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The grapevine is a climbing plant that has been cultivated for thousands of years, mainly for its sweet fruits, the grapes, or for the production of alcoholic beverages. But the beneficial effects of grape leaves have also been known since antiquity. In Christianity wine symbolises the blood of Christ and renewal; in natural medicine it is assigned to the blood and the heart. The grapevine (Latin name: Vitis vinifera) grows in relatively poor and dry soil and loves sunny regions. The plant is deeply connected with the earth. Its roots bury up to 20 metres into the soil to reach dissolved minerals and draw them to the surface, depositing them in the grapes. Above ground, the sunlight penetrates the leaves, contributing to numerous chemical reactions that produce valuable plant substances. This enables both the fruits and the leaves to be used for therapeutic purposes, provided they are free of pesticides and herbicides.
Because grape cultivation across the globe often involves the use of large amounts of so-called “plant protection agents” and can have a negative impact on the environment, Weleda embarked on a quest to find a sustainable way to obtain this raw material. It founded a number of agricultural partnerships, for example in Peru, in order to secure sustainable benefits for both people and for nature.
Omate Valley is located in the southwest of Peru at an altitude of 2,100 metres, and surrounded by barren mountain peaks. The climate here is similar to in the desert: extremely dry, with a constant wind blowing, very hot during the day and very cool at night. It’s a climate of contrasts that the grapevine appears to love. Hardly any microorganisms that could damage the plants live here, so they can be cultivated entirely without the use of pesticides or herbicides. The grape leaves that grow here are of the highest quality, cultivated in harmony with nature and processed into medicinal remedies by Weleda.
Since 2008, Weleda has supported a project for certified organic grapevine cultivation with farmers living in the area. The mutually beneficial enterprise resonated widely among the smallholder farmers, as the organic growing methods fit in well with the traditional practices and knowledge that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Weleda took care of the organic certification process in the first year and since then has supported El Ceder, the local environmental protection organisation, in its mission of ensuring that the stringent environmental criteria are observed. This is a huge improvement for the fifteen or so family-run farms that now have a secure source of income through the cultivation of uncontaminated grapevines and can put their deep connection with nature and the soil into their work in a profitable way. This purpose-driven activity means a lot to Weleda because it receives the positive energy resulting from the farmers’ sustainable growing methods as a free bonus, so to speak. After all, only an approach that is good from the start and consistently followed by all those involved can ultimately lead to good things.
What are the special methods of cultivation that yield this valuable raw material? Unlike in many other grape-growing regions of the world, the espalier method – in which the vines are grown on posts – is barely used in Omate Valley. The vines are allowed to grow freely, in their natural bush form. The plants have naturally dense growth and therefore provide their own shade from the sun. This has allowed a growing number of farmers to convert to the water-saving drip irrigation method, so that fresh water, a vital resource, can be utilised more effectively. Especially in these times of climate change, this aspect is enormously important for Weleda.
Each year in the winter months, around three months after the leaf buds have opened, young grape leaves are carefully gathered by hand. They are then left to dry for a few days in nets spread out over frames, before they are packed into paper bags for their journey by sea to Europe and to Weleda.
Few plants are as contradictory in their effects as the grapevine. Consumed in excess, wine can have a negative effect on the liver. Yet at the right dose, the medicinal substances this plant contains can also have a positive effect. These valuable substances are also beneficial to the blood system. They can infuse us with energy from the depths of the earth, which, under the influence of sunlight, has been transformed into new health-giving substances. Sustainable, environmentally conscious, socially responsible and fair, the grapevine is a wonderful gift of nature to mankind.
Alcohol denotes the drinkable Alcohol (Ethanol, Ethylalcohol). Alcohol is used as an extracting agent for the production of plant extracts, which Weleda uses as active components for its natural cosmetic products. Alcohol has also got a stabilising effect on these products. Depending on the dilution, alcohol has a disinfecting function.
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