Granny knows best: Natural health remedies used in the Caribbean
If you grew up in the Caribbean or spent time with grandparents who are from the Caribbean you know of their deep-rooted belief that there’s a natural remedy for every ailment.
Whether they made you rub it, sniff it, wrap it around the affected area or drink it, there's probably nothing you can say to convince them that anything is better than their all-natural, often awful-tasting, strong-smelling elixirs.
Caribbean grannies and grandpas have long held a general distrust for doctor-recommended medication, preferring instead to treat their symptoms with familiar materials which in many cases could be found in their yard or garden.
Within the Caribbean there is a centuries-old tradition of using herbal elixirs for general wellbeing, to treat the common cold and even chronic ailments.
Long before the advent of modern medicine, our ancestors used herbs for health and it’s a practice that has been passed down generation to generation and still exists today.
Here we’ve compiled a list of the more popular natural remedies that our Caribbean grannies swear by.
More commonly known as aloes, this a succulent is native to Africa but is grown in numerous other parts of the world. The clear gel found in the plats leaf is used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The gel is believed to be a remarkable healer of wounds and burns and reduces the risk of infection.
The brown part of the plant contains aloin, a strong laxative used to remedy short-term constipation. Because of the emollient and scar preventing properties, aloe is used in many cosmetics formulae.
Often regarded as a wonder plant, aloe vera is also used to cure conjunctivitis.
This starchy vegetable is high in protein and minerals. Native to South America and the Caribbean, it's used as a poultice for smallpox sores. It also helps relieve acidity, indigestion and colic and is mildly laxative.
These are often drawn and used in tea to treat high blood pressure. The leaves are also crushed and bound to one's head or forehead to treat headaches.
When roasted, the fruit of the calabash tree is used to treat menstrual cramps. The leaves are often used in tea to treat colds, diarrhoea, dysentery and headaches.
Native to Africa and Asia this plant has a strong lemony fragrance and is used to treat several ailments.
Its frequently used in teas to treat coughs and fevers. Lemongrass is also used to help digestion and promote healthy skin. It is also applied as a poultice or as a diluted essential oil to ease pain and arthritis.
Ginger is loaded with nutrients that have a proven track record of healing many ailments.
Its often used to reduce nausea, fight the flu/common cold and help with digestion.
Ginger is also used to reduce menstrual cramps and muscular pain and lower blood sugar levels.
The nutrients found in one lime provides up to 32 per cent of the vitamin C needed in a day. They grow year-round in the Caribbean and are not only used in food, but they also act as an antioxidant which helps counteract disease-causing cells.
Lime juice is regularly used when seasoning meats, particularly chicken and fish.
Known as the nectar of the gods, honey has been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries because of its wound-healing and anti-bacterial properties.
The World Health Organisation recognises honey as a cough remedy.
One of the most common natural cough remedies in the Caribbean is honey mixed with lime juice and garlic.
So effective is this remedy, that the World Health Organisation recognises honey as a remedy for the common cough.
Honey is an alternative for sugar and is also used to counter acid reflux. Over the years it has also proven effective in treating stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, obesity, jaundice and eczema.
This plant is member of the mint family and is said to have 400 subspecies. Many moons ago, our forebears figured out that this flavourful plant be used to add zest to many dishes and also has strong anti-bacterial properties.
Thyme is often used to treat coughs. The aromatic herb is loaded with vitamins C and A and is believed to boost ones immune system.
Thyme extracts are used in pesticides. Thanks to its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties it is also a common ingredient used in mouthwash.
The flowers and leaves of the hog plum tree are used to treat several ailments. They're used as a heart tonic, to treat mouth sores, sore throat and laryngitis. The root of the plant is often used to treat vaginal infections, tuberculosis and diarrhoea.
The fruit is used as a laxative and can also induce vomiting.
The flowers and leaves are sometimes used to treat eye infections and cataracts.
The pulp of the soursop fruit is loaded with potassium, vitamin C and dietary fibre. One cup of pulp contains up to 30 grams of sugar, which is why despite its many health benefits, experts advise that it be consumed in moderation.
Soursop leaves have been found to contain a wide array of annonaceous acetogenins (AGE). These are a unique class of metabolites derived from long-chain fatty acids and have shown tremendous promise as a natural cancer treatment. AGE can be extracted by boiling the leaves into a tea, which is usually referred to as Graviola.
The chemical composition of soursop leaves provides other health benefits as well. When applied topically, soursop leaf extract helps enhance wound healing and reduce inflammation.
Extracts made from soursop leaves have shown amazing potential, but the fruit itself has much to offer as well. Researchers have found that the pulp contains the same chemotherapeutic properties as the leaves, seeds, roots and shell. Moreover, even after being frozen for a year, the pulp retains the powerful cancer-fighting acetogenins.
The fruity pulp also packs a serious nutritional punch. Soursop is rich in antioxidant compounds, which keep free radicals in check and help fight inflammation. A study found that this amazing fruit possesses anti-arthritic properties.
Turmeric is a brightly coloured spice that's often used in curries and other sauces.
Its popularly consumed as a tea by many people who believe it treats arthritis symptoms helps boost one's immune symptoms and lower cholesterol.
Research shows that turmeric also has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Jamaica’s Natural Home Remedies
Walk through an open-air market in Jamaica, and you’re likely to hear Jamaicans shouting out unsolicited solutions to all of your health problems, real and imagined. We aren’t talking pills: It’s all about the natural remedies here, people!
