Ocho Rios ExcursionJamaican Medicinal Herbs and Plants

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Long before the rest of the world began advocating for marijuana use to be decriminalized, Jamaican Rastafarians were not only advocating but already using the herb in a variety of ways.

Reggae King Bob Marley and his former band mate in The Wailers, Peter Tosh, were two of the people espousing, through their music, the use of marijuana not just for religious purposes but other benefits as well.

The herb is for the healing of the nation, is a popular saying among Rastafarians.

Marijuana might well be the best-known Jamaican herb worldwide but this country is richly blessed with so many other species of herbs, some people believe that we are not making the best use of these herbs, whose known benefits have been handed down through generations.

Here is a list of some of the herbs grown in Jamaica and their uses. It is advisable that if you are not familiar with a particular herb, you should seek advice from people who know about the herb before you even think of using it.

Where possible, do the necessary research to determine important information such as allergies and drug interactions, as it relates to the herb you contemplate using.

Ackee (Leaf): The Ackee, used with salted cod fish, is Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Salt Fish. A tea made with the leaves from the tree is said to be a good remedy for colds and flu.

Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is used to fight infections, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation in arthritis, improve the skin, treat ulcers and heartburn, detox, improve cardiovascular health, among other things.

Annatto: The bark, leaves and seeds of the Annatto plant are used as herbal medicine. The annatto is used in a product known as Cumsee Lotion which is very effective in curing ulcers, relieving pain, reducing blood pressure, also as a sexual stimulant among other things.  

 Basil: Tea made from this plant is used to calm an upset stomach.

Bissy (Kola Nut): Bissy is the Jamaican name for kola nut. Bissy is best known as an antidote for poisons but is also useful to relieve menstrual cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, gout, rheumatism, jaundice and other uses.

 Cannabis (Marijuana): There is a growing list of benefits that can be derived from Cannabis, although possession of the herb is still illegal in Jamaica. So, be careful not to get caught with it. Here are some of the benefits of cannabis. These benefits are not necessarily to be derived from smoking and some may only relate to pharmaceuticals derived from the herb.

Relieves arthritis, stops cancer cells from spreading, eases pain associated with multiple sclerosis, reduces severe pain, treats glaucoma, decreases anxiety, relieves arthritis, prevents or slows progress of Alzheimer’s disease, controls epileptic seizures, protects brain after a stroke, prevents spread of cancer, helps against post-traumatic stress disease (PTSD), among other benefits.

In Jamaica, it is also used for asthma, bronchitis, and all problems dealing with mucus congestion, usually when used to make tea and consumed.

 Cerasee: A tea made from this vine has a bitter taste but has maintained a tradition as a good remedy for belly aches.

Chaney Root: This is the root of the Chaney tree which, when boiled (sometimes with other roots) to make a tonic, is reputed to be a good cure for men experiencing sexual health problems, as it is said to contain aphrodisiac properties. Some other health benefits include cleaning of the blood, alleviating rheumatism and arthritis and promoting physical strength and wellbeing.

 Cinnamon: Leaves from the Cinnamon plant are commonly used as spice in porridges and other preparations but when boiled as tea is good for upset stomach, vomiting and colds.

Custard Apple (leaves): A tea made from the leaves of the custard apple tree is said to be good for treating fevers, syphilis and colic.

Eucalyptus (Oil): Oil made from the eucalyptus plant is used for several purposes as it contains analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, expectorant, stimulant properties.

Fever Grass: Also known as Lemon Grass, a tea made from fever grass reduces fever, hence the name. It is also used for relieving headaches and stomach and urinary problems.

Garlic: Use mostly for culinary purposes, the strong antioxidant qualities of garlic make it a popular remedy for high blood pressure and the common cold. It may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and improve bone health.

Ginger: Ginger beer is a popular drink made from the root of the ginger plant. Ginger is also used as a culinary flavouring but its medicinal qualities cannot be overstated. Ginger is a good remedy for gastroenteritis, upset stomach, indigestion, and other ailments such as nausea, to lower blood sugar level, relives menstrual pain, fights infection and may also help to protect against Alzheimer’s.

Guava Leaves: The guava plant is known to have edible fruits that some people like to eat for their sweet taste. The plant is found in abundance in tropical countries and its leaves are used as herbal remedy to lower blood pressure.

Guinea Hen Weed: This herb is grown wildly in Jamaica. It is known to have several health benefits which include alleviating problems associated with the prostate, fibroids, cancer and menstrual cramps. When soaked in alcohol, guinea hen weed is good for headaches when applied to the spot. The weed can be used with leaves from the lignum vitae tree to make a tea that is good for high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy and rheumatism.

Leaf of Life: Leaf of Life, as the name suggests, can be a life-saving plant as it is a good remedy for hypertension, colds, ulcers, insect bites, arthritis and other forms of illness. 

