4. Domestic Medicine

Although Corfiots relied on herbs for healing, they didn’t really have a medicine cabinet. Herbs were kept hanging upside down in the kitchen and many of them were used both as food and medicine. People had no spare ingredients and so all medicine was made on the spot, just when it was needed.

Most of the preparations were not made to be preserved and were consumed during the day. They were mostly teas, plasters – i.e. poultices spread on protective dressings, poultices and syrups (thicker teas that were preserved for one or two days).

In Kato Korakiana (the village I live in) there is a family that seems to have influenced the herbal knowledge of all the families in the area. This is the Metallinos family, who came from Crete many generations ago, fleeing the Turks, like many Cretan families at that time. They arrived in Corfu under the leadership of a family member who was a priest and they still mostly live around the church built at that time.

It seems that there were great healers in that family who brought to Corfu the Cretan herbal tradition. Nowadays, it is hard to find out what was theirs and what they found here, but there are certain herbal remedies that always make me ask further questions about the person that taught it to the one talking to me about it, knowing beforehand that it will all come down to the Metallinos family.

The women in this family were known to be bone setters until recently. The last person that practiced died last year in her 90s, and it seems that no one else will follow after her.

Exceptional among them is in my mind Eugenia. Eugenia was a housewife who spent her days with her children and working hard in the fields, but she always found a way to help everyone in need. She was the one that gave the injections when needed without being paid for it and it was a common occurrence for people to look all over for her to ask her herbal advice. She shared the herbal knowledge she had obtained from the Metallinos family freely to help her community, without asking for anything in return.