First of all, the name…Ricola has an interesting origin and it’s not the brainchild of that charming Swiss lady yodeling ri-co-lahhh across flowery alpine meadows. In the 1960s, the company name was abbreviated from Richterich & Compagnie Laufen to easy-to-pronounce Ricola. Beyond the name, each and every Ricola drop is in fact made in Switzerland using the following herbs, each with an interesting story and all grown in on site company owned herb gardens:
Until a few decades ago in many central European countries, community life still revolved around the village linden tree, some of which are up to a 1000 years old serving as a focal point for village dances, citizens’ meetings or local courts. Yellowish-white linden flowers make an excellent tea for soothing respiratory infections and promoting perspiration in treating fevers and influenza.
Almost considered a “sacred” plant, hyssop is mentioned frequently in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments. Leviticus 14:49 references it with the following: “To purify the house [the priest] is to take two birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop.” Hyssop is slightly bitter tasting with a minty flavor. Traditional folk remedies use hyssop to treat colds, coughs, hoarseness or influenza.
Swiss botanist Paracelsus, Bavarian herbalist Sebastian Kneipp and Herbalist priest Künzle valued horehound for its properties in healing spleen and liver discomfort as well as lung conditions like asthma and bronchitis. Horehound invigorates the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates the appetite and promotes the secretion of bile as well as loosening bronchial passages.
5,000 years ago the Chinese were already using mallow to prepare a reddish, sweet-tasting tea. Years later it was the French and not the Americans who previously used this herb to make marshmallows. The sticky extract of the roots were beaten with egg white and sugar to produce the “pâte de guimauve”, the forerunner modern marshmallows. Mucilage from the mallow root coats irritated mucous membranes with a protective layer. The effect is especially soothing for tickly coughs.
According to a Christian legend, the Virgin Mary rested beneath an elder bush when escaping from King Herod into Egypt. A pagan myth is that the elder is sacred to the Goddess Holle – the protector of animals and plants. Germanic tribes therefore made sacrifices beneath an elder tree. Elder boosts the immune system and can prevent colds. The herb encourages perspiration and counteracts feverish colds or flu.
The earliest origins of mint can be found in Greek mythology with Minthe, daughter of the river God, Kokytos. Hades, God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe but his wife Persephone was so angered that she tore Minthe to pieces. Hades took the pieces and scattered them on a mountain: The plant mint was formed. Peppermint, in its current form, has only existed since about 1700. A combination of wild varieties, its menthol content is cooling and acts as a disinfectant providing soothing relief from hoarseness.
Knowledge of Sage’s medicinal powers can be traced back to 1630, during the Plague epidemic in Toulouse, where thieves rubbed themselves with it along with other herbs dissolved in vinegar to steal from deceased victims without fear of infection. Known for soothing the upper respiratory tract and counteracting perspiration, Sage is often used as a gargle to heal inflammations of the mouth and throat because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The herb’s effectiveness stems from its essential oils, tannins, and flavanoids as well as rosemary acid.
Derived in name from the Greek thymos, which means courage or vitality, thyme is an anti-inflammatory, providing relief from irritable coughs as well as having disinfectant properties. Thyme is a surprisingly powerful herb highly valued by the Greeks and Egyptians who first cultivated it. Monks carried the plant across the Alps during the Middle Ages.
photo and story idea courtesy of Ricola