When Island Outpost yoga instructor and spa director Sienna Creasy moved to Jamaica ten years ago, she was struck by this. “Jamaicans are so quick to offer an herb when you’re sick,” Creasy says. “It’s pretty amazing to find that on an island where people otherwise keep to themselves.” She listened to their advice, and now incorporates the island’s abundant herbs, fruits and vegetables into her spa treatments, as well as her own health regimen. Here, she shares her favorite natural health remedies, which you can try on the island or back at home.
Symptom: Joint inflammation
Jamaican natural remedy: Ginger
How it works:
We all know that ginger helps an upset stomach. Jamaicans will tell you ginger is also a great reliever of inflammation and joint pain. If your ankles hurt after a day spent surfing, paddleboarding or hiking, get your hands on literally anything ginger—tea, biscuits, ginger beer, smoothies or cookies. The more intense the flavor, the better: We like to cut up a big knob of fresh ginger and steep in hot water for a spicy tea.
Symptom: Mosquito bites
Jamaican natural remedy: Lemongrass oil extract
How it works:
Benefits of island living? The beach, fresh fruit and lush tropical greenery. The downside? Pesky mosquitos. Luckily, we have lemongrass or “fever grass” oil as many Jamaicans call it, which is a natural mosquito repellent. If you can’t find this at the health food store, you can Do-It-Yourself: Don’t worry, you won’t need a ton of ingredients and ten hands in the kitchen. It’s simple!
Natural remedy: Moringa
How it works:
The nutrient-packed moringa, a flowering plant native to the sub-Himalayas, is Jamaica’s latest must-try superfood. (Prediction: Coming soon to a Whole Foods near you!) We’ll keep things PG here, but moringa is known for increasing one’s sex drive. In fact, you’ll find moringa in Jamaican aphrodisiac tonics, many of which are sold at rum bars around the island.
Symptom: Common cold
Jamaican Natural remedy: Jamaican over-proof rum and lime juice
How it works:
We love our rum here in Jamaica, not only in rum punch, but to clear up congestion. Mix a cap-full of over-proof Jamaican rum with lime juice. Rub the mixture on your neck and chest, splash a little on your cheeks, and finally inhale the mixture. After you’ve completed the process a few times, go ahead and shoot down the leftover rum and lime juice—we were taught to never be wasteful!
Jamaican natural remedy: Caster oil and Jamaican beet juice
How it works:
The excitement of exploring a new destination and cuisine can make relieving yourself difficult. We understand: It happens to the best of us! Try mixing castor oil with beet juice. Castor oil is widely used as a laxative, while the beet juice masks the oil’s strong taste. It also tastes delicious.
- Castor oil – Health benefits of castor oil.
- Lemongrass oil – Purchase Lemongrass oil here.
- Kuli Kuli – Learn more about moringa oleifera and its health benefits.
- Raman, A; Department of Pharmacy, King's College, London
- Alexander, B; Department of Surgery, The Rayne Institute, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, London
- Morgan, Myfanwy; Department of Public Health Medicine, UMDS, St. Thomas's Campus, London
Jul 17, 2020
Inequality, discrimination and exclusion remain severe obstacles to universal sustainable development. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has exacerbated this development deficit and challenged the aspiration of access to justice for all. People living in poverty and marginalized groups may not be aware of their legal rights and often lack legal protection and access to mechanisms to remedy their grievances, resulting in increased vulnerability. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has a devastating, long-term effect on the lives of victims, their families and communities, and impedes development progress. This Needs Assessment Report (NAR) has a conceptual framework based on a human rights-based approach, intersectional and UNDP´s guidelines in order to move the Caribbean region from a less punitive to a more rehabilitative system.
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Biofortification of food crops: the remedy for malnutrition in the Caribbean
San José, 5 November 2018 (IICA). Caribbean Ministers of Agriculture and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) approved a proposal from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to introduce crops with a high nutrition co-efficient, in an attempt to reduce the incidence of conditions such as cancer, obesity, heart disease and obesity in the Caribbean region and to create a culture of balanced dietary patterns.
The Institute has proposed the introduction of HarvestPlus in the Caribbean. HarvestPlus is an initiative that uses phyto-improvement to cultivate varieties of basic crops such as beans, cassava, corn, rice, sweet potato, inter alia, with high levels of zinc, iron and vitamin A, to noticeably increase a country’s nutrition.
This proposal to change the Caribbean dietary culture is a joint effort by IICA, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), specific CARICOM agencies, the United Nations, HarvestPlus Latin America and Penn State University.
According to Elizabeth Johnson, IICA Representative in Jamaica, “Hidden hunger, which results from nutrient deficiencies, affects the immune system and even the mood or mental state of a person, sapping their energy. This has repercussions for a country’s productivity and increases the cost of health services for households and for the public purse”.
The Institute is proposing this approach to tackling the problem through more nutritionally balanced diets as an alternative for these countries, which have the hemisphere’s highest levels of non-communicable disease.
World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates that the combination of nutritionally deficient diets and physical inactivity are the main risk factors for non-communicable diseases, primarily cardiovascular and chronic pulmonary diseases, cancer and diabetes.
“Food is one of the most effective means of improving health and we believe that biofortification can play a pivotal role in strengthening agriculture and in ensuring a healthier future for the region”, added Johnson.
The Project will collaborate with associations and funding agencies to distribute varieties of fortified foods to countries, and to provide training to public and private partners in evaluating the performance and selection of the most suitable varieties for each country.
Professor Sir Trevor Hassel, Chairman of the Barbados National Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases Commission (NCD) explained that, “Sixty percent of the health budget of Caribbean countries is invested in care for those with these conditions”.
In countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America where HarvestPlus already has a presence, the indices of malnutrition have declined through the incorporation of biofortified foods into the diet.
Elizabeth Johnson, IICA Representative in Jamaica
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