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Healing Herbs

Healing Herbs

Over 100 medicinal herbs are grown organically in the Silves countryside

It’s been a hard season for Kerstin Botter. Although the dry winter has been a blessing for some, the lack of rain and the bursts of cold have meant that this year, the medicinal herbs she has been growing in the Silves hills over the last 20 years have suffered. Despite this, her dedication and her passion for natural remedies has ensured that business is still good, with people still seeking out her medicinal herbs to ease any problems they may have.

The landscape may not look as abundant as it once did, but the 22 hectares of pretty land at Quinta da Parreirinha are still home to around 100 different types of herbs – some purposely cultivated, some wild – that are picked daily by Kerstin herself.

Originally from Heligoland, an island in the North Sea mostly dedicated to the fishing industry, Kerstin remembers telling her mother from a young age that her dream was to go to the countryside and “have contact with agriculture”. After travelling around Europe, that’s exactly what she did, and she has been living in the Silves valley ever since. But it was during those travels exactly that she and her partner unwittingly drank dirty water and were extremely unwell, until a friend gave them a book about medicinal herbs. After a week of drinking the recommended tea, the book’s advice worked, and since then, it never left their side.

Settling in the Algarve countryside, she lived in a self-sufficient community where they reared their own animals and grew their own produce. With just five or six herbs growing on the land at the time, Kerstin decided to start selling her own medicinal and aromatic plants 21 years ago. First providing herbs for the homeopathic industry in countries like France and Germany, she has since been selling her organic produce at various markets and fairs and from her home, although most transactions are by post. Certified by the Portuguese organic controlling body Ecocert, herbs grown at Quinta da Parreirinha are not only medicinal, explains Kerstin. “They’re somewhere between food and medicine. Spices for instance are good for digestion, and the fresher the herbs the better. They work together with the body and try to harmonise the system.” With produce like peas, broad beans and artichokes also growing in her garden, Kerstin is passionate about consuming produce that is free from chemicals.

Growing everything from tarragon, thyme, sage and oregano to camomile, common-rue and wild calendula, for example (“It cleanses the body and is especially good for the skin”), Kerstin picks the plants daily and prepares everything by hand to be dried on special trays in the sunshine. Drying from February to November for three to seven days, the herbs are then prepared for selling. “We have 100 herbs and each one is different,” she explains. “We have to know these things, like which part of the plant to use. In some you use the leaves, in others the flowers and in others still the roots. Sometimes you use all of it.”

With simple but appealing packaging featuring labels designed by friends, the packets are divided into simple herbs, mixtures and teas, as well as a selection of spices. Rather than asking for a specific herb, Kerstin says that many people approach her with a complaint, like digestion problems or water retention, and she suggests what she believes is the best solution.

Simple herbs include common knotgrass, which the label tells us is a good diuretic, the aptly named stone-breaker for kidney stones and milk thistle, which is good for the liver. Mixtures have been developed for issues as widespread as diabetes, asthma, acne, bladder problems, headaches and for weight-loss, whilst the teas carry names like ‘Purifying’, ‘Anti-stress’ and ‘Stop Smoking’, which can be found at the various fairs throughout the season.

For more information, contact Kerstin on 282 441 500
or email