Welcome ... to our collection of aromatic and medicinal plants of Cyprus.

There are over forty species planted in the garden of the restored village school-house, and with the exception of only four, these are plants indigenous to Cyprus, found growing naturally on the island. Indeed, six of the plants are endemics, being their only natural home.

The main text of this guide consists of a description for each plant in the garden, covering the appearance, habitat in Cyprus, and medicinal, culinary and other properties or uses of each plant. Please do not try any of the medicinal recipes quoted, as many of these are based on folk-lore rather than medical science! In the garden, each species is signposted, to aid identification.

Most of the plants in the garden are aromatics, they manufacture oils of rich fragrance which have a function in helping them survive the hot summer drought of the Mediterranean climate. The oils act to reduce water loss from the leaves by slowing evaporation and coating the leaves with a protective film. The oils also seeem to retard the growth of seedlings near the plant, thus ensuring that there are no competitors for precious soil water in its immediate surroundings. These same oils also afford protection from grazers, as most animals find them distasteful. Appropriately, concentrations of these essential oils peak during the stressful summer season.

Aromatic plants are common in thickets of tall shrubs with scattered trees (maquis vegetation) or areas of scattered, low, spiny vegetation with patches of bare ground in between (garigue) where conditions are too harsh for forest growth. Man's activities in clearing forests, burning and introducing grazing animals have served to greatly increase maquis and garigue vegetation, at the expense of forest, in Cyprus. Suitable habitat for aromatic plants is thus probably more common now in Cyprus than under the natural, original, conditions of more forest cover. None the less, the habitats of many of the plant species in the museum are threatened by modern development, fire, overgrazing, overcultivation or re-afforestation with non-native trees. The conservation of these plants is vital to the maintenanced if a high biodiversity, and thus produtivity and stability, in the Cypriot ecosystem. These plants also have great potential for use in medical science.

Herbs, defined by herbalists as plants with medicinal properties, have been used by man since the days of hunter-gathering. Their primitive "trial and error" use of herbs developed further with the birth of agriculture and through trade and scholarship.

Herbs were widely used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Herbalists were prominent in the middle ages, publishing many 'Herbals' referring to the medicinal properties of plants. The use of herbs declined with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but today their use is having a revival as part if the growing interest in natural medicine (including atomatherapy). Many old herbal remedies have been proven invalid, while others have been revived. Herb extracts are still used in modern medicine.

To the back of the garden museum is the Pano Akourdalia communtiy herb plot where lemon balm, thyme, oregano, peppermint, sage and lavender are grown to be dried and sold in the old school-house. At the back of the guide are some recipe ideas using these herbs.

The Chryseleousa Herb Garden is owned by the Pano Akourdalia community and was set up with the aid of the Laona Project.