So it’s the last day of the year. Time to pay the piper. As you may recall, earlier this year I laid down a strongly worded promise to my Mum, in addition to a few other shitkicker goals that I’d hoped to have completed by the end of this year. In other words, today.
To recap, the first goal was to learn all the words to the eight minute rap song, The New Rap Language. It brings me no joy to report to you that while I did learn the first few stanzas, there were another 45 verses that I didn’t quite get around to. Bummer. I also wanted to learn how to pick locks. Sadly, no-one will be calling me to take part in any craftily planned heists any time soon. Zero progress. Bummer. As for my goal to put together a fabulous death party (also known, by more basic bitches, as a funeral), I have managed to put together a list of some pretty kick-ass ideas, so I am happy about that. But these promises were all secondary to the one that I made to my Mum that I would translate her book of herbal remedies into English.
So, how’d I go? Well, technically the promise has been satisfied. I have, with some help from google translate, made a rudimentary translation of every single chapter from Greek into English. And the reason I say “technically” is that google translate isn’t great at translating nuance, so I need to go through the entire text word by word with a dictionary to ensure the veracity of the translation. And I’m not that great at translating Greek, so it’s a slog. And I am nowhere near a final draft. So technically, yes, it is something I can tick off, but it almost feels like a hollow victory. In my mind, when I said that I’d translate Mum’s book this year, I’d idealistically imagined that I’d be holding a printed copy, hot off the presses, in my hand right now. And that definitely isn’t the case. And I am disappointed.
My Mum isn’t alive so I don’t know how she would feel about it, but I do like to think that she would be forgiving, sympathetic and understanding. Because that’s who she was. And instead of beating myself up about it, I think I should also be forgiving, sympathetic and understanding towards myself. I have resolved to get my Mum’s work out there in one form or another. And I will. Whether it’s an actual physical book, an e-book or even perhaps a website. Her wisdom must be shared, and it has to be me that makes that happen. Because I said I would do it.
When I started doing the painstaking, word by word translation I learned things about my mother that I had never known before. Can you believe that I had never even read the introduction to her book? Why would I? It was in Greek! Ugh, I’m definitely not proud of that. Regrets, I have a few. But in translating the introduction, I found that I was bringing my Mum, through her words and through her experiences, back to life. The urge to call her, to talk to her, was overwhelming. It felt like she was right there. And I have so many questions that I wish I could ask her. I would have loved nothing more than to work on a translation together with my Mum, as a team, and I know that she would have loved it too. That’s no longer possible but I am going to stick to my promise. I will find a way to print my Mum’s work in a way that pays tribute to all her knowledge and all the hard work she put into her learning, into her garden and into this book.
Below, I am publishing my English translation of the introduction to “A Family Guide: Herbal Remedies” by Maria Stathopoulos. Our writing styles are very different so I have made a great effort to remain faithful to Mum’s voice, and to not imbue it my own tone. It has given me unparalleled joy to open my mother’s book, take out the words she wrote and be able to publish them here. It feels like I’ve unearthed some long-buried treasure for you all. Please enjoy, and I wish you all a healthy, happy and wonderful new year ahead. 🎉
My name is Maria Stathopoulos née Roumelioti. I was born in 1947 in Ancient Korinthos, a beautiful village at the foot of the mountain castle Akrokorinthos. I lived there until I emigrated to Australia in 1965.
When I was a young girl, my village didn’t have its own doctor, but a doctor did visit once a week and we would go and see him if we weren’t well. When that doctor wasn’t available, we would have to travel to New Korinthos, which was a one hour donkey ride away. The long distance was always a problem and many times it prevented us from travelling at all, which is why we only made the journey in cases of serious illness.
At that time, the elderly women of most small villages in Greece used herbs as first-aid for many different ailments, helping those who were in need. I watched what they were doing with fascination, curiosity and awe for their methods, and for the ease with which they would mix the herbs when making medicines. I wanted to be like them when I grew up. The fact that they were always willing to help anyone who needed it was also a reason I was interested in studying botany. As a young girl I kept detailed notes about which herbs were used, and how they were applied. I always dreamed that, one day, I too would specialise in the use of herbs.
Anyway, the years passed, and I grew up and came to Australia, like so many others. In Australia I worked hard and started a family. Everything was going well until I suddenly became very sick with chronic internal infection and bleeding, blood in the urine and terrible pains in my abdomen. I remembered the herbs of my childhood and decided to experiment with my own treatments. But I discovered that everything I had seen, heard and learned in my village was useless to me, because I did not know the names of the herbs in English. The knowledge I had was insufficient to help myself. The horrible pains forced me to go to the doctor many times, and after undergoing the appropriate examinations without being able to find the cause of the problem, they referred me to another doctor, who also found nothing and referred me to a specialist. The specialist, despite conducting many tedious examinations, could also not find the cause of the problem and sent me to another doctor who in turn sent me to another specialist. One specialist sent me to another. And then they would refer me to yet another. I felt like a tennis ball, bouncing from doctor to doctor, from examination to examination, from cauterisation to cauterisation and from surgery to surgery, all to no avail.
