Olitäten - Herbal Remedies


Wherever thymus, eyebright, burnet rose, thyme-leaved speedwell, lady’s mantle, shepherd’s purse, St John’s wort or arnica grow in remote mountain meadows, on the river banks of the Schwarza or in the neighbouring damp valleys, here too can be found the Buckelapotheker and the Kräuterfrau (literally: the humpbacked apothecary and the herb woman).

These symbolic figures stand for a bygone profession that influenced the life of those living in the Schwarzatal for close to 300 years.

The production of herbal remedies and the sale of these Thuringia cures and household products by Balsamträger, Olitätenhändler and Buckelapotheker was well-known throughout Germany, and indeed, middle Europe.

The word “Olitäten” comes from the Latin “Oleum” (oil) and refers to the essential oils contained in the herbal remedies. Mother Nature has gifted the mountainous landscape around the Schwarzatal an abundance of medicinal plants and herbs.

Crucial to the growth of the Olitäten industry was the unique geological conditions in the Schwarzatal, with soil, water and climate conditions varying throughout the region, due to the dramatic height differences of the mountains and valleys. Other important factors were the cultural-historic development in the region, the collapse of the monastery at Paulinzella after the Reformation, as well as the presence of important trading routes, which led through the Thuringia slate mountains.

The core components of the Olitäten products were the medicinal herbs, which grow freely on mountain meadows, along riverbanks and in damp valleys, as well as the treasures of the forest, such as berries, tree bark, roots and sap.

In smoky laboratories, plasters, pills, powders, balsams, tinctures, oils, essences, distilled herbs and fragrant waters were created, using secret recipes. With a full-packed load hoisted on their backs, the Buckelapotheker would then set out, in order to sell the Thuringian Olitäten across Middle Europe.

Although this once so important industry today no longer exists, the Olitäten tradition lives on. Numerous initiatives and tourist attractions entice hikers, friends of nature and health-conscious visitors to the Olitätenland / Thuringia Herb Garden.

The old tradition lives on particularly at the former stronghold of Oberweißbach. The Olitätenstübchen, today located in the birthplace of the great educationalist and founder of kindergarten, Friedrich Fröbel, is an important testament of this. In the attic of this time-honoured house, “Fröbel City Herb Seminars” have taken place regularly for the past 14 years. Herbal fans come from far and wide to accompany the Buckelapotheker and Kräuterfrauen on their travels, and to discover the unique remedial plants of the region and learn about their uses.

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