05 September 2008

Healing plants

Before there were "blogs", we at Biaraku had an ongoing forum of ideas that we distributed via email. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the themes that we covered. Now there are even more resources on these subjects on the web.

Gina "Rixturey" Robles-Villalba



Part of the Taino heritage to the world has been the addition of native healing plants to the pharmacopoeia of medicinal knowledge. Our abuelos and abuelitas always have used this knowledge to their benefit before the advent of modern science, hospitals, and pills.

Maria Dolores Hajosy Benedetti has written a wonderful book called "Earth and Spirit: Healing Lore and More from Puerto Rico" (©1989, Waterfront Press) that delves into this rich heritage from the point of view of the practitioners of popular and herbal medicine. Through interviews from all over the island, she brings together this tradition and systematically lists remedies for a number of ailments as well as list the English, Spanish, Latin and botanical names for the plants mentioned in the book. This book is available in English and Spanish.

This healing lore comes close to home, for we all can remember an abuelita or parent who made home remedies -- the guarapos and alcolados -- for a variety of ailments. To remedy a head cold, my father would make a guarapo of cloves, cinnamon, apples and lemons, sugar to taste, and to this mixture add a dash (or more) of rum.

On the web, TRAMIL is a project dedicated to the investigation of traditional popular medicines of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the other islands in the Caribbean Basin. It was initiated through the efforts of enda-caribe, the Laboratory of Natural Substances of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacology, Port o Prince, Haiti, the Federación de Asociaciones Campesinas de Zambrana-Chacuey, República Dominicana, and the dispensary of SOE de Thomonde, Central de Haití. Their web site (in Spanish) is http://www.funredes.org/endacaribe/Tramil.html

Another book in English, "CARIBBEAN HERBS AND MEDICINAL PLANTS AND THEIR USES" edited by Kevin Harris & Mike Henry, takes a look at some of the herbs and medicinal plants found in the Caribbean, with advice on how to use them wisely, moderately and regularly, it also explores some of the myths and legends associated with these herbs and plants.


Maximilian C. Forte said...

That's a great idea, to revive some of the materials from Biaraku. That was for very long one of my favorite Taino sites.

Anonymous said...

i love plants & i will get this book. i am drinking herbs today that i recently brought back from The Bahamas. i look forward to examining the Biaraku documents.