Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Trip to the Grande Herboristerie (And my liver shouts "YES!")

Moderation is definitely not my middle name.

I tend to do things in excess, for better or for worse. (Usually for worse.) Worrying is something I do to excess, and I tend to stress about things that really don't merit the time or the energy. To combat this, I should reach toward meditation, yoga, or other relaxation techniques, but usually I just reach for a glass of wine. Its efficacy is palpable immediately, plus, it tastes good! It tastes so good that I drink it even when it's not needed for medicinal purposes. As in, every day.

This year, however, I've made a promise to myself. OK: Let's call it a resolution, since that's what we tend to make this time of year. So: I've resolved to treat my body with more kindness and respect, and to attempt moderation on a variety of fronts. I like clean slates, so to get started with the physical component, I decided to make a trip to the Grand Herboristerie of Paris in search of some plant-based curatives to nettoyer the ol' liver and help support my health in a general way.

I fell madly in love with the place almost immediately (See? there's that excessive bit I mentioned earlier), because really, what's not to love about a vintage apothecary that smells nice, is filled with healing herbs, and is staffed by helpful, friendly people? (That last bit is somewhat of a rarity here in Paris.)

For mid-day on a Wednesday, the place was buzzing. When I walked in, a woman was being helped by one staffperson, and another worker zipped out from behind an old wooden counter to help me almost as soon as I'd crossed the threshold. 

"Do you want me to stay here in and help you or should I leave you to explore on your own?" asked the man, a thirty-ish fellow with a well-groomed beard and a long saffron scarf coiled around his neck.

"I'll have a look first and then pester you with questions afterward," I replied.

This branch--there are two in Paris (the other is near St. Michel)--has stood in this very spot since 1880, and some of the jars, canisters, and scales look like they are Belle Epoque originals. While I stared at the old medicine bottles and herb-y ephemera, I felt transported back to another time. I was only pulled out of my time-warp trance by the jangling chime of the doorknob bells as people came and went.

It didn't take long for me to realize I wouldn't be able to navigate this terrain on my own; I needed a guide, and I might as well take advantage of this attentive man who looks like he really wants to help me sort out my health issues. I just had to make eye contact and he was immediately at my side again.

"I'm looking for something to detoxify my liver," I told him. "Do you have something for that?"

"I've got just the thing for you!" he replied, gliding back around the mahogany counter and plucking a white  paper package roughly the size of a two-pound sac of sugar off the shelves.

"Voila. This is an herbal blend that you drink three times a day, until you've finished the entire packet," he advised. He explained how to prepare it, and warned me that it might be bitter to taste, in which case I could add a bit of sweetener.

While we spoke, a half-dozen people came and left. The demographic tended toward the silver set, which seemed surprising somehow. Didn't old people prefer Geritol and pharmaceuticals? Apparently not.

 He rang me up, and the total came to €14,80. It seemed a fair price.

Once I got home, I brewed up a batch according to the instructions: Put three teaspoons in a pot and cover with half a liter of cold water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for three minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Drink three times a day, every day.

The taste? Like the guy forewarned, it's somewhat bitter, with a woodsy sort of flavor. There's a hint of licorice, too, which, as I look at the ingredients, makes sense. Reglisse (licorice) is the last ingredient listed. There's also artichoke, corn, and green anise, and black radish in the blend.

It'll probably take three or four weeks to work through this bag, and while I'm not expecting any miracles, I do expect my liver will be in better shape then than it is now. Have you ever tried an herbal "cure"? What was it for, and how did it make you feel?

Did you make a new year's resolution, and if so what was it?


  1. We live near Five Branches University and the husband visited to clear up some health issues (insomnia + anxiety) with acupuncture and chinese herbal teas. We got kind of wigged out on the ingredient list (anxiety! who knew?), and he ended up not using the whole amount. But it was fun to be part of the process and the acupuncture did help.
    Does this mean you're not drinking wine, or are you just supplementing the vino with this? Inquiring minds and all.

    1. No resolutions, as per usual. We did start eating less a few months back, and exercising more. Wait that's not true - I'm giving up alcohol on weekdays, like my good friend Aurelia once did while working and living in SF (remember that?)

    2. God, it looks like patterns keep repeating! That's my "new" idea for this year, Beth--just "a glass or two" of my beloved red wine on the weekends. Total elimination is a little too extreme, as much as I like extremes! It's good to remind ourselves that we do have a modicum of willpower, and that we can still enjoy life without our crutches. Sometimes I forget that!

  2. Hi Aurelia, this place seems fab. Just what I could do with too. Does it taste of Licorice, which is my favourite sweet .. Ah a hint of .. not so bad. I think it would do us all good, now and again LOL

    Happy New Year to you xx

    1. Have you ever tried dried licorice root, Anne? It's a lot different from the candy variety! Good though.

      And a happy new year to you, too!

  3. Hi, I just saw your great blog. Bravo.
    I'm a spirulina grower in the south of France. Do you know handmade spirulina in small farms.
    I'll go to Paris next Week and be happy to offer you a bag of my production. If you're interested please let me know. have a nice day. Pierre-André Weité

  4. Hi, Pierre-Andre! We were discussing spirulina not long ago, at a vegan lecture here in Paris. Everyone wanted to know if contains B12. You can read the lecturer's definitive response to that question here:(

    Would love to meet up with you next week when you're here. Thanks for putting out the offer!


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