PLÀCIDA VIDAL: THE WISE HEALER
Her eyes have seen dozens, even hundreds of healing plants; perhaps that’s why they continue to shine so brightly. Plàcida Vidal was born more than 80 springs ago in the Vall de Bianya into a family of farmers who tended cows, vegetable gardens and pastures, and who used wild plants and fruits to cure the ailments of humans and animals alike. Following an accident that left her unable to work on the farm, she decided to devote herself to her craft as a healer: selecting, collecting and making natural remedies from plants. She lived for a time in the mountains of Molló before settling with her husband in Empordà. To this day she still resides in Vilarnadal, a small village in Alt Empordà, where her hands have withered as her wisdom has grown.
Her knowledge of mountain herbs and other local plants is immense, as is her generosity in passing it on to others. She realises that many people do not believe in the healing power of nature, but the talks and workshops she has hosted over the years to discuss medicinal varieties, explain their properties and share recipes to help our bodies heal have always been a success.
She keeps countless jars of dried herbs, ointments, creams and oils that bear witness to her expertise, which she has always shown with modesty to the journalists who have come to meet her. We were lucky enough to get a tour of her workshop, to taste a ratafia liqueur made from more than forty herbs, and to explore the greenhouse and the small vegetable garden where she would grow the plants she later transformed into unique concoctions. There were both classic and new recipes, such as the elixir she brewed from jiaogulan, a plant from India that cleanses the body of toxins and is said to extend life beyond 100 years. Plàcida took us on unforgettable walks through fields and forests and taught us to see flowers, plants, leaves and seeds as treasures that can help us relieve both minor and serious ailments. She explained, for example, that wormwood repels ants; that lemon balm is great for nerves; that marjoram is good for earaches; that marigold improves circulation; that a plantain leaf applied to a wound acts as a disinfectant and healing agent; that thyme also possesses antiseptic properties; that St. John’s wort, verbena and mountain tobacco relieve pain; that nettle supports memory retention; that milk thistle is good for the liver; that grey-leaved cistus, when infused with hot water, helps to combat coughs; and that shepherd’s purse has properties to clear up blood disorders.
This woman whose name evokes peace and quiet, this alchemist of nature and ally of good health, says that she would have liked to compile all her experience in a book about the plant species that surround us, a volume that would mark a turning point in the way we perceive nature. But it was not to be. Dear Plácida Vidal, it was not to be … so far.