Exercise Caution with Medicinal Plants and Herbs

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For centuries, Jamaicans, especially in rural communities have been using herbal remedies to maintain health and to prevent diseases. However, there is need to be careful when administering herbal medicines and to get guidance from the herbal experts.

Research Officer of the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB) Chelsea Stephenson, made these comments while delivering a lecture titled ‘Return to Roots: Herbs and Healing in Jamaica’.

The lecture, which was recently streamed on the ACIJ/JMB’s YouTube channel, explored traditional medicine passed down from West African ancestors, as well as the common herbs which exist in Jamaica and their medicinal uses.

Ms. Stephenson, who has done a study of herbal plants, urged Jamaicans, to be careful when using medicinal plants and herbs.

“Don’t just go out and pick any plant and use it. You will find that a lot of plants are poisonous, and even plants that can be used for medicinal purposes if not correctly prepared or if they are not paired with the appropriate plants, can also be harmful to you,” she said.

The Research Officer said that a number of herbal plants are known by different names in various communities in Jamaica.

“A lot of these plants are known by different names; even within a community one plant can have several names and two different plants can have the same name,” she stated.

She said that plants, such as dandelion and guinea hen weed are often dried to extend their shelf life.

Further, Ms Stephenson said that plants such as peppermint, cerasee, fever grass also known as lemon grass “can be picked, washed and boiled for tea straight away”

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Ms. Stephenson, who said she had consulted with experts on local plants during her research, noted that it was important to thoroughly wash plants before using then.

“They are growing outside in the wild and you never know what they might come into contact with, so never just pick a plant and use it. Wash thoroughly before use,” she advised.

The mandate of the ACIJ/JMB is to research, document, and disseminate information on African heritage and its impact on Jamaican culture. The division highlights the contribution of African cultural retentions to Jamaican belief systems to instil awareness and appreciