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A family story guarded as a "secret" for five centuries

In the Middle Ages, it was the herbalists, the alchemists and the apothecaries who had the role of intermediaries between therapists and the sick, and who prepared for them their Galenic medicines using the only remedies available then: simple drugs, herbs and medicinal plants. At the beginning of the 16th century, people began to talk of Decottopia as a secret herbal practice guarded by a Protestant community, which had had to flee persecution and which had taken refuge in the Langhe area of the Piedmont. In time, the group was integrated into the Catholic population, and what had been the custom of a minority became the secret of one family alone, the Bonardo family, which later became Balestra, and then Mech.

To talk of a secret is not an exaggeration: the special processing techniques, the delicate treatments, the choice of the components and their combinations was passed down over the centuries, through one witness in each generation, the sole depositary of the family secret. Over time, each generation has had its “guardian”, who was responsible for the evolution of the formulas used in Decottopia. Each of these “depositaries” of knowledge, in his particular historical period, introduced innovations by adding new plants to the formula, and continually testing and documenting the effectiveness of the synergies they produced. Gianluca Mech, for example, introduced seaweed, while his father Giovanni had, in his turn, introduced Ginseng, the “medicine of harmony”.

The last documented information about the herbalist activities of the Bonardo family, the last followers of the Piedmontese Decottopia tradition, can be traced back to the 18th century, and then to the end of the following century, with the marriage of Giuseppina Bonardo – who had received the “secret” from her father, Giacomo – to Marcello Balestra. It was then that the decottopiric practices passed down to the Balestra family, which moved to the Veneto, and, in 1911, developed an traveling commercial business, the “Ditta Balestra”. In this way decottopiric products became known all over Italy.

In 1927, the “formula” was handed down to Adelaide Balestra, the first-born of Giuseppina and Marcello, who, in the same year, married Rodolfo Mech. From that moment, the company name changed to “Balestra & Mech”. With the advent of pharmaceutical products using chemical synthesis, the market for herbal medicine was obviously reduced, Adelaide Balestra created a new line of products and transformed her herbal extracts into digestive ‘amari’, and there still exists a large amount of photographic documentation of these historic bottles.

At the beginning of the third millennium, the herbal and agri-food company with Gianluca Mech at the head, is a modern business in constant evolution, in which Decottopia continues to be the driving force, the “green heart” at the root of an innovative diet protocol developed by Gianluca Mech, the aims of which are beauty, health and psycho-physical well-being: the Tisanoreica Method.