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Masterwort - Miracle plant of the Alpls

Masterwort, the queen of all medicinal herbs, is strong, aromatic and native to Zillertal. This plant from the natural pharmacy is an effective remedy for all manner of ailments.

It heals, it nourishes. Since the beginning of time, Mother Nature has taken care of our well-being... up here, in the mountains of Zillertal, at an altitude somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000m, there blossoms one of the most famous – and most effective – herbs in the natural world: masterwort. The healing power of this alpine umbelliferous plant has been known for centuries. In his 11th-century work the Macer floridus, the monk Odo Magdunensis described a plant – believed to be masterwort – that was used to treat liver dysfunction and internal stones, as well as leprosy. In the 16th century, botanist and natural scientist Adamus Lonicerus recommended it as a cough expectorant, a diaphoretic, a fever cure, a means of removing excess water, and a treatment for kidney and urinarystones. Even today, this powerful plant features in many books on herbs in the alpine region – particularly in Zillertal.

FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE POWERFUL HERB
  • Plant height: 30 to 100 cm
  • Large, flat flower umbels consisting of up to 50 pedicels
  • Highly aromatic odour, reminiscent of carrots and celery
  • Substances: essential oil (0.2–1.4 %) with a very high percentage of terpenes, bitter compounds (osthin, peucenin), furanocoumarins (imperatorin, peucedanin, isoimperatorin), tanning agents, resins and flavonoids

The secret beneath the earth

Masterwort can be found in mountain meadows, on steep slopes, and next to streams. In the fresh mountain air, its white blossom swaying softly in the summer breeze, the plant can grow to a height of 1m. But it’s not the flowers of the masterwort that conceal the herb’s big and ancient secrets; the hugely valuable substances contained in the plant are concentrated in its leaves, in its stem and especially – and most importantly of all – in its roots.

After harvesting, the masterwort is cleaned, cut and finally dried in a warm, shady place. Once this has been done, the different parts of the plant – with their piquant fragrance – can be processed to create all manner of products; the most famous is schnapps made from masterwort. After a heavy meal, the herb – which has a bitter and slightly spicy taste – can provide great relief from stomach ache. One shot of schnapps stimulates the entire metabolism, boosts digestion, and helps the body produce more gall and pancreatic juice. In this way, it eliminates bloating, pressure and even pain in the upper abdomen.

Relief for body and soul

The powers of masterwort go even further: in a pulverised form, it becomes a tasty spice to cook with in the kitchen. Furthermore, it can be used specifically to strengthen the immune system; one should take between a half and a full teaspoon per day, depending on the individual. What’s more, masterwort can be used to make teas (to alleviate digestive problems), as well as concentrated tinctures (for the treatment of bleeding gums, for instance) and expectorant steam baths (for conditions such as bronchitis). For the baths, the plant is finely chopped and placed inside a bowl, then boiling water is poured over it, creating steam for inhalation. Masterwort can even help animals: restless cows or horses are given an infusion to drink, which restores their well-being. Moreover, the medicinal herb is part of local traditions, too; in the alpine region, dried masterwort is used for the custom of burning incense in houses and stables.

One last piece of advice for herbalists: masterwort can be easily confused with other umbelliferous plants – including the extremely poisonous hemlock. You should only pick it if you’re absolutely sure you have identified the plant correctly.

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