The Wellbeing Holiday Experts
Call us on +44 20 3735 7555

Open: 9 – 6 pm Monday-Friday & 10 - 3pm Saturday

Wellbeing through plants - Dr Barbieri from Lefay Resort explains


The Benefits of Phytotherapy (wellbeing through plants)

Hidden away on a private estate on the edge of Lake Garda surrounded by lemon trees and olive groves, Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda is a luxury spa retreat with many of the region’s natural products used in its treatments and food.

Dr Carlo Barbieri, Classical Chinese Medicine Expert at Lefay, has a particular interest in wellness from plants and shares with us the Benefits of Phytotherapy:

Ancient man not only knew the names of plants but also their individual parts - pistil, stem, corolla, bud and root. Today, their active ingredients are used in herbal remedies to alleviate various ailments and, of course, before the arrival of synthetic drugs, plants were the only remedies available! Phytotherapy means the branch of pharmacotherapy that deals with the healing uses of medicinal plants and preparations to make infusions, decoctions, herbal teas and extracts.

The use of plants in herbology has been linked to the five elements for centuries. The Greeks argued that nature was formed by the five elements of aether, air, water, earth and fire and the ancient healing of Ayurveda is also based on the same belief. The theory of the five elements of metal, wood, earth, fire and water came about in China during the Shang dynasty. Chinese Medicine has been a dominant force in the field of plant classification and it believes that the various elements have a particular affect on a “target organ” in the body. In medical practice, each element corresponds to a season during which a particular organ is predominantly affected.

Read on below for Dr Barbieri's valuable advice on wellbeing all year round and, if you are interested in exploring further, we recommend a trip to see him at Lefay or consult a naturopath who uses a range of natural remedies including herbal medicine. The College of Naturopathic Medicine is a good starting point.


During spring, the wind element mainly affects the liver. Mandarin, mint and turmeric stimulate the energy flows in the body and you can add in liquorice too which neutralises toxins and harmonises the action of other plants that are used.


Fire is the element of summer and is associated with the heart and the heat pathogen (causing infection or disease). A herbal tea made from lemon balm, linden, passionflower, rhodiola and whitania somnifera counteracts the effects of the muggy weather which often causes irritability, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.


Metal is the key element which corresponds to the lungs and the dryness that affects them. Talus, schisandra, eleutherococcus and rhodiola can stimulate the function of the lungs and improve the immune defences in preparation for the winter months ahead.


Winter is characterised by water, the kidneys and the hardships of cold weather so there are plants that can warm up the body. Walnuts support kidney function, alleviate back pain and resolve constipation. Asparagus root helps the diuretic function, while fenugreek and fennel seeds combined with cinnamon warm the kidneys to help fight the cold.


When the seasons change, the element of earth, which corresponds to the spleen, is most in need of moisture. A herbal tea with talus, mandarin and cinnamon can help to counteract fatigue and breathe new life into the body’s energy which tends to stagnate during the changing of the seasons.

Sign up to our newsletter for inspiration and exclusive offers which you can’t get directly! Receive a FREE copy of our wellbeing magazine packed full of expert tips.