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Intangible cultural heritage

Traditions, knoweldge, craftsmanship techniques  
Photo: © UNESCO/James Muriuki

Local Healing Knowledge in the Pinzgau Region
Knowledge concerning nature and the universe in Salzburg, inscribed 2010

The traditional knowledge of healing treatments and their practical application possessed by people in the Pinzgau region was surveyed and documented in written form for the first time in 2005. The medicinal substances employed—such as pitch, mountain arnica, and St. John’s wort—are available locally, embedded in the cultural context, and hence inseparably linked with the region. The associated experiential knowledge is handed down orally and through actual practice in accordance with the “master-student principle”, with an important criterion being a given treatment’s effectiveness.

The disdain with which “home remedies” have been viewed since the 1960s has caused numerous homemade salves, tinctures, and the like to gradually disappear along with their recipes. But thanks to an initial survey, the TEH Verein [Association for Traditional European Medicine] now has a list that so far contains 106 medicines along with the associated indications and effects. In order for a recipe to be handed down, it needs to have proven its efficacy over the centuries.

Residents of the Saalach Valley have a special relationship with resins, in particular spruce, fir, and larch resin, which are said to have astringent and antiseptic effects. Furthermore, arnica tincture (arnica schnapps) is likewise a popular traditional remedy. It is used for the most part topically for bruises with and without tissue damage, sprains, insect bites, black and blue marks, and rheumatic complaints.
Since requirements in terms of hygiene, shelf life, and product safety have become more stringent, the past few decades have seen numerous ingredients—such as animal fats—replaced by less perishable substances of mineral origin. Increasingly, however, natural bases for salves (olive oil, beeswax) are being reintroduced.

Courses of basic and further training in traditional healing practices native to the region have now come to enjoy particularly strong demand, reinforcing the significance of regional healing knowledge relative to non-European systems.


Theresia Harrer Vitzthum
5091 Unken



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