Nele is an ethnobotanist: ‘Without plants, people will die’ | NOW

Lookalikes, snake milkers, mattress testers and Netflix subtitles. In this section we interview the people with a non-standard answer to the standard question: What are you actually doing? This time Nele Odeur, ethnobotanist.

  • As: Nele Odor
  • What: Etnobotanicus
  • Weeds with secret superpowers: Nettle

Nele Odeur is a graduated medical anthropologist and ethnobotanist. She lived in South America for many years. “I learned there how people consciously use nature in all aspects of their lives. From medicine to clothing and from food to ritual.” Now she transfers this knowledge to the Dutch.

The ethnobotanist is amazed at how little people in the Netherlands know about their natural environment. “They often don’t even realize that coffee comes from a plant or that a pencil is made from a tree. Without plants, we literally die as humans. Plants are our food, our medicine – because a lot of regular medication is still made from plants. won -, building material, musical instrument and stimulant.”

Odeur therefore says he is afraid of the development of the climate problem and fears that humanity will realize too late that “money is not edible”. “My motivation in my work is to give people in the Netherlands a taste of a lifestyle that is connected to nature and thus also to instill love and respect for that nature.”

The influence of plants on the brain

When Odeur told her neighbors a few years ago that she wanted to “do something with plants”, she was not always taken seriously. “People didn’t expect me to be able to make it my full-time profession.” But since 2016, Odeur has been running her own company Scent & Spice, with which she organizes courses and workshops. Successfully. The business is running well and Odeur doesn’t have to do any other work on the side.

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“For example, a ‘brain buffet’ is planned for next summer. A multi-day event in which we take a journey through the nervous system and learn how plants affect different areas of the brain.” The ethnobotanist obtains background knowledge for the workshop from neuroscience, phytotherapy and mindfulness, among other things.

“I want to make people aware that happiness is within themselves, literally in their brain and nervous system.”

According to Odeur, the “most banal” weeds can be of great use to humans. Such as the nettle, which is richer in vitamins and minerals than many cultivated vegetables and also has medicinal and cosmetic applications. “For example, nettle – perhaps strangely enough – helps against itching and rheumatic diseases.”

By using plant and herbal knowledge, the ethnobotanist has been able to help her customers and students with allergies, skin problems and burnouts. “I want to make people aware that happiness is within themselves, literally in their brain and nervous system,” says Odeur.

“And that plants have a major influence on that, among other things. We can only be healthy if the whole system is healthy, so we also have to take good care of the entire natural world around us.”

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