourists and locals seeking guilt-free fast food indulgence.

Vegan Nation is brand new to Athens and not only – its owner, Alex Potter, who worked with vegan chef Nikos Gaitanos to create the menu, claims that it is the first in the world of its kind.

The Experiment:
I visited with a friend Cassandra Wagstaffe who co-owns her own restaurant, Cafe Boheme in Kolonaki, Athens and whose diet is mostly vegan, and our preschool-age children, to sample a few dishes. Not everything on the menu was available as what the chefs create changes from day to day, and sitting at the table you aren’t handed any plates or glasses – as the idea is to keep it as fast-food-basic as it gets.

There are no freshly made drinks on the menu (and no alcoholic drinks either), although there are several cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices made in the morning and refrigerated for sale. One of our kids was fast asleep and the other (mine) did not take to the “popular moussaka” – he actually announced that he preferred the one his yiayia gives him. He spat out the soutzoukakia, probably because they were strongly seasoned with spices like cumin, which many kids his age are not very keen on, but he was thrilled by the cheesecake (which has a base of Oreo cookies)  and the strawberry-chocolate-peanut butter smoothie.

Vegan Nation Athens I'm Very Well Thank You Sushi Moussaka
The vegan fast food restaurant’s two most popular dishes du jour – Sushi Combo and Moussaka

I tried the Sushi Combo, a few forkfuls of the above-mentioned moussaka and soutzoukakia, as well as a salad with mango and cashew nuts and the cheesecake. Everything was tasty, and for a fast food place, very satisfying to my adult palate (although my friend and I agreed the moussaka was actually quite stodgy, and I found the sushi rice mushy – though I imagine keeping sushi rice to the perfect texture when it’s sitting on the shelf can be a challenge, considering it’s a food that has to be eaten immediately after preparation).

Vegan Nation Alexander Potter kitchen
Vegan Nation owner Alexander Potter in the kitchen with friendly chef Alexandra.


Conclusion:
Like many others, I am overall excited to discover that an initiative like this has been born in Athens, and Potter seems to have a strong vision for how he intends to develop and improve upon every aspect. I laud Potter (also a gracious host, BTW) for having the grit to launch something like this in crisis-slammed Greece (something we discuss in the interview below), and also commend him for pushing forth with a truly original idea that has already received a very positive feedback and I’m certain has a bright potential for dynamic expansion in Greece and abroad. As for finding the ideal savoury dishes that my preschool kid will love, I will definitely go again and try other options! Cassandra’s comment on the Vegan Nation experience was: “A nice concept, well organized, clean, fresh and instant food at an economical price. A great option for vegans on the run, or for grabbing lunch between work or shopping in the city.”

INTERVIEW WITH VEGAN NATION OWNER ALEX POTTER

Q: In a nutshell, how do you define Vegan Nation as a concept and what it actually offers?
AP: A 100% all vegan on-the-go eatery serving a full spectrum of freshly prepared hot and cold multi-ethnic, neatly packed and exquisitely presented meals along with desserts and cold pressed juices that can all be taken away or consumed on the premises in an enjoyable and refreshing atmosphere.

Q: Please tell me a little about your own connection to the vegan diet & lifestyle.
AP: I grew up in a vegetarian/vegan household so it’s in my DNA in many ways.

Q: Having lived in so many countries, why did you choose crisis-hit Greece for opening this business?! 
AP: Even though I am half Greek, I never grew up Greece. I would spend summers here when I was younger so I am familiar to some degree with the area. I ended up starting a venture in the digital media sector two years ago in full crisis Greece and was traveling back and forth between Los Angeles and Athens. While spending time here I saw that despite the country being in a crisis there was still ongoing demand both from the tourists as well as the locals especially in the food and beverage sector. Before going ahead with the shop I compared different markets including London and Los Angeles. From a business perspective I found Athens to be where it made most sense for this new venture.

Q: Who is your target audience? 
AP: Greeks, Foreigners, Vegans, Non-vegans, Vegetarians etc. It’s really geared to appeal to everyone’s taste (vegan and non-vegan alike) and everyone’s wallet size.

Q: What’s the feedback so far from your Greek clients?
AP: Amazing. I see a twinkle in their eyes when they set eyes on the store. They all love the concept, the menu, the food, the taste and the prices. For Greek vegans it’s a haven.

Q: Please tell me about your menu – what is the objective in what you serve?
AP: It’s about filling a gap in the market and serving great dishes from a wide variety of cuisines at very reasonable prices. I am a strong believer that one should be able to have amazing food without having to necessarily pay a high price for it.

Q: Do you do deliveries as well?
AP: We are already gearing up to start delivery come September. Orders will be available directly by calling our store and also through E-food.