Medina: Another of the Jamaican herbs used to make tonic that enhances men’s sexual health by helping blood circulation.
Mint (Peppermint): A hot cup of peppermint tea is usually a good remedy for gas and stomach ache.

 Moringa: Almost every part of the moringa plant is useful – leaves, roots, bark, flowers, seeds. The plant is said to be a valuable source of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, protein, folate and biotin. Jamaicans use it as remedy for anaemia, skin infections, body pains, bowel disorder, fever, headaches, and other ailments.

 Noni: The juice of the Noni fruit is said to contain Vitamins C and A, niacin and iron. Consumers of the juice will tell you that it tastes awful, however, the benefits derived far outweigh that negative factor as it is said to have several health benefits. These include remedy for arthritis, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and heart conditions, among other benefits.

 Oregano: Tea made from oregano leaves is used to treat bronchial problems, indigestion, bloating, urinary problems and headaches.

 Papaya: (Leaves): The papaya fruit is loaded with Vitamin C and also contains moderate levels of Vitamin A, magnesium and potassium. The leaves, when used to make tea, gives you a beverage that is said to treat heart conditions, malaria, stroke, dengue fever, whooping cough and other respiratory ailments.

 Parsley (roots and leaves): Parsley can be used as herb, spice or vegetable. It is loaded with Vitamin C and Vitamin A, and also had good amounts of iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Juiced, it is good for optic nerves and bladder problems while its tea is said to be a good remedy for high blood pressure.

 Piaba – There is a reggae song that speaks of “Man Piaba” and “Woman Piaba,” highlighting the plant’s benefits for the male as well as the female.

Generally, tea made from the leaves of this plant is used to treat fever, headache, colds and aches. For women, it is said to good for those in labour, as it helps to ease labour pain.

Pimento or Allspice (leaf): Jamaican pimento berry is called All Spice by some but to the typical Jamaican, the berry is simply referred to as pimento. The pimento is used as a spice in food preparations but the leaf, used to make tea, is remedy for diarrhoea. The unripe berry can be used as remedy for influenza, while a tea brewed from leaf of the pimento tree and ginger root, is said to be good for diabetes.

 Sarsaparilla: One of the more popular herb names in Jamaica, Sarsaparilla is considered a good tonic source but is also good for a variety of complaints such as arthritis, cancer, rheumatism, colds, fever, multiple sclerosis, eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, among other ailments.

 Search Mi Heart: This herb is said to be good for colds, pains in the chest and stomach problems.

 Shama Macka: Asthma, biliousness, colds, dysentery, indigestion, influenza, jaundice and vaginal problems are some of the complaints that Shama Macka will address.

 Sorrel: Traditionally a popular Christmas drink, Sorrel drink is now popular all-year round in Jamaica as the plant has been commercialised, largely because of recently discovered medicinal values. Sorrel is said to contain anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory ingredients, is a good remedy for cough and cold and will boost immune system.

Soursop leaf: The cancer healing properties of the soursop fruit has been written about in Jamaica. The leaves of the soursop tree also play an important role in traditional medicine. Tea made from the leaves is a good remedy for several ailments such as diabetes, nerve problems, insomnia, colds, high blood pressure and kidney problems.

 Strong Back (otherwise called Duppy Poison): As the term “strong back” may suggests, the herb is considered an aphrodisiac in Jamaica. It is said to be good for correcting sexual conditions such as erectile problems, premature ejaculation, sterility, along with other non-sexual conditions such as jaundice and digestive problems.

 Tamarind: Traditionally, tamarind balls have been a favourite treat of most children growing up in Jamaica but a lot of people aren’t quite familiar with the benefits to be derived from the plant. The most commonly known benefit would be the bathing in water in which the leaves have been boiled, as this alleviates skin itches and other skin irritations caused by measles and chicken pox. The leaves will make a tea that is good for colds, diabetes, and other conditions.    

Thyme: Most popularly known as a culinary flavouring, in Jamaica, thyme is said to be good for a whole lot more. Some of the medicinal benefits include remedy for asthma, bronchitis, coughs, respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

Tuna: One of the most popular uses of tuna is as a shampoo, another being as a remedy for back pain. However, the tuna juice is also good for Type II diabetes, high cholesterol and other ailments.

Turmeric: Turmeric is a good remedy for several conditions associated with the liver and the kidney, also for arthritis, colds, and other conditions.



 (Please note: The information provided here has been obtained from traditional Jamaican practices and research done by this website into how other people across the globe use the herbs and plants listed herein.

This website has no medical proof and makes no claims that the herbs listed in this article can provide the remedies that are associated with them. If you have an ailment it is advisable that you visit your medical doctor.)

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