Kythera Healing Herbs

The flora of the island of Kythera has a number of 723 plant species. Many of these plants show beneficial properties for human body and they are called herbs. Herbs are being used in folk medicine for thousands of years while today they are an alternative healing solution. The prerequisite for use of herbs is knowledge and experience so that it contributes to therapy and it does not cause a risk to the body’s health. This is why it’s better to ask for the advise of a botanologist - therapist for a more proper and safe use of herbs and also to inform the family doctor in cases where the patient suffers from other conditions as well.

Here we are presenting the most important healing herbs that grow on the island that are developing either freely on forest, wild and cultivated areas either with human care in peri-urban areas such as gardens and crofts. The selection of herbs was based on the album “Bee Flight Paths”, a publication of the Kythera Union of Athens regarding the Kythera flora, which granted to us a special license to use photographs and information from the album. For every herb, the main information are mentioned such as its scientific name, its family, the various names we meet in Kythera and all over Greece. Furthermore we considered it would be useful to mention the main healing properties and the collection procedure for every herb based on the information we gathered mostly from the Kostas Bazaios publication (“100 herbs, 1000 treatments”, Bazaios publications.). Finally, we mention smart ideas for another usage of these herbs.

Therefore, get to know the Kythera herbs, walk on the island paths to discover them and exploit their healing properties. Enjoy your trip!

  • Red Valerian It belongs to the Valerian family. It is an ornamental plant and this is why it is often found cultivated in gardens. When uncultivated, it grows in rocky fields.
  • Crocus Homer mentions croci for its usage as a condiment and as a coloring plant. They prefer places where there are no other plants.
  • Losmari Apart from its pharmaceutical properties and usages in cooking, rosemary is said to have the ability to clean the atmosphere and “drive away” bad spirits.
  • Fig Ancient people of Athens prohibited the export of figs because they considered them valuable commodity that only the residents of the city should enjoy it.
  • Rock samphire From July to October, it is found almost at all the Kythera beaches. Its leaves are collected before blooming, they are soaked to brine and they are turned to pickles.
  • Hollyhocks Usually it is found cultivated as ornamental plant (since very long ago). It has pharmaceutical properties. Flowers have light pink to purple.
  • Katsoula (Wild Carrot) I may be the ancestor of cultivated carrot. In Kythera it is particularly dispersed. Often, its height is above one meter.
  • Thyme Apart from an important aromatic and beekeeping plant, thymus is also a pharmaceutical medicine (tonic, antiseptic, disinfectant, beneficial for respiratory problems and in cases of influenza).
  • Caper Its bud and leaves are turned to pickles and they have been used as seasoning since ancient times. It is found very frequently in the streets of the Kythera town.
  • Balm (St John's wort) This plant is tinctorial. Yellow pigment that exists in its flowers is water-soluble, while red pigment that exists in stigmas and fruits is soluble in alcohol.
  • Pomegranate It is one of the plants that was dedicated to Aphrodite during antiquity. It is a rigid plant and it has been cultivated in Kythera since very long ago without some particular care.
  • Pine (Aleppo Pine) Pine was planted in bulk many decades ago creating big or small forests in areas like Potamos, Gerakari, Myrtidia, Vroulea and Kapsali.
  • Olive The most important variety cultivated in the island is koroneiki. Olive oil’s low acidity and its exquisite organoleptic characteristics rank Kythera oil among the perfect Greek olive oils.
  • Cypress Even though it is found as uncultivated, in many cases it appears as ornamental plant in gardens and fields where it is used as windbreak and also in cemeteries as it happens all over Greece.
  • Artichoke It is an fine snack for many people despite its difficulty in peeling. In Kythera, people prefer them grilled with a lot of oil and kosher salt.
  • Chicory It grows along roads in wild and stony fields. It is one of the most common herbs we cut to boil before its bud blossoms.
  • Chamomile Chamomile was named after its scent (land apple) and the first one to mention its beneficial properties is the father of medicine, Hippocrates who considered it emmenagogue and a medicine against hysteria.
  • Armyrithra One of the 25 indigenous medick species of Greece. It is a typical ammophilous species that prefers sandy beaches next to the sea where small crawling bushes are created.
  • Agriagginara This wild artichoke with its characteristic white flower and its thorny leaves widely spread on the land prefers offshore areas of our country.
  • Boranga (borage) It is an one-year plant rich in potassium and nitrites which give to it numerous pharmaceutical usages. It is a villous plant.
  • Apiganos (fringed rue) Its scent is very intense. It was known to ancient people. Athinaios mentions that it was used as poison antidote.
  • Eucalyptus It is indigenous Australian tree. It was planted on the island at individual houses, squares and plots and also in great numbers (Gerakari, Potamos etc.).
  • Bay Laurel It is a bush that under certain conditions may become a tree and in some cases it may be quite big. It stands drought and it develops faster if it has water.
  • Gorgoyiannis (wild clary) It is considered to be a weed even though this turfy plant has many pharmaceutical properties known from ancient years. Ancient people appreciated it a lot and considered it panacea for all diseases.
  • Apple sage It is very characteristic aromatic and bee keeping plant of Kythera. Its leaves which are collected on September and then dried out, are used to prepare maybe the most popular drink of Kythera. It has many pharmaceutical properties.
  • Mantilida It is one of the most common spring flowers which is spread all over Kythera. Its tender buds, before its blooming, are edible, but mostly at the southern part of the island.
  • Venus hair fern It is a hygrophilous plant, and this is the reason it always grows on rocks close to taps, shafts or gullies with water. There are about 200 species of Adiantum all over the world, but in Greece this is the only one met.
  • Wild celery (Alexanders) It is a sleek, biannual plant, with thick bud and deep green leaves. It is usually found on rocky shadowy locations and at uncultivable lands.
  • Wild lavender It is a plant aromatic – pharmaceutical and apart from its use as a drink it is also widely used as an essential oil.
  • March flower It is called March flower because it blossoms on March. It is found everywhere in Kythera from sandy beaches up to the high hills.
  • Mallow A very common plant in Greece and Kythera. Plinios called it "food of the poor". It is located very frequently on the streets shoulders, it is used in medicine and also as a vegetable from ancient times until today.
  • Kafkalithra (mediterranean hartwort) Dioskourides mentioned that during ancient times it was called Tordylium. It was recommended for kidney disease patients.
  • Mandrake It is a plant known since ancient times for its pharmaceutical substances. It was used for the treatment of various diseases.
  • Almond tree It is very well acclimatized in Kythera and in many cases it grows alone. Even though it was systematically cultivated in Kythera.
  • Nettle Nettle is a valuable plant. It enhances the soil where it grows. It contains enzymes, iron, vitamins, various salts and formic acid.
  • Moon trefoil Medick is generally the common trefoil. It is supposed to have been imported to Greece by the Medes people during the Wars on the 5th century BC and this is why it is called “medick”.
  • Strawberry tree Strawberry trees exist in interspersed places of the island. A great number of them lie in "koumarodasos” (Strawberry tree forest) in the area of Gerakari among pine trees, stone pine trees and eucalyptus.
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  • According to Hesiod’s myth Aphrodite was born in the sea of Kythera