Forestry and Lands Department,
Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Co-operatives,
P.O. Box 892
The story below is taken from: Bush Talk May 1986 Vol. 5 No. 7 (copyright M. Grech)
The text and illustration is by Maria Grech.
If reproduced, please give credit to Maria Grech/Bush Talk
Helen had a cold. Her head ached and she was sniffling so much that her mother decided to keep her home from school. She made some bush tea from herbs that she had gathered, boiling the leaves gently for a while then straining off the water. She sweetened it with honey and took it to Helen. Here, drink this it will get rid of your fever and help the headache go away.
Oh Ma! Do I have to? Helen wrinkled up her nose and pushed the cup away. Monicas mother says now you can get proper medicine for everything at the drugstore its time people gave up all these old-time things. Couldnt I just take a couple of aspirins or something?
Mrs Joseph gently put the cup back in her daughters hand. Maybe if you had flu or suchlike, said Mrs. Joseph. But not for a little fresh cold.
Drink the tea, it will make you feel better. If it werent for these old-time things, we wouldnt have half the pills and potions you buy at the chemist nowadays. How do you think the doctors found out about them in the first place? When they saw people using a plant to cure some sickness they would take it to the laboratory and check to see what medicine or drug it had. Then they would make this drug into pills or tablets or a liquid that was easy to drink. Scientists believe there are cures for every one of mans illnesses in the plants and trees of the rainforests. But it takes time to study these things. Many of the plants are being destroyed before anyone has even had a chance to examine them.
I see what you mean, said Helen. People must have got sick long before they had doctors to go to or shops to buy things like aspirin or cough medicine. But who showed them what plants to use, and how did they know how much to take?
It was simple, answered her mother. There were people in the community who spent their whole lives studying plants and learning how to use them. You would go to them just like you go to a doctor and they would tell you what to take. But they hardly ever wrote anything down, so when they die their remedies often disappear too.
I heard that someone is collecting samples of all the plants in Saint Lucia and making a list of the ones that are used to cure things. But theyd better hurry, said Helen. The way I see people clearing the land there soon wont be any herbs left to study.
Home remedies for coughs and cold
Many people in St. Lucia still take bush tea when they have a cough or cold. Usually they mix several herbs together, but one that is always included is Leonotis nepetaefolia. This plant belongs to the Labiatae or mint family, and it is the leaves that are used to rake the tea.
When the flowers die, a large, round, spiky, brown seed pod is left behind. This is what gave the plant its patois name, gwo pompon. It makes it very easy to recognise, and you will see it growing on waste ground all over the island of St. Lucia.
Fresh lime juice with hot water and plenty of honey is another remedy that is often given for colds. Honey is supposed to be very soothing for coughs and sore throats, and most children are happy to take it.
If there is a bush of Sambucus simpsonii (English: elderberry; patois: la fle siwo) close to the house, you can make a cough syrup from its tiny white flowers.