Mountains open portal to nature’s cures

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Mountains open portal to nature’s cures

“Because I live by myself deep in the mountains some people give me this strange look. But it’s how I elected to live my life,” says Chun Mun-heui, who recently published a book titled “Letters from Mount Jiri on Herbs.”
Ten years ago Ms. Chun was a college student who paid her bills playing guitar part-time at cafes in Seoul. She even recorded an album, which quickly faded into oblivion. She also worked as a fashion model and ran a Japanese restaurant in Yeouido for awhile.
Then one day, when she was in her early 30s, her life changed. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer; doctors gave her six months to live. Ms. Chun returned to her hometown, a small place in South Jeolla province. While trying to help her mother with home remedies, she began experimenting with medicinal plants that she collected near her family’s house. Instead of six months, her mother lived three more years. Convinced that the plants had helped prolong her mother’s life, Ms. Chun dedicated herself to understanding medicinal herbs.
She moved into a small abandoned house in Damyang county, South Jeolla province, venturing into the mountains in the area to gather medicinal plants. She often found herself lost or unexpectedly confronting wild animals. Despite the hardships she never stopped gathering wild herbs, flowers and other plants and recording the results of her experiments with them.
By chewing on leaves or flowers and drying them for tea, she gradually started to learn more and more about their efficacy in treating illnesses. In spring she makes baekhwacha, an infusion of 100 kinds of dried flowers.
“When you drink such natural tea for a long time you feel your mind and body being cleansed,” Ms. Chun says.
On the fourth Sunday of each month she holds a meeting with 30 members of a group that researches herbs and other medicinal plants.
Ms. Chun says that she is focused on educating people about wild herbs for now, but once that mission is complete she plans to move deeper into the mountains and live even closer to nature.

by Lee Hai-suk
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