At that time I was a mother of three small children and many times I remember having to crawl on my hands and knees to do the housework and to look after my kids. This went on for 15 whole years. The doctors prescribed, and I took, every antibiotic and every painkiller available on the market, all without any relief.
Desperate, I stared truth in the eye and decided that in order to get better I had no choice but to become my own doctor. The treatments I had undergone with synthetic drugs had not helped me at all. They just created new problems for me, and increased my suffering. Fifteen years of necessarily excessive drug consumption had also resulted in chronic nephritis and a very dangerous penicillin allergy. “Only a miracle can save you”, I thought to myself. A miracle to rid me of all the pain and suffering. I threw away the drugs and looked for treatment elsewhere. In my despair, I once again remembered the herbal remedies of my childhood and decided to try again. I started reading books about my problem, and how herbs could treat it. Timidly at first, I started experimenting on myself, and very quickly I realised that I was doing something right, because the pain started to diminish so clearly. I continued the treatment. My pain and symptoms subsided continuously and I felt better every day. Using herbs on a daily basis I regained my health and eventually became completely well. The problems that had tormented me for 15 years just disappeared, and have never returned. The miracle I had hoped for actually happened.
I had solved my problem, but ultimately that was not enough for me. I wanted to know why, when and which herbs act positively on which diseases. So I decided to enroll in a botany class at the local college, which has a dedicated horticultural department. That’s where I learned the names of herbs in English, their uses, their structures, their healing properties, what each plant contains within it, and how and when to use them. Although I got the result I wanted for myself, I did not stop studying. I continued reading, and learning more every day. What I remembered as a child and all that I learned at school, I write about in this book, to help as many people as I can. To help those who wish to no longer suffer needlessly, as I did. They will realise, as I and so many others have realised, that herbs bring balance to the body. Their healing substances help to heal our shocked health and strengthen us because, like them, we also belong to nature. A nature so powerful that she provides us with everything we need in the form of food and medicine. All you have to do is reach out and take what nature offers to us so generously.
It’s a shame that humans have created a world of our own making, in which our own synthetic substances sicken and kill us every day. We refuse to abandon them because they’re convenient and comfortable. But this convenience makes us unable to see that we are losing what is most valuable to us; our health. Unfortunately we have become what we eat; foods full of poison, toxins, chemicals, preservatives and artificial colours that are harmful. Will we ever understand that the foods containing these ingredients should never be eaten? The human body endures to a point, but then begins to react, giving us danger signals that we sometimes recognise, but not always. We breathe polluted air, exhaust fumes, industrial waste and more. We eat inappropriate food and drink dirty water. And the danger lurks. Our only shield is to add herbs to our diet and to make better choices about what we eat. It is only then that we may be able to avoid the diseases that threaten us every step of the way. Everything we eat, everything we drink and everything we breathe is reflected in our health, whether we like it or not. The time has come to realise that without health we have nothing. Who knows, if I had continued taking the pharmacological drugs that did me so much harm, I might still be sick and running from doctor to doctor. Fortunately, I stopped in time. I searched for a cure in nature, and I found it.
In herbs we discover beneficial and healing properties that give us confidence over time, because the more we use them the more we realise and understand that they protect us and help us. I am not a doctor, nor do I try to present myself as a doctor. But I was suffering and I speak from experience. I tried the herbs and I know they work. For my problem, which was internal infection, bloating and blood in the urine, I eliminated from my diet white bread, white flour, peanuts, mushrooms, yeast, tomatoes, dry figs and dairy of all kinds except plain yoghurt for six months. I did herbal treatments every day, and after six months I reintroduced everything except sugar.
After going to hell and back, I was finally able to solve the problem that had tormented me for 15 years by using humble but powerful herbs. That’s why I’m proud of, and want to share, what I know with those who are interested to learn. With herbs I did something that the doctors I’d visited hundreds of times could not do, because they believed only in chemical treatments. Before readers conclude that I am against orthodox medicine and its doctors, let me assure you that I firmly believe in them, and in science. We need doctors for diagnoses, surgeries, etc. but we do not need to ingest chemicals for minor conditions, and I do not believe in the way, or the ease with which, drugs are prescribed to us.
Nature has provided our planet with all the herbs to treat every disease, and a natural bounty with which to live comfortably, free of health problems. We were not given chemicals or fast food. These were created by us, and as a result we all suffer issues with our health. So it is time to take the steering wheel of health in our hands and turn it towards mother nature. She has provided us with the medicine for all our ailments. These are found in various types of food, containing ingredients suitable for the proper functioning of the body and with no side effects.
In order to be worthy descendants of the ancient Greek philosophers and herbalists Socrates, Dioscorides, Aristotle and Galen, we must believe, as they believed and taught, that in order to cure a disease we must cure the whole body and not only the symptoms. These great sages, writers and doctors of antiquity posited that food be our medicine and medicine be our food. In other words, what we eat should not only satisfy our hunger, but also heal us. If we can truly understand the depth and the meaning of these words, we will forever hold onto these useful, tried-and-true herbal remedies. Everything I have learned through personal study and diligence, everything that I have put into practise, I have recorded for you in this informative book which was written with patience and love. It is my hope, my wish and my belief that one day the doctor’s office and hospitals will all be emptied of patients.