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Miranda Tringis is an amazing woman to speak with. Her story is one about the perseverance in establishing a sustainable business like CyHerbia and a testament to how with a lot of patience and creative foresight, just about anything is possible. Even an environmental park consisting of 9 different herb gardens, a maze and a woodland.
1. What made you open up a herb garden in the middle of nowhere?
We had bought that piece of land as an investment, not with the intention to do anything with it initially. About nine months after we'd purchased it, my husband said: 'It's not good to have that land just sitting there doing nothing. We should cultivate it. You're good with herbs, let's make a herb garden!'
The idea took some more months to take shape with the help of a fantastic landscape designer, Andy Alldis, who has been instrumental in the creation of Cyherbia, and so we ended up creating an environmental park, consisting of nine different herb gardens, a maze and a woodland area shaped in the outline of the island, where you can literally walk around Cyprus in 15 minutes.
Actually we're not in the middle of nowhere, we're just 15 minutes away from Ayia Napa and 20 minutes from Larnaca.
2. Do you encounter resistance in the use of herbs in Cyprus?
Cyprus has a very long history in the use of herbs for health which has been passed on for many generations, in fact Cypriots didn't turn to chemical medicines en masse until the 50s and 60s. The older people of the island still know some of the basic herbal remedies and they know how valuable herbs are. I don't find any 'resistance' to speak of, as people here know that herbs contribute greatly to our health.
3. Is the younger generation interested in the use of herbs for health purposes or do they prefer conventional medication?
Our generation has sadly become completely alienated from nature and its treasures. We want a quick fix, in line with our fast lives. It's so much easier to pop a pill than to take 10 minutes to brew a herbal tea or cook a nourishing soup in order to take care of our health. That said, this is also the first generation to question conventional healthcare.
Doctors are no longer seen as demi-gods and young people do their own research, especially as in many cases they feel let down by conventional medicine, which, often addresses the symptom rather than the cause. In my work I see a lot of young people who are health conscious, who opt for natural healthcare and a natural lifestyle.
More and more people are coming to realize that good old uncle Hippocrates was right when he said -2500 year ago!-: Let our food be our medicine and our medicine be our food.
4. Does it really work or is it all mumbo jumbo?
If you expect to be cured of an illness by drinking one or two cups of tea and then stop, you'll be disappointed. Herbs are milder in action and generally work slower than chemical drugs, so you have to stick with a remedy over some period of time. The wonderful thing about herbs is that they strengthen and augment the body's own defenses, so the body is better able to fight whatever it is that is ailing it.
Herbal medicine is used to treat a range of disorders including arthritis, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hormonal imbalances migraine, skin problems and many other health problems. We can also effectively regulate our blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels with herbs and proper nutrition.
5. One of the main attractions at CyHerbia is the maze. Whatever possessed you to grow a maze?
We wanted the park to be a place where families can spend the day in nature, learning about herbs in the herb gardens, experiencing the tranquility of the woodland with the endemic trees and shrubs of the island, and test their skills in the maze. It is so much fun to challenge each other in the maze: who will find all the hidden items and who will find the way out first?
It's a way to stimulate families to spend more time in nature, in the clean air and green environment which is so vital to our well-being. This is the only maze on the island and a very popular feature.
6. Does the medical profession in Cyprus back herbal remedies or are they just interested in the latest profit making pill?
I have no doubt that doctors have their patient's best interest at heart and act to the best of their knowledge. The sad thing is that medical schools don't teach their students about nutrition and herbs anymore, so doctors have no knowledge about herbal and other natural medicines. A surgeon friend of mine once said to me: 'Nowadays we doctors are merely pawns of the pharmaceutical industry. Their representatives come into our office with the latest drugs, saying for such-and-such a diagnosis, you should prescribe such-and-such a drug.'
I personally know a few doctors who take a positive view of natural remedies. The pharmaceutical industry however is not interested in creating cures, but in creating and keeping customers. You cannot patent herbs so there's no million dollar profit to be made out of herbs. This is why the industry goes out of its way to malign herbal remedies and even try to outlaw them.
7. What does it take to maintain a herb garden the size of CyHerbia?
It takes devotion, good planning and programming of jobs to be done, and a whole lotta love! If you don't love it then forget it, the hard work will make you give up sooner or later.
8. Do you drink coffee or are you strictly tea only?
Haha, I have yet to meet a herbalist who doesn't drink coffee!
Coffee is a herb too you know, it's a wonderfully aromatic stimulant packed with antioxidants, it improves brain function and physical performance. I tend to drink 2 cups of good Dutch coffee a day and numerous glasses of herbal iced tea.