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Alpine Valerian

The treasure of the Nockberge Mountains in Austria

Have you ever experienced the fragrance of beauty and relaxation? No? Come to the Nockberge Mountains in Austria. Here a precious plant grows that combines the healing and nurturing forces of nature: Alpine valerian.

This small and unobtrusive plant can look back on a long and proud history and hides hidden treasures beneath its golden petals. 2,500 years ago the Alpine valerian was already widely known to and coveted by the ‘cosmetic industry’ of the ancient world. Alpine valerian baths were extremely popular and the plant was used as perfume and balm to cure various diseases. Probably the most famous adherent of the treasure of the Alps – the Alpine valerian – was none other than the legendary Queen Cleopatra. Trade of Alpine Valerian flourished. In 1936 Alpine valerian was put under nature conservation protection.
There is only one region in the world where Alpine valerian grows. The treasure of the Alps chose a very special spot as its home: the Nockberge Mountains in Austria. As in centuries past, Alpine valerian is still harvested by hand by mountain farmers. The family company Speick natural Cosmetics is the only company with the privilege of producing beauty products out of Alpine valerian. Founded 80 years ago with the Alpine valerian soap produced by the company’s founder Walter Rau, Speick today produces more than 100 different natural cosmetic products.

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Outdoor Speik adventures

Relax where the Speik grows – a rejuvenation for body and soul. Outdoor Speik adventures: when walking over the Speik covered hills your body and soul will find peace. The word wellbeing is taken literally here: among the aromatic mountains and the high altitude of the southern Alps, hiking is undoubtedly a great way to promote your health.

Get away from everything and come to the Nockberge Mountains! Those who are tired and weak from their daily routines can regain all they have lost in the Nockberge Mountains: inner peace, a sensation of happiness and moments of strength. Growing in the mountains is a plant that helps with exhaustion: Speik. With its tangy-spicy aroma, this valerian relative is both harmonising and stimulating at the same time. Thanks to a combination of this plant and the surrounding landscape, it is easy to switch off your mind here and let the pristine nature of the Nockberge Mountains carry your thoughts away.

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Speik myths – Alpine Valerian

This 5 to 15 cm tall valerian relative has the truest meaning of the word in it. People have appreciated the variety of uses for the plant for more than 2,500 years. This alpine species contains valuable and highly sought-after substances, which have made it a medicinal and aromatic plant. Strangely, the scent does not come from the flowers, but rather the roots. Skilful extraction is required to obtain the essential oil from the needles, which has yet to be synthetically reproduced because of its complex composition.

Speick has a number of health promoting effects. It:

Along with the above effects, the plant can reduce toothache, lower a fever and help against impotence and dizziness. People used to say: “drunk with vinegar, it will help against violent swelling of the liver and ward off jaundice.”

The history of Speik: Alpine Valerian

500 BC: first record of trading in the Orient

1460 AD: Frederick III gave the city of Judenburg exclusive rights to deal with Alpine Valerian and trade it internationally. The monopoly lasted for over 100 years.

1787 AD: Alpine Valerian monopoly for sellers and traders ended. Now Speik could be planted anywhere.

1936 AD: Beginning with the implementation of the Reich Nature Protection Law of Austria, use of the plant was forbidden. During the 20th century, dried Speick plants were sent off to Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan.

Speik haunts Venice
Large hubs of trade were Venice and Trieste. Tons of Speik were shipped to Venice each year. Mules transported Speik shipments over the mountains, making certain towns and cities very important stops along the way.
Why people have named the plant after Mary Magdalene
People say that Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with the oil of the Speik plant, leading it to be known as the Mary Magdalene plant.

Aroma drug for prisons
Small crimes were punished with Speik in the middle ages. The offender was placed in a barn with the plants and had to breathe in through their nose. Afflicted with this punishment, the criminals were unable to keep up their lies for more than a few weeks.

The Alpine Valerian harvest
One study has concluded that only half of the Speik plants should be harvested for the best results. Taking more is detrimental, while taking less is not enough. Only two farmers from the Saureggen region are allowed to harvest the plants. The Speik harvest season is between August 15th and September 8th. The roots of the plant are carefully separated and only the plant is taken. For one kilo of dried Speik you need to harvest 6 kilos of Speik – a job that can take two days.

Speik is Speick
Old medicine lists spell Speik with “ck” at the end, so the Speick-Werk company decided to use this spelling as opposed to the German spelling “Speik”. The Speick-Werk Walter Ray in Stuttgart has now been producing natural Speick cosmetics for around 75 years.
Hiking where Alpine valerian blooms

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Speik walks on your holiday in Austria

The outstanding reputation of the Speik plant has echoed throughout the peaks of the Nockberge Mountains in Austria for hundreds of years. And just like in days of old, the plant is still only found in the Nockberge Mountains. It is only here in these mountains that this aromatic plant has found the ideal climate in which to grow. Those looking to experience the Speik plant in its natural environment should come to the Nockberge Mountains and enjoy walks and hikes through this Speik wonderland.

On certain trails you will experience Speik up close. All around you, you’ll be enveloped by the plants’ aroma. At the Speik care stations you should take a break and enjoy the 7-step programme:
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The Speik huts

Hiking in the Nockberge Mountains is a delightful experience for all the senses. The pleasant fragrance of Alpine valerian is especially intense in July and August. Do your feet some good after an exciting hike – eleven charming rustic chalets offer soothing Alpine valerian foot baths – and a gift of Alpine valerian massage oil free of charge. Stop for a bite during your unforgettable fragrance hike and indulge in Carinthian specialities spirited onto the table at the rustic chalets.
  • Blutige Alm – Speiktrail
  • Buschenschank Matl-Sepp – Speikstatue
  • Bad Kleinkirchheimer Wolitzenhütte
  • Bergrestaurant Kaiserburg
  • Brentlerhütte/Nockalm-Priedhof
  • Brunnachhof/St. Oswald
  • Buschenschank Hüblbauer
  • Buschenschank Streitnighof
  • Falkerthaus
  • Lärchenhütte/St. Oswald
  • St. Oswalder Bockhütte
  • Feriendorf Kirchleitn

The Speik trail in Innerkrems

How did Cleopatra first experience Speik? What did Speik have to do with medieval prisons? Answers to these questions and many more can be found along the Speik trail in Innerkrems. At interactive adventure stations, visitors to the Speik trail will find out how Speik has become a medicine, balsam, spice and aphrodisiac. You can reach the “bloody meadow” either by foot or by chair lift. Entrance to the trail is free.

Alpine valerian study book and Alpine valerian trail

The Alpine valerian trail takes you to interactive stops to meet Alpine valerian farmers and find out more about the healing, soothing, nurturing and aphrodisiac effect of this treasure of the Nockberge Mountains. Are you interested in the secrets of the Alpine flower? Find out everything about this precious plant and indulge in humorous stories with the Alpine valerian study book.

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Tel.: 0043 4240 8212