Usually, August in Greece means sun, sea, and meze! All good touristic experiences connect Greece with the hot temperatures, the crystal-clear waters, and the good food! For Greeks it is almost the same. This is the optimistic side of a hot summer. But as the temperature rises due to Climate Change, some hot days are just unbearable! Luckily for Greeks, there are plenty of lovely mountains to explore and enjoy the cool breeze of forests. This contrast in Greek land, the dry landscape of many islands and the as-far-as-the-eye-can-see green of the forests, is maybe what makes us so similar but so different at the same time.
In ancient Greece, there were more and bigger forests. But buildings back then where mainly of wood, which was also required for smelting metals, so forests got smaller. Indeed, the tendency of a forest is always to get bigger. This means that if an area is not cultivated or used for human activities, in just a few years, forest will take over the territory. Maybe you have seen science-fiction global destruction movies with plants that “take over the city.” Well that is not ‘fiction’ in those scenarios.
In ancient Greece, the pine tree was called ‘pitis’ and was the name of a nymph in mythology. This nymph was transformed into a pine tree because of Pan, the god of nature who was in love with her. Pine forests in Greece had both mystery and secrecy. If you happen to be in a Greek forest on high mountains, you will definitely find pine trees. There are three species of pine trees in Greece: Abies alba (growing in Europe in general), Abies cephalonica (native only to Kefalonia island and some other small areas) and Abies borisii-regis (a Balkan pine). All these species will offer the ideal temperature for you to sip your Greek coffee. But unfortunately, they cannot grow in very hot climate, meaning at the seaside and zero-altitude areas. This is because of their way of breathing and the other processes of their ancestors during the ice-age era and after.
Pine trees help to produce excellent quality honey. This honey is ideal for infections of the respiratory system. Its antiseptic and antibacterial properties are ideal for a sore throat. In the past, before antibiotics were discovered, sanatoriums were established where people were treated with the help of forests. A sanatorium was an establishment for the medical treatment of people who are convalescing or who have a chronic illness. These places were usually near pine forests because it was believed that the “air of pine trees” disinfected the patients. The scientific truth that we know now with modern medicine is that the essential oils of pine trees have great power, with properties that are antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-viral, and calming. That is because of substances like α-pinene, β-pinene, limonene, β-myrcene, β-caryophyllene. You can use the oils in a vaporizer for respiratory infections, bronchitis, asthma, cold, flu, congestion, and sinus issues (bacterial and fungal). For skin conditions like acne prone skin, spots, aftershave rashes, fungal conditions, barber’s rash, and excessive perspiration, you can dissolve some drops of essential oil in extra virgin olive oil and rub it gently on the area.
* 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.