Reunion’s Best Herbalist

Are you an insomniac? Got bad circulation, high cholesterol or headaches? There’s a cure for that, and you can find it at your local herbalist, known locally as a tisaneur.

Back home in Australia, herbalists are rare and treated with suspicion. But here in Reunion you’ll find a herbalist in every town, and everyone has their trusted provider who has the best herbal mixes. Being a Reunionese herbalist is a complex, revered and trusted job. 

I talked to a well-known herbal tea maker who had helped over 3000 babies be born, with her famous fertility teas created with 100% local and endemic plants. And another who learnt to harvest the ingredients for his plant mixes when he was a child, alongside his grandfather.

But I discovered that this important Créole tradition is in danger. Not only are French laws getting stricter in regards to using plants for medicinal uses, but a new generation of herbalists is appearing, with far less knowledge and experience than older generations. Although plant treatments have the reputation of being gentle and safe, in fact there are many local plants that can be extremely toxic and dangerous if ingested in the wrong dose, or at all. Annoyingly, many of them look very similar to the safe plants used in popular tisanes.

Which is why I choose to listen to the advice of a friend: follow the « 3 grandma rule ». Before buying any remedy from a herbalist, observe the people lining up at their stand. If you can count at least 3 Créole grandmothers, chances are you’ve found an excellent tisaneur.

Vocabulary

to trust – faire confiance
a mix – mélange
well-known – celèbre
to harvest – récolter
alongside – côté à côté

in regards to – en ce qui concerne
gentle – doux
safe – sûr
annoyingly – fâcheusement
Advise – conseil

To follow – suivre
lining up – en queue

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