The power of herbs: how nature stimulates our senses

Bye winter, hi mountain summer: even now a few patches of snow glisten brightly out of the lush green alpine meadows. Yet more and more trails around Zauchensee are clear for hiking, from the 27<sup>th</sup> of June the Gamskogelbahn chairlift and the Gamskogelhütte open up for the summer season. In the valley around the World Cup Arena I’ve already discovered the first wild herbs, and there are more on the way.  

Vitamins on the edge of the paths

When I think of blooming alpine meadows, first of all the delicate edelweiss, the deep-blue gentian or the purple alpine rose spring to mind. Our alpine flora world includes, however, almost 4,000 different types, their uses being a part of the cultural heritage in our region for hundreds of years. The flowers, herbs, grasses and trees are genuine “power pools“ and are packed full of vitamins. Quite well-known are the sun-yellow coltsfoot, the white flowering ribwort, the willow gentian and of course the dandelion. Blooms and leaves can be used in a fresh salad, for stews or soups. Dried they can be enjoyed as beneficial teas. Some of our regional farmers distill tasty schnaps from certain plants such as the masterwort, gentian or swiss pine – all typical for the alpine region.

Our farmers’ cows also enjoy the vitamin-packed herbs daily when they graze in summer up on the alpine pastures. Their milk becomes even richer – and the carefully produced cheese is particularly tasty. Which you can get, by the way, at our mountain huts as an open cheese sandwich or as typical Pongau cheese gnocchi.

Conscious enjoyment

Of course, anyone can collect herbs. However, it’s important to find out about the various herbs and plants beforehand or take a book to consult with you. Many plants are strictly protected or not suitable for consumption. Many are also poisonous, such as the widespread blue monk’s hood. If in doubt: only pick herbs you know!

Natural medicine chest

Alpine herbs not only taste good – some are natural healing remedies for minor ailments and can help prevent illnesses. Plant substances such as coumarin, tannins, flavonoids and essential oils have an anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive and calming effect. In bygone days alpine plants were said to have healing effects and magical powers. Even though the healing effect can be scientifically explained, a touch of magic remains. Just smell a bunch of dried alpine flowers – you’ll feel a warm glow straightaway.

Rush of colour on the alpine pastures

When our Gamskogelbahn chairlift starts operating for the summer season on the 27th June, a very special natural phenomena awaits: the alpine rose is in full bloom and covers the meadows with a deep-purple veil. This type of rhododendron is native to the Austrian alps and feels at home on the alpine pastureland, which lies at an altitude of between 1,500 and 2,800 m. In Zauchensee, particularly on the Gamskogel, you’ll find both types of alpine rose: the hairy alpine rose and the rusty-leaved alpine rose. As beautiful as they are: like all types of rhododendron the alpine rose is poisonous, so they’re just to wonder at and not to consume. I’m looking forward to the mountain summer in Zauchensee – you too?

Photo credits: Bergbahnen Zauchensee