Living on a small island with such a rich
flora as Ibiza, it is understandable that there are a lot
of plants we use for other purposes then just feeding ourselves
or the cattle.
The medical service was practically unknown
for most of the people living out in the country.
Up until the late 1950s, when we started
making real money from tourism, there were a lot of aged Ibicencos
that had never had a doctor's visit, not even for their own
They never bought medicine, not because
they did not suffer illnesses, like everybody else, but because
doctors were not easily available when they were really needed
and the majority could not afford it anyway (they did not
trust them very much either) not to mention the cost of the
So, the common thing was to have their own
botanical apothecary on every farm, plants such as Sage, (in
ibicenco, Salvia) "Salvia officinalis", Camomile, (Camamil-la pagesa) "Abrotano hembra", Aloysia (Herba-lluisa) "Aloysia citriodora", Aloes, (Atzebare) "Aloe
vera", Opium poppy, (Cascai) "Papaver somniferum",
among others. They were always planted near the house, and
still are by most Ibicenco families in their new houses, though
most of the young ones don't know yet what to do with it all.
In the kitchen garden there were always
different plants and fruits (garlic, thistles, artichoke,
lemons, prunes, quince, etc.) used both to eat and to be used
in the right way and doses, as medicine, little wounds and
burns, indigestion, rheumatism, liver and kidney problems,
etc. They were all treated with these very common plants.
From the forest nearby, where they keep
the honeybees, fresh rosemary, thyme, small and tender pine-tree
cones, all full of resins and oils, were often collected.
Whenever a winter cold was giving a bad chest to any of the
family, a nice and hot big cup, or two, of a tea made from
all these plants, with two soupspoons of honey and the skin
of a lemon.
It did help to cure bronchitis, influenza
and even pneumonia. In the severest cases, a hot cataplasm,
made of wheat-bran, were also applied to the chest and back
of the patient.
The thick and very bitter aromatic tar,
made of the juniper tree roots, "Juniperus communis"
was often use by the whole family too, two or three daily
drops of it for a few days is enough to be released of all
kind of intestinal worms. Some also use it as a blood-cleaner
and for skin problems, like eczema for instance, with good
Some other plants, such as the local tobacco, "Nicotiana tabacum" - "tabac pota" as
we call it - was used as therapy (good for the nerves and
the asthma, they used to say) and as a placebo, becoming a
social drug. Even the smell of this natural and very strong
tobacco is really repulsive and sickly to anybody who doesn't
smoke it. "Datura stramonium" is another plant of
the tobacco family that grows wild and in some gardens, for
its pretty and delicate white trumpets, also to be smoked
against asthma, (they say) and also a dangerous psychedelic
drug, if it is drunk as tea, though only a small minority
uses it. "Cannabis indica," or Marijuana, as everybody
knows it, has been grown on the Island for many centuries
together with "Cannabis sativa," for its fibres
to make ropes and the seeds are ideal as bird food. The Moors
probably brought it in when they were here, until almost eight
hundred years ago, and still could be planted without any
control, until the last Spanish civil war (1936-1939). Since
then it has been forbidden, but it never really disappeared
from the Island. By the way, did you know that marijuana could
be smoked as well? Good for glaucoma (so they say).
From the late 1960s with the hippies, some
new (new only for us) names enlarged the list of our psychedelic
natural drugs. "Inocibe geophylla" was used as a
"magic mushroom" and especially "Pholiota aurea"
another magic or "laughter mushroom" as some call
it, also grows here. The spores of this mushroom were sold
by the Internet from Ibiza with instructions on how it was
to be planted and how to use it as a drug. The police arrested
the people in Santa Eulària two years ago.
Please notice that I do not give any proper
and complete recipes of how to prepare or use any of these
plants. It is not my job and not my will either. If anybody
is interested in using any of them, they will have to look
for proper books and learn more about them. Some of them are
very poisonous and dangerous, like the "stramonium"
for instance. Two teenagers were sent to Ibiza's hospital
this summer, suffering a very severe intoxication with the
alkaloids of this plant, after drinking a tea made with it.
Without medical help it could have been
enough to kill them both, as happened in Italy not long ago
when three young people died after taking the same drug in
a stupid ritual, organised by one of those new "illuminated
spiritual leaders". Or the opium poppies, "Papaver
somniferum" used until not long ago as a tea for toothache
and as a general painkiller, also used for nervous babies.
The mother drinks the tea before she gives her milk to the
baby, so they both can sleep deeply afterwards, but turning
the baby into a very young drug addict if this is done too
often. The mushrooms can give serious gastric problems while
you are still laughing.
There is not a tradition for witches or
official quacks in our Islands, at least for the two or three
last centuries. In my opinion, the religion had a lot to do
with it; the spirit of the Inquisition was still flouting
around until Franco's death. (There are far more now then
ever, as we can read in the publicity pages of our local paper).
So, every family kept they own medicines at home and they
knew how to use them.
They didn't need to visit anybody, though
it is obvious that some knew more then others, but this was
not something to be socially appreciated for anybody to be
too involved in these matters, was suspected of being evil
or being insane.
I remember a good, lonely and tranquil native
man, from the Sant Agusti area, who had a reputation for being
a bit of a wizard. He once confessed to another friend and
me how he won this reputation. He used to be seen spending
a few hours every night reading a book in candle light by
his window, and he could be hear prying in a funny language.
The book was a British grammar, and he was teaching himself
English, repeating in a loud voice for a good pronunciation
of his lesson, something like: "My tailor is rich...
my tailor is rich". To read a book! At night! In a non-Catholic
language! It was a very unusual thing to do for the time (about
fifty years ago) and the place, so - when one morning, some
cattle appeared dead in the neighbourhood - without an obvious
reason, his reputation started growing, and he had to live
with it for most of the rest of his life.
José P Ribas