Known as Bertram, Akarkara, or Pellitory, this is likely one of the healthiest and most versatile plants you have never heard of. It is commonly referred to by many names, including Akarkara (in Ayurveda), Spanish Chamomile (Anacyclus pyrethrum), Mount Atlas Daisy, Bertram, or Pellitory, but not to be confused with pellitory-of-the-wall.
Bertram or pellitory is a perennial herb much like chamomile in appearance. Most Hildegard translations of Physica refer to Bertram (Anacyclus pyrethrum) as Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), because both bear a resemblance to chamomile. Indigenous to North Africa, India, and the Mediterranean, the plant was later cultivated in central Europe.
Bertram, Akarkara, or Pellitory has long history of medicinal and dietary uses. It is used extensively for enhancing male libido and vitality in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Bertram was also a favorite botanical of Hildegard of Bingen. The root of the plant is most often utilized. However, the entire plant can be used in a variety of preparations.
Bertram for Digestion
According to Hildegard, the herb increases the digestibility and utilization of nutrients in the foods we eat. By accelerating the efficacy of our digestive process, it helps compensate for malnutrition. As with many of Hildegard’s favorite herbs, Bertram serves as an ideal aid in digestive health, a pillar of overall wellness.
Due to its hot profile and tannins, Bertram, Akarkara, or Pellitory is also widely used as a spice. A common feature in Mediterranean cuisine, Bertram adds a complexity and unique spice to a variety of dishes. Its bitter and astringent profile signals the salivatory response, which aids in digestion much like what we would expect of bitter tasting foods and bitters. When used in more concentrated forms, these properties are also what provide the analgesic (pain relieving) qualities useful in relieving mouth and toothaches.
We know the valuable nutrients we eat all have a corresponding place in our bodies. Extraneous factors, such as diet and overall health may prevent certain nutrients from reaching their destination. Our body’s absorption limits can prevent us from getting the very nutrients we need. In other words, even if we’re consuming all the right nutrients, our bodies often fall short in absorbing them effectively.
Bertram can help increase the absorption efficiency by serving as an “exploiter” of nutrients. When used frequently, it promotes nutrient absorption and stimulates digestive juices in the liver and pancreas. Ultimately, facilitating the absorption of nutrients through the stomach and intestinal mucosa membrane. That’s why you’ll always find Bertram in a Hildegard health routine.
In Hildegard’s Physica, she recommends “…the healthy eat Bertram, because it reduces bad juices, and multiplies the good in human blood, and makes a clear mind. For a patient who is physically run down, Bertram brings back his strength. It leaves nothing in humans undigested, and it prepares the body for good digestion when eaten diligently. It reduces the mucilage in the head, and leads to purifying juices, which purify the eyes. Whether you eat it dry, or in cooked foods, Bertram is as useful to a sick person as to a healthy man. Bertram shoos illness from its host and prevents falling ill. It brings moisture and saliva back to the mouth, and returns us good health.”
More recent studies of Bertram, Akarkara, or Pellitory reveal some very interesting effects relating to the increase of anabolic activity and overall energy. These studies have linked it with increased testosterone, libido, mental acuity, memory, and mood enhancement all without notable side effects or contraindications. Ironically, the herb has been used for the same purposes for centuries in Ayurvedic traditions.
As for Hildegard, Bertram ranked among galangal and thyme as one of her absolute favorites. Hildegard’s recommended uses of bertram include as a spice or a healthy alternative to coffee. She recommended bertram to relieve indigestion (dyspepsia); regulate intestinal flora; improve nutrient deficiency; improve circulation; prevent putrefaction in the intestines; stimulate brain power; treat pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency); and relieve symptoms of diabetes.