Holistic remedies from the desert, Morocco

If you take a short stroll through the central square of Marrakech (known as Jemaa el-Fnaa) you will encounter all kinds of spices, herbs and medicinal products, many of which are made from the unique commodity of the Argan nut. Located in the Eastern corner of the square however, is an area dedicated to showcasing a range of holistic remedies from the Sub-Saharan deserts of Southern Morocco. It is very common for desert remedies like the ones displayed here to be the first port of call for to treat a variety of ailments such as flu, rheumatic fever and eczema. If you explore this sleepy section of the square

you will discover that as well as holistic treatments, there are a large selection of cosmetic products for sale also. Stall vendors sell everything from lipstick to perfume, of which are all prepared from plants and herbs plucked from the wild desert. Other products which are unique to this corner of the world such as kohl (a form of mascara which has been used in North Africa for over 5000 years) can also be found. In other parts of Africa and also India, kohl is applied on children to deter the gaze of the evil eye. Another unique commodity you will find on offer is Ashabba. This is a remedy that is said to heal all kinds of sexual dilemma’s, made from herbs and the fat of camels from the south. The bustling square of Jemaa el-Fnaa is but a short walk from any one of our luxury Riad Hotels, explore the secrets that Marrakech has to offer today. Marrakech Jemaa al Fnaa Map » Explore the Jemaa el Fnaa Map

Herb shopping is a hugely important role in Moroccan day to day life and during a trip through the souk’s you simply have to get talking to someone in order to discover the fascinating culinary, spiritual and medicinal uses for the herbs you can buy in Marrakech. Here is a list of just a few remedies that are on offer:

Nigella Seed (Sanouj)
The guardian of the Dar Habiba Hotel Riad who accompanied me on this trip expressed that this herb was particularly important as the Prophet Mohommed testified that this seed can cure any illness except death. Ranging from everyday uses from healing toothaches to promoting contractions during labour, Nigella seed is also said to be to be composed of anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Water of the rose is a key ingredient in Moroccan cosmetics and cuisine. Used to flavour dishes and hydrate facial skin to stop anti-aging, Rose water is arguably one of the most popular holistic treatments used on a day to day basis in Morocco.

Lemon Verbena (Louiza)
This greenish herb is said to warm your very blood and is to be taken before and after birth for a smooth and safe delivery of a child. It’s also believed to be an effective holistic remedy for insomnia, asthma and stress.

Lavender’s unique smell makes it a popular candidate in cosmetics not only in Morocco but all over the world. Although the Dar Habiba’s guardian explains to me that in North Africa, Lavender is one of the key ingredients in a powerful aphrodisiac for men.

Whatever your ailment, if you don’t mind haggling then there is a holistic treatment to be found from one of the many herbs and spice salesmen during your visit to Marrakech.

If, during your stay you find yourself wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakesh  for a few hours, by travelling just a few miles from the city outskirts you can not only take a pause to gather your senses but you can also get hands on with a unique aspect of Moroccan agriculture.

These are the Argan tree’s that soon transform the rocky desert that surrounds Marrakesh into an astonishing sea of green after only a half an hour’s drive out of the city. Argan trees have only ever grown in Morocco and are they have become a hugely important resource as the nuts harvested from the trees are composed of a natural variety of beneficial properties which has led to widespread culinary and cosmetic usage

As we venture outside of Marrakech to discover what it is that makes Argon nuts and the oil that comes from it so important, we come across one of the many Argon production co-operatives. Greeted straight from our car, we are ushered into the co-operative in a relaxed and inviting manner that contrasts the intense sales techniques of the Marrakesh souk’s.

Once inside the ladies currently working take a moment’s pause to sing us a traditional Moroccan welcome before our guide starts to explain the step by step process in which the Argan nut is collected and harvested into oil. But this is Morocco and an interesting explanation soon turns hands on as we are guided into the work shop to help the ladies at their work at each stage of production.

The real significance of this process soon becomes apparent as  we learn that these production co-operatives provide employment for women in the area which support entire families. Organisations such as this which promote employment are thriving outside and in Marrakech where the charity, Henna Café provide’s quality henna tattoo’s from resident artist Fatimah whilst also offering educational classes in a number of subjects free of charge.

Take note however! We aren’t the only creatures to enjoy the delicious tastes of the Argan tree. As you drive out through the desert you may just come across the local goat’s who seem to have acquired a greater taste for the Argan oil than we have!