The heritage of traditional knowledge of medicinal plants

The heritage of traditional knowledge of medicinal plants
2017. Rock Tea, Sebulcor (Segovia) © Emilio Blanco

The heritage of traditional knowledge of medicinal plants

Collage image which shows a report on the picking of Rock Tea in the province of Segovia. Juan Carlos shows us how the plant is picked and suitably prepared for drying and preservation: in the same way as his ancestors always did. We can see rural culture as a whole, not just recognising the species, but also handling, preparing, drying and preserving it.

The plant and the culture around it are part of an inseparable whole. This is knowledge inherited from parents and grandparents (patrimony) and transmitted from generation to generation orally.

Rock Tea is highly valued medicinal plant in rural Castile and many other parts of limestone Spain. It is still in use because of its digestive and social qualities, just for having a cup of tea or to settle the stomach, help digestion etc. It can be taken black, sweetened or with milk and in some places with aniseed.

Although attempts have been made, it can’t be grown successfully as its habitat is very special: it is a rock plant which lives on the rock itself or in cracks. As well as knowing the plant, we need to know its habitat and the best time for picking it, which is when fully flowering in the months of July and August in our case.

The yearly ritual of picking tea represents more than just that as it evokes past childhood, the memory of our forebears, families and communities. Its agreeable smell takes into the countryside, summer days, the smell of the mountain, and clear and clean Castilian skies. Limestone walls, escarpments, outcrops, crags, overflown by vultures and Egyptian vultures at this time of year.

If it is pulled up rather than carefully picked, the following year will yield little. A slow and meticulous picking is needed, perfectly made bunches slowly dried and left hanging in the shade will provide quality tea all the year.

Every year sees Juan Carlos at his appointment with tea-picking, in the copses of the River San Juan, where we pick it. My urban clumsiness in picking contrasted with his accuracy and scrupulous dedication. The bunches and bundles are ready for hanging at home.

Other names: Stone tea, Cliff Tea, Crag Tea, Boulder Tea. A digestive medicinal plant with no stimulants which contains phenolic acid, flavonoids and essential oils


Emilio Blanco Castro, etnobotánico y Juan Carlos Sanz