“The study of botany on the Maltese islands is a subject that has caught the attention of many-a-researcher, both local and foreign, over the past decade or two.
Although I have to confess that the subject is not one in which I am by any means well-read, Darrin T. Stevens and Edwin Lanfranco’s recent study entitled ‘Buonamico the Botanist’ in the latest issue of the Journal of the Maltese Studies (29) provided me with some basic knowledge of the subject.
The article not only makes for interesting reading but also throws light on the fact that a Maltese polymath whose live stretched the mid-decades of the 17th century was an authority on the subject is perhaps one of the earliest Maltese botanists.
Heléna Szöllosy is a specialist and practitioner of Herbal medicine, a certified Naturopath, and she is also specialised in Phytotherapy. According to the blurb on the back cover of her recent publication which is the subject of this review, ‘Phytotherapy includes Homoeopathy, Aromatherapy, Apitherapy and Back flower therapy.’
She has over 25 years of professional experience and she has worked in Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary and Malta. She is now settled on Gozo where ‘she offers specialists private consultations, group seminars and seasonal walking workshops on the medicinal plants of the Maltese islands.’
It might be the case that for the man in the street – especially in these modern times of ours – the idea of weeds being used for health reasons is something quite distant and out-of-the way. However, in the light of the present controversy regarding the legitimisation of drugs for medicinal or therapeutic reasons, Heléna Szöllosy’s recent book offers the right literature on the subject.
It will help to widen one’s horizons about the theme. Szöllosy takes into consideration forty different weeds that are to be found in Gozo and writes about each of them in detail. Every weed has a short chapter dedicated to it.
Each chapter is divided into the following sections; an introduction listing the scientific name of the weed, its synonyms, its family name, its Maltese name as well as the common names of the weed, ending with the meaning of the name. Then, the description of the weed follows. The third section focuses on the usage of the plant and this is perhaps the most important and relevant section for the reader who is interested in using the weed for reasons of health.
The next two sections are the curiosity bit and a little information about references to the weed in ancient literature quoting an ancient or a more modern author on the subject. At the end of each sector, one finds enclosed in a green box the recipe one needs to know in order to be able to use it. This last part is therefore connected with the section about the usage of the plant.
Each chapter in the book begins with an illustration of the weed and a smaller in-set photo featuring the weed from a much shorter distance, making it possible for the reader to individuate the plant if he is going on a walk in the countryside and wants to collect a specimen of it.
As one goes through the pages the book, he or she becomes aware of the ancient wisdom that states that ‘nature provides us with everything’ thus concluding that ‘Food, medicine, tools, everything we need in every day’s life we can find around us and literally at our feet.’
Heléna Szöllosy’s emphatic point is that these treasures which we might walk upon unconsciously if we lack a proper and basic awareness of their hidden potential should not be underestimated in their importance; on the contrary her book Weeds for Health on Gozo is an eye-opener serving as the key for ancient knowledge, a knowledge that is once again becoming handy in our sophisticated world of post-modern medicine and clinically-orientated therapy.
It is no co-incidence that Frenc tal-Gharb also enjoys a mention in the preface of the book.”
The book is self-published, Gozo 2016, 182 pages.
Fr Geoffrey G Attard,