Q: What do you aspire to in the future for Vegan Nation? 
AP: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone again from both Greeks and foreigners. An important amount of them have expressed on their own that they want Vegan Nation in their home country and in their local neighborhood. Humbly, we are working towards the opportunity of making that a reality.

Q: What do you really want our readers to know about Vegan Nation?
AP: That we are changing the dynamics in diversity of food being offered and the way it’s being offered with a unique and tasty 100% all vegan on-the-go wide selection menu.

 

 

 VEGAN NATION INFO
Ermou 86, Monastiraki
Tel: 21 0322 6226
Hours 10:00AM – 6:00PM

TFL kale snacks

TFL could be said to have altered a lot of people’s dietary and culinary perspectives during their past six years of action in Greece, and probably not as an indirect result, there is now a growing movement in the vegan circles, with more and more vegetarian/vegan restaurants opening up, more grocery stores selling vegan-friendly products, and the opening of the capital’s first raw food cafe (Yi, in the southern suburb of Glyfada), which Troo Food’s Danae Tsekoura also helped set up.

Meeting TFL inspired me to attend some of their workshops in raw cuisine, usually taught by Danae. I loved learning the far more creative ways of putting together and enjoying raw ingredients to create delicious, health-boosting and colourful dishes, and despite realising that I will always like the art of cooking stuff too much to go completely raw, I relished discovering various raw food techniques, above all that of dehydrating foods. I developed a lingering crush for Danae’s Excalibur dehydrator and still long for one of my own today, dreaming of the day when I can concoct my own raw snacks. Meanwhile I will have to stick with the ones I can buy. And fortunately some of them are really good (though to be honest, a little too pricey for me to buy regularly).

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Curious to try out Troo Food’s new Kale chip range, I received Kale chips in three flavours (Mustard, Spicy and Cheezy) and kale crackers in two flavours (Cheezy and Mustard).
Favourites: The Spicy Kale Chips and the  Cheezy Kale Crackers.
NOTE: The cheese effect in the crackers is created with crushed sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and nutritional yeast (one of those ingredients I could never bring myself to use – I’ve very wastefully bought and chucked out this Vitamin B12 -rich product twice – but now I got a new idea of how great it can be.

Extra bonuses: Greek olive oil & Himalayan salt are used.

By Alexia Amvrazi

four seasons of fresh bio food

Souvlaki may still be one of Greece’s most popular and accessible (street) foods, yet for health-conscious foodies, Athens has become an increasingly easy and exciting place to live and shop in. Today, practically every neighbourhood in the city has at least one bio shop or food stores selling a decent choice of traditional, pure, healthy, ‘home made’ style foods. Then there are the weekly local laiki green grocer’s markets where if you do your research and talk to sellers, you can usually find ways to get the “good stuff” brought to you – fresh farm eggs, the best varieties of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, and more.

There are numerous by now for good quality and reliable organic produce in Athens, but one that has consistently remained popular throughout the years, and not by chance, is Tessereis Epoches (Four Seasons) on 30 Nikis St just round the corner from Syntagma Square. The substantial variety (over 3.500 products) of fresh, dried, frozen, canned and dry foods, as well as ecological household cleaning products and cosmetics, mainly from Greece but also from around the world, and the friendly, helpful and highly knowledgeable staff, serve to make it a highly desirable shopping destination.

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The bio store opened in 2004, when the bio food scene was still very quiet in Greece as demand was still very low – today, it’s always busy with people trying to tailor a better diet and healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family. The mini-market’s owner, Vassilis Souvatzoglou, who helps run the family business with his mother and brother George, says: “Our target goal was and still remains to rediscover lost essence of foods, and find out about new ones. We are a team of young people that are specialized in organic products and love what we do.”

At Four Seasons you’ll find fresh, seasonal produce by small producers from around the country, sometimes sold at delightfully affordable prices – locally-grown foods like rare mushrooms, avocados and kale in winter, huge bunches of asparagus in spring, strawberries, courgettes and more recently even Cretan papaya, mangoes and passion fruit in summer. Souvatzoglou says: “Daily we are offering small producers the opportunity to grow and provide their products to a larger group of buyers, while supplying our customers with some of the best that Greek nature has to offer.”

te3Souvatzoglou adds that he has witnessed a significant shift in how Greeks eat in the last decade: “Nowadays, people are searching for quality foods and are more cautious about what they eat. This outlook has led to the creation of a new scene in Greece.” Vassilis and his team make ongoing research into the food industry a priority, travelling far and wide to meet producers at the very places where they live and farm, seeking out quality produce. “We constantly travel around Greece and internationally to discover new ideas and healthy habits. Our main purpose is to promote healthy living and enjoy good food. That is why we always aim to be one step further and create our local food revolution.”

 

ancient to modern: greek plant medicine

“If only we continue to examine the practices, writings and teachings of ancient Greek physicians and pharmacists, our knowledge can leap ahead by at least 6000 years. But if we prove indifferent to the vast knowledge of the ancients, we will stay behind by 3,500 years,” says pharmacologist Dimitris Kallimanis, whose passionate life mission is to investigate, experiment with and teach about plants and the plethora of sophisticated and fascinating data related to their hundreds of species.

The expert, who sustains that what today is commonly described as “folk medicine, or natural remedies” based on plants is no less than a serious, noteworthy science, states that according to historical documents, the first person to analytically expound on the benefits and uses of herbs was the epic poet Homer (born circa 850BC, although his exact period of existence remains a mystery to scholars). Kallimanis reveals that his globally influential writings such as ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ are packed with recipes and practices based on herbs: “from Homer we learned, for example, that Achilles used Achillea millefollium – a hemostatic, wound-healing and powerfully antiseptic agent that is still used today – to treat those who fought by his side, or that the family of herbs most favored by the ancient Greeks was Liliaceae.”

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Homer’s The Odyssey

According to history, Theofrastus (372-287 BC), Aristotle’s successor at Athens’ Peripatetic School, was ancient Greece’s “father of botany.” Among a plethora of writings, he is the author of the major botanical treatises ‘Enquiry into Plants’ and ‘On the Causes of Plants’. Kallimanis and many other experts of his caliber sustain that the doctor and apothecary Dioscorides (40-90AD) was the real father of botany.

materiaHis five-volume work ‘De Materia Medica‘, was translated into Arabic and Latin in the 12th and 13th C and in German, Spanish, French, Italian and finally English after the 16th C), emerging as the basis of the world’s botanical knowledge. Indeed, the knowledge of Dioscorides, who followed a holistic and allopathic doctrine reminiscent to that practiced by Hippocrates, continues to startle academics to this day: it was he who first created the systematic categorization of some 500 plants and around 1000 of their medical uses, their varying dosages for treating ailments, and their side effects.

“However, there is a vast time gap between the botanical teachings of Homer and those of Dioscorides,” Kallimanis notes, “and the individual who played a great role in spreading knowledge on herbs within that time is somewhat unexpected; enter one of Greece’s most legendary figures in poetry, drama and creative thought – Aristophanes!” tragiccomicmaskshadriansvillamosaic
In an era when it was widely feared that Greece and its influence would be obliterated by the Peloponnesian War, the bard (444 – 385 BC) cunningly managed to share precious information with the masses. He subtly weaved substantial quarantines of knowledge through the words recited in his highly popular comedies, making one of the lines recited by the chorus in his play, ‘The Babylonians’, especially poignant, when they say that “the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all.” Kallimanis explains that through both simple terms for the common-folk to coded, more refined information directed at educated viewers, all within the same text, Aristophanes managed to distribute ancient recipes based on herbal medicine to the greater public. Kallimanis says that doing so he “ignited and bolstered the knowledge of common people and all levels of medical practitioners, even some of the information remains challenging to decode to this day.”

monks-weighing-herbs
Monks weighing herbs

Throughout the ages, the information and understanding of botanical medicine and its usage garnered from the ancient world was made accessible to the literate via Greek and translated documents that could be found mainly in monasteries, especially those on the Holy Peninsula of Mount Athos. The uneducated, however, spread knowledge verbally, with villagers across Greece developing and transferring further learning and expertise to their communities by combining proven theories and techniques and hands-on experimentation. Making the best of nature’s bounty developed from the profoundly pragmatic need to survive, as throughout the centuries villagers were left to their own devices when it came to individual and community’s healthcare. The main priority in using herbs and plants throughout rural Greece was, and remains, the need to systematically and effectively treat physical and spiritual ailments, from the common headache, melancholy and respiratory disorders to broken bones, madness and heart disease. Meanwhile on the dark side, herbs have also played a significant role in magic and superstitious rituals for breaking spells, clearing the cloying effects of the evil eye and other psychic ‘disorders’.

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Magicians and faith healers carved out a niche for themselves among frightened, mainly uneducated individuals, often over-exceeding dosages and invoking divine powers or satanic entities to bring them into contact with other worlds, and to generate intensely hallucinogenic effects” Kallimanis says, adding that “their favorite plants were mainly those from the Solanacaeae (or nightshade) family, such as poisonous Belladonna and hallucinogenic Mandrake, some of which are highly toxic and can have serious or even deadly results. “Today, these magicians would be able to teach us about a whole host of other-worldly experiences, and we could call them magician-physicians – however, they didn’t have the ethics of a doctor or pharmacist, so I certainly wouldn’t call them that myself.”

* Many thanks to Dimitris Kallimanis, whose Greek-language book ‘Natural Cosmetics and Therapies from Ancient Greece and the Byzantium until the Present Day’ (Afoi Kyriakidi) on the bookstands as of November 2016.

                                                                As first published in Greece Is

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