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“Folk Medicine and Plant Stories”, a research project for Onassis Air

June 2023

Holistic healing practices, folk medicine traditions (‘yatrosophia’ in Greek) and local herbal knowledge are a natural way of healing and caring that allows us to connect with our place, tradition and the natural environment.

For this Onassis Air fellowship, on the subject of care and care practices, I am looking into the healing powers of food- food as medicine on a physical (somatic), mental and psychological level.

After the famous quote by Hippoctates: “Let food by thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”, I am studying the restorative power of nutrition to not only heal the body but also nurture life in all its dimensions.

After travelling in Ipiros and meeting with a variety of people such as cooks, herb experts, foragers and gatherers, farmers and land cultivators who were willing to share their knowledge and practices, I explored the therapeutic properties of herbs and plants. 

At the end of the residency and for the open day I offered some edible herbal experiments, a herbaceous non- alcoholic drink, along with a presentation of plant specimens and recipes from my research in folk medicine and specifically the practical doctors of the Vikos area in northern Greece.

I am hoping to continue this project beyond my time spent at Onassis Air and eventually create some kind of documentation or a data base for this herbal knowledge as well as fabricate a series of narrative objects connecting to the stories I have collected. Some of these objects were presented in their early stage at the open day. 

Big thank you to my favourite herbal teacher in Corfu, Eleni Christoforatou for planting the first seeds for this research, the people of Onassis Air for providing the means for realising this project and to all the people I met in Zagorohoria who shared their precious knowledge.

Here is a small text and some more images about my experience in the Zagori region as uploaded on the Onassis Air website.

Selected images by Panos Kefalos.