December 7, 2021 – Abundant natural resources and a variety of locally produced products are Croatia’s secret to healthy living.
Before arriving in Croatia, I traveled to many countries to learn about wellness practices in different parts of the world. I’m interested in how people think about their well-being and the role culture plays. From temazcal in Mexico to a curandera in Colombia, to Reiki in Japan and more, I have experienced a variety of indigenous modalities.
Once here, I looked for Croatia’s offer beyond the popular Mediterranean diet and outdoor lifestyle. At first nothing seemed exceptional, but over time I noticed a trend. Nature has blessed Croatia with abundant resources and people are skilled at cultivating them and producing goods. I am talking about food, wine, rakija and herbal products, beauty and medicine. It is a way of life that a surprising number of people are adopting; usually for personal / family use and often as a side activity. If I can speak at length about the (delicious) consumables, the herbal treatments are just as intriguing.
The annual Hvar Lavender Festival allowed me to experience Croatia’s natural and homemade products and the women who make them. Kantarion (St. John’s Wort), smilje (immortelle), nevin (calendula) and of course lavanda (lavender) grow wild here and are the main ingredients in various creams, balms, lotions, oils and soaps. Many healing / soothing / preventative benefits can be derived from these plants. Commercial products containing these ingredients are sold all over the world, but here you can find them made in kitchens and backyards: fresh, clean, and free from additives, preservatives and unpronounceable chemicals.
Grapes grow abundantly near the Adriatic coast. The climate offers unique characteristics that help Croatian wines regularly win prizes in international competitions.
What’s the problem, you may ask? For starters, many women know about herbs here: where to find them, how to use them, and how they keep the body and skin in good working order. Their remedies and beauty tonics can be found in the family medicine cabinet. By the way, have you noticed how many Croatian women have beautiful, supple skin? This brings me to the next point: these things work.
Here are two women with very different backgrounds and motivations for getting into plants.
Ivana Magdalenić with some of her produce at the annual Hvar Lavender Festival.
Ivana Magdalenić made her first remedy eight years ago to help a friend with an injured foot. After much research and tinkering with a recipe, she found the right mixture that healed her friend’s wound. Ivana realized that she had a gift for working with plants and she went on to create a line of natural products that treats a range of problems, from acne to burns, wounds, scars, psoriasis, wrinkles, pain. joints, etc.
Ivana sells her full line of Hag-Made products in her store in Stari Grad, Hvar.
Her business name, Hag Made, is a charming, handmade pun and was inspired by a dream of witches brewing over a cauldron. In this story, Ivana is a “good witch” who creates healing potions from the heart. I have used his Kantarion Plus on some acute burns and within days I have been staring at my skin in disbelief at the marked difference in appearance as well as the pain relief. Her Smilje cream gave my skin that Cro dew overnight.
Hag-Made Kantarion Plus has strong anti-inflammatory properties and worked wonders on the author’s severely burned skin.
Everything Ivana uses grows naturally in Hvar, where she is originally from, and she knows the difference between a plant that comes from the south side of the island where the sun is more intense and plants on the north side. This is an important distinction because the quality and efficiency of the products are priorities; nothing sells without being tested. She is at the same time artist, musician, inventor and free spirit who seems to have a special connection with the energy of the earth, which undoubtedly guides her business.
Ivana in her shop, near the door leading to the outside garden where she has coffee and the company of friends.
Grandmother Ruža’s childhood home in Gustirna, near Trogir.
Conversations about healing often include someone’s grandmother, and Grandma Ruža is a queen. She has been making oils and creams with kantarion, smilje and nevin (calendula) for decades. She administers them for sunscreen, sunburns, wounds, hemorrhoids, cuts … for anything, she tells me. She is known to fry dried chamomile flowers in olive oil to make chest wraps to reduce colds and inflammation, and she brews tea from various herbs to improve various ailments. To relieve her rheumatism, Grandmother Ruža goes to a secret place in Šolta where she spreads black mud all over her body and face; homemade herbal infused rakija helps too. Funny.
Grandmother Ruža with a photo of her mother.
His breadth of knowledge comes from life experience. Growing up at the end of World War II in the countryside near Trogir, the inhabitants of the villages survived on agriculture. She was on the front lines with her mother for handling plants and animals and producing a long list of foods: meat, cheese, vegetables, oils, herbs, wine and brandy. When Grandmother Ruža left school at the age of 10 to work and help take care of the family, her hands-on education in plant medicine also began.
Grandmother Ruža cleans in the yard around her childhood home.
She regularly picked sage, everlasting and wormwood, as well as tree fruits, including oskoruša (used as a medicinal tea for stomach aches and constipation) and maginje (a “strawberry »Croatian containing large amounts of vitamin C and dietary fiber) – some of the more straightforward remedies. plants. Today she is still doing well and the family is still enjoying her preparations.
Recycled containers are useful for Grandma Ruža’s homemade oils and balms, which the whole family uses.
Few places in the world have the diversity or abundance of Croatia’s natural resources that provide food, nutrition and healing. I don’t know how many Croatians achieve their good fortune in this regard, but it seems obvious to me, and I feel like I’m constantly learning a new food or plant here that offers certain benefits.
Maginje fruits are called Croatian strawberries. Although the shape, texture and taste are different from typical garden strawberries, their health benefits are similar. Unlike the garden variety which grows in plants at ground level, maginje grows wild in trees and in large quantities.
Being able to produce food with readily available native vegetation, animals and other means AND nourish your body (hello Mediterranean diet) AND cure your ailments, seems like a triple victory. I am happy to have found the natural well-being of Croatia; in my opinion, it improves everyone’s prospects for healthy living.
For more on Cyndie’s experiences, check out her column Croatia Through the Eyes of a Digital Nomad.