The magic 13 herbs
Yarrow was said to be able to heal kings, burnet could ward off the Plague and the glistening dew drops on the leaves of lady’s mantle were thought to possess magical powers!
Numerous positive properties are attributed to the medicinal plants used in the Ricola blend of 13 herbs. Many of these powers undoubtedly spring from popular legends and folklore. But behind the legend, there is usually a grain of truth.
Ricola combines all the goodness of 13 medicinal herbs to produce its soothing herb blend. This blend is used in all Ricola products. Find out which herbs we use in our famous blend and which active substances are contained in their leaves, stems, flowers or roots.
The leaf shape and white flowers of horehound are often mistaken for white deadnettle. But it is worth taking a closer look at the many properties of this herb.
Swiss botanist Paracelsus, Bavarian herbalist Sebastian Kneipp and Herbalist priest Künzle valued horehound for its properties in healing complaints of the spleen and liver as well as lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Horehound invigorates the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates the appetite and promotes the secretion of bile as well as loosening bronchial catarrh.
Horehound grows here
Horehound traditionally grows in southern Europe. North of the Alps, horehound is cultivated in gardens and grows wild on wasteland, scree and rocky soil. In Switzerland, it grows especially in the Valais.
Horehound is effective…
... for its essential oil as well as tannins and bitter constituents produced from the dried, flowering herb.
The origins of the scientific name “Pimpinella” and how it became known as ‘Burnet’ are unclear. Some etymologists believe that the name derives from “piper” – the Latin for pepper. Burnet roots also have a spicy taste that leaves a burning sensation on the tongue.
Bathing in this herb’s juice was said to heal wounds and varicose veins. But people also believed that Burnet was a cure for the Plague. “Eat garlic and Burnet, and your death will not be hastened”, was the saying in the days when the Plague caused thousands of deaths in Europe.
Burnet is known to stimulate the secretion of mucous in the bronchial system: It soothes coughs and clears infections of the upper respiratory tracts. Inflammation of the mouth or throat can be treated with Burnet tinctures or infusions.
Burnet grows here
Burnet grows on rough pastures, in sparse woodland and up to altitudes of 2,000 m.
Burnet is effective …
... for its essential oil, saponin, bitter constituent and coumarin substances in the dried root.
Speedwell has a long list of alternative names – Paul’s Betony, Gypsyweed or ‘Man’s Fidelity’. Similarly, this herb is also said to heal a long list of complaints from loss of appetite and nervousness to treating minor wounds. An old saying goes that speedwell is the one true remedy, although it remains unclear just how true this really is.
However, the diuretic and expectorant properties of speedwell are proven.
Speedwell grows here
Speedwell grows wild throughout Europe in sparse woodland, copses and on rough pastures up to approx. 2,000 m.
Speedwell is effective …
... for its tannins and bitter constituents as well as aucubin (glycoside) in the dried, flowering herb.
Marshmallows usually conjure up an image of white, cottonwool-like and absolutely delicious sweets. But marshmallow is also a herb – simply a member of the mallow family. In fact, it was the French and not the Americans who previously used this herb to make marshmallows. The sticky extract of Marshmallow root was beaten with egg white and sugar to produce the “pâte de guimauve”, which was the forerunner of Marshmallows!
When food was scarce, people used to cook and fry the white, turnip-like roots. Marshmallow also has a reputation as a medicinal plant: Althaea officinalis is derived from the Greek altho meaning to heal. Mucilage from the Marshmallow root coats irritated mucous membranes with a protective layer. The effect is especially soothing for tickly coughs.
Marshmallow grows here
Marshmallow originally grew in salty soil in Eastern Europe, though now it thrives in central Europe. Marshmallow is also cultivated as a medicinal plant in Swiss gardens.
Marshmallow is effective …
... due to the mucilage, sugar and mineral salts contained in its roots.
Alchemists once believed the water droplets on Lady’s mantle leaves possessed secret powers. They collected the “magic gold pearls” to add to brews, tinctures and infusions. Alchemilla vulgaris – as the name suggests, lady’s mantle was indeed a classic herb used by alchemists.
Lady’s mantle is also said to alleviate menstrual pain or hormonal changes due to the menopause. This herb is also anti-inflammatory and soothing for the mouth and throat.
Lady’s mantle grows here
This undemanding plant practically grows anywhere in the wild!
Lady’s mantle is effective ...
... for its high tannins and bitter constituents and the phytosterines and flavanoids in the dried leaves.
Beware of cutting back, uprooting or burning an elder bush without good reason. Why? So you do not release the evil spirits which are being warded off by the elder plant. A popular belief was once that elder gave protection against all bad omens. There are many stories about the elder plant. According to a Christian legend, the Virgin Mary rested beneath an elder bush when escaping from King Herod into Egypt. A pagan myth is that the elder is sacred to the Goddess Holle – the protector of animals and plants. Germanic tribes therefore made sacrifices beneath an elder tree.
For centuries, elder – and chamomile – were seen as excellent herb remedies. Elder boosts the immune system and can prevent colds. The herb encourages perspiration and counteracts feverish colds or flu.
Elder grows here
Elder is commonly found throughout Europe up to altitudes of approx. 1,500 m. The plant prefers damp and shady spots.
Elder is effective ...
... for its essential oil, mucilage and flavanoid glycosides in the blossom.
5,000 years ago the Chinese were already using mallow to prepare a reddish, sweet-tasting tea. Could they have known even then that a daily dose of mallow tea prevents thickening of the arteries and can prevent heart attacks?
Mallow is derived from the Greek malakos meaning soft or soothing. The etymology refers to the plant’s soothing and protective properties. Even Greek and Roman physicians used mallow for internal and external use. The Romans called the herb “omnimorbium” – a remedy for all ailments. During the Middle Ages, mallow was a widely used herb remedy. Mallow counteracts inflammations and is soothing for colds and diseases of the respiratory tract. This herb also gives relief for gastrointestinal complaints and acts as a disinfectant for the mouth.
Mallow grows here
Mallow is very undemanding and grows in Europe on sunny slopes up to altitudes of 1,500 m.
Mallow is effective …
... due to its substances containing mucilage, glycoside and the tannin in the leaves and flowers.
A love-struck God of the Underworld, his spouse and a girl torn to pieces were, according to Greek mythology, involved in the creation of mint. Minthe was the daughter of the river God, Kokytos. Hades, the God of the Underworld, fell in love with her. But his wife, Persephone, was so angered by this that she tore Minthe to pieces. Hades took the pieces and scattered them on a mountain: The plant mint was formed.
Peppermint, in its current form, has only existed since about 1700. The plant was a cross of wild varieties and is a very versatile medicinal herb. Thanks to its menthol content, peppermint is cooling and acts as a disinfectant. It gives soothing relief for colds, catarrh and hoarseness, and can be applied externally. The herb can also counteract cramps of the gastrointestinal tract. This fresh tasting and smelling herb is also used in the production of cosmetics and perfume.
Peppermint grows here
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a cross of different wild mints and is therefore not found in nature. Various mint varieties are therefore cultivated.
Peppermint is effective ...
... for its essential oil with menthol, tannins and bitter constituents, polyphenols and flavanoids.
Sage is derived from the Latin salvia or salvare meaning to heal. People’s trust in sage’s medicinal powers was so great that in 1630, during the Plague epidemic in Toulouse, thieves rubbed themselves with sage and other herbs dissolved in vinegar to steal from deceased victims without fear of infection. When the thieves were caught, their lives were spared on condition that they told their secret.
In antiquity, sage was well known in southern Europe. Monks brought the plant across the Alps during the Middle Ages. Sage is effective against catarrh of the upper respiratory tracts and counteracts perspiration during the night. Sage is often used as a gargle to heal inflammations of the mouth and throat because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sage grows here
Sage grows in southern Europe on sunny mountain slopes, preferably on alkaline soil.
Sage is effective ...
... for its essential oils, tannins and bitter constituents, flavanoids as well as rosemary acid.
Yarrow is the strong man’s herb! The scientific name Achillea is a reference to the Greek hero, Achilles. The teacher of Achilles, the centaur Cheiron, showed him how to heal wounds with the aid of yarrow. In the Roman Empire and even during the Second World War, wounds were treated with yarrow – the “soldier’s weed”.
The Latin term millefolium means “thousand leaves” – a reference to the herb’s feathery leaf shape. Yarrow not only heals wounds, but also is anti-inflammatory and counteracts cramps. The herb also aids digestion. Additionally, yarrow helps the circulation and eases varicose veins or swollen feet.
Yarrow grows here
This undemanding herb grows on dry grassland and meadows, along sunny paths and waysides up to altitudes of approx. 2,700 m.
Yarrow is effective ...
... for its antibiotic substances in the flowering harvested plant.
The joy of seeing the first flower (Latin, prima) of spring (Latin, ver) has always been an inspiration for poets and composers to pay homage to the cowslip. The Austrian poet, Nikolaus Lenau (1802–1850), wrote about the cowslip, “Sweet flower, have you returned so early? I greet you!” Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1854) composed one of his songs about the cowslip.
But the 19th century Romantics were not the only ones inspired by the cowslip. In Nordic mythology, the cowslip was regarded as a plant that was protected by elves and nymphs.
Cowslip contains triterpene saponins which stimulate the production of mucilage. Secretions become thinner and mucilage is released to give relief for tickly coughs.
Cowslip grows here
Cowslip mainly grows on dry grassland and meadows, along the margins of fields and river banks up to altitudes of over 2,000 m.
Cowslip is effective ...
... for its saponins, essential oils, glycosides and flavanoids from the dried flower as well as triterpene saponin and other substances from the root.
Plantain is the perfect antidote for minor wounds, insect bites or nettle stings. Simply crush or chew a leaf and place it on the wound. This stops the bleeding, disinfects the wound and speeds up the healing process.
In ancient times, people were already using Plantain as a herb remedy. In the Middle Ages, the healing properties of this herb were also highly valued. Plantain provides relief for coughs and acts as an expectorant. It especially counteracts bronchial catarrh and inflammations of the throat. Plantain also gives soothing relief for catarrh in the upper respiratory tract.
Plantain grows here
Plantain grows in central Europe on dry grassland and meadows and by roadsides up to altitudes of over 2,000 m.
Plantain is effective ...
... for its mucilage, aucubin-like substances and glycoside.
Thyme is revitalizing and boosts your stamina. At least, this is implied by the Greek name thymos meaning courage or vitality. Why not try it? Maybe a cup of thyme tea or using thyme to season your food will revive you?
Thyme is also a powerful medicinal plant and was highly valued by the Greeks, Egyptians and Etruscans who cultivated the plant for its versatile properties. Monks brought the plant across the Alps during the Middle Ages. Thyme is an anti-inflammatory, acts as a disinfectant and also gives relief from irritable coughs. Thyme is also said to have a soothing effect on the nerves and to provide relief from cramps or pain during the menstrual cycle.
Thyme grows here
Thyme prefers a dry, Mediterranean climate. In Switzerland, Thyme flourishes on the southern mountain slopes in the Valais.
Thyme is effective ...
... for its essential oil with Thymol, bitter constituents as well as some tannins in the flowering stems.