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Old time Jamaican herbal remedies

Nothing soothes better than grandma’s old time remedies – for anything from insect bites to constipation. But how well do we remember these – since we don’t use most of them anymore. Let’s take a journey back in time to the good old days when “doctor mamma” was in charge.

Cerassee (Momordica Charantia)

cerasse Summertime was not only famous for sun, sea and fun but also for “washout”, especially administered at the end of summer when you were preparing to go back to school. Remember is nuff “kabba kabba” yu eat up during those long summer months. So, of course, now it is time to purge and a famous purgative was the cerassee plant, used because of its detoxifying properties. Cerasee, or Bitters, is also known to be a general-wellbeing tonic to purge the blood of its impurities, to internally cleanse the organs, to externally clean the skin, to ease menstrual cramps, to clear up urinary tract infections, to regulate the sugar content in the blood and to remove toxins from the body thus increasing energy and stamina. According to the book “Jamaican Herbs & Medicinal Plants and their Uses” by Mike Henry and K. Sean Harris, available through Things Jamaican stores, cerassee can also be cooked like other leafy vegetables. Other Cerassee products available through Things Jamaican include Cerassee soap and Cerassee Herbal Tea Bags.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

lemongrass Some of you may remember that as a child you were given Lemongrass tea the moment you started coughing or running a temperature. That was because Lemon/Fever grass has a citrus taste and fragrance and is given to relieve fevers, congestion, colds and coughs. It is also known to soothe the stomach, stop diarrhea and vomiting and relieve gas. In aromatherapy, persons may put a few leaves in a bathtub of water for a relaxing bath. Lemongrass is also a powerful natural insect repellant, the leaves of which can be crushed and rubbed directly on the skin. Things Jamaican carries a wide assortment of products locally made from Lemongrass which include Lemongrass (LG) soap, LG Lotion, LG Body Spritz, LG Shampoo & Conditioner and LG Hand Wash and Body Wash and Lemongrass Candles. There is also Lemongrass Herbal Tea.

Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)

Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Child – “Grandma, mi belly hurting mi”, Grandma – “alright, let mi give yu some ginger tea”. Sounds familiar? Ginger is known for being a very good stomach ache remedy when beaten, boiled, sweetened and sipped hot. It sooths upset stomach and is great for treating nausea and gas. In Jamaica is it also common for persons to drink a hot ginger beer to “buss di gas”. According to authors Mike Henry and K. Sean Harris, “Ginger is an appetite stimulant and can be added to various dishes to make them more digestible” (p 21), hence its use in pork and curry dishes. Ginger also enhances the taste of many sweet treats carried by Things Jamaican and these include Coconut Drops, Gizzadas and Jackass Corn. Other ginger based products include Ginger soaps, Spa Jamaica’s Ginger Shower gel, Lotion, Body Scrubs and candles. Ginger Herbal Tea is also available.

Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis)

Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Another summertime favourite, which is still a favourite of many today, is Aloe Vera. This “wonder plant” is used for a myriad of health problems and conditions. One of the most common uses is that of a laxative, where the gel is blended with orange or other juice. Aloe Vera cleanses the stomach, intestines, colon and blood and is also great for controlling dandruff and soothes sunburn and other skin irritations. Pages 2 to 3 of the book “Jamaican Herbs & Medicinal Plants and their Uses” list other great uses of Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera is also used in the manufacture of soaps and other skin care products, due to its emollient properties. Among these are the Aloe & Noni soap, Cucumber & Aloe soap, 4oz Coffee Tanning oil and the exquisite Mystic Nature line which includes Organic Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Butter, Lotion and Night Cream, which can all be found in our Things Jamaican stores.

Castor Oil (Ricinus Communis)

Castor Oil (Ricinus Communis) Castor oil, the dreaded worm-out or wash-out, given to you right before back to school time to purge you of all the fruits and food you ate during the summer. A spoonful of this extremely unpleasant tasting oil and it was thought that all the “evils” of the stomach would be expelled. It is not however recommended to be taken internally in large quantities. In body care, it is used to relieve arthritis and other body aches and pains. A piece of cotton flannel can be saturated with castor oil and applied to the pain site, preferably with a hot water bottle. For dry scalp and dandruff problems, this oil can be heated and applied to the scalp and a plastic cap placed on the head for about 10 minutes. Things Jamaican retails Castor Oil in ½ oz, 2oz and 8oz sizes as well as the Castor Oil pack which contains a piece of cotton flannel, 8oz castor oil and hot water bottle. There is also Noni & Castor Oil soap.

Bizzy Tea (Kola Nut)

Bizzy Tea (Kola Nut) If it was ever suspected that something you ate was poisoning your body, grandma would immediately grab the Bissy/Kola Nut, grate it, boil it, sweeten it and then “drench” you with it. This “miracle medicine” is said to remove poison from the body, stop vomiting, relieve upset stomach, nausea, menstrual cramps, headaches, gout and controls diabetes. Things Jamaican retails the Caribbean Dreams Bissy Tea as well as the powdered form of Bissy.

Many, many more herbal remedies were and are still around. Many more herbs are also listed in the book “Jamaican Herbs & Medicinal Plants and their Uses” by Mike Henry and K. Sean Harris available through Things Jamaican stores.
Information taken from the following sources:



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