Killing in the Name of the Plant: Antiseptic Uses and Ideas

One of the most remarkable discoveries in modern medicine is the microscope. Germs, bacteria, viruses, and fungus were considered ‘science fiction’ to the public before the modern versions of microscopes, around 1610, the first of which seems to have been made by Galileo Galilei. But the compound word microscope derived from ‘micro’ (meaning small in Greek) and scope (‘skopein’ meaning ‘to see’ in Greek), reveal a premature innovation and use of this scientific organ by Ancient Greeks. They discovered magnifying lenses around the 4th century BC which allowed them to make incredibly small details in art and coins in that century. Even though there is no evidence of ‘seeing’ things the size of a virus, texts from Ancient Greece report that they believed in the existence of organisms smaller than the eye can see, which can give rise to infections and diseases. Many herbs were used from that time to ‘disinfect’ the air and the surfaces as ‘antiseptic’ factors.

Folklore in Greece continued to use some of these herbs, which were transmitted from one generation to another, as the basis of knowledge for health and survival. Many of these practices can be useful also to a modern home, specifically if you want to enhance your body in a natural way. An antiseptic is actually any agent which can destroy or stop the growth of harmful organisms. Before using any of the following, keep in mind that a good washing with soap and water is the best method for killing viruses. Scientists can guide you during this pandemic, so follow their advice. After washing your hands with soap and water, you can finish washing with a water-tea of oak leaves, cloves, laurel leaves, olive leaves, sambucus flowers, strawberry tree leaves, which have extra antiseptic properties. A great problem caused frequent good washes of the hands is dryness. ‘Spathohorto’ (St. John Wort) can be used to make an olive oil able to close all wounds and heal all dryness, but it also has antiseptic properties. Essential oils can also have a synergetic use with your frequent cleansing of surfaces.

Eucalyptus, pine tree, thyme, and lavender essential oil can be diluted in an alcoholic spray, for extra disinfection and a pleasant atmosphere that is healthy without chemicals and free of microbes. Ancient Greeks said “You are what you eat,” so consuming food with antiseptic – among other – properties, like cherries, watercress, onion, and garlic can help give your immune system a boost in killing power if “someone small is trying to invade you.” Finally, products derived from plants, like wine can have antiseptic properties and can disinfect you but…keep to a reasonable if daily use! Also, if you want to disinfect wounds or burned skin you can apply the membrane found between two layers of an onion.

This is no time to go to the doctor for small infections. It may be more dangerous for you and your community. Lavender among its various uses, has antiseptic properties. The flowers of the plant can be boiled in water for 10 minutes or its essentials oils can be dissolved in oil (if we want dehydration also), or in alcohol (95 degrees and above). Bear in mind, hygiene and social distancing is of the outmost importance. You will have a whole life of experiences with your loved ones after this passes. Keep them safe and be positive! Feel free to send your questions, concerns, or requests for article themes at Facebook Flora Hellenica page.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.


The ancient Greeks were on to something when they referred to olive oil as an "elixir of youth and health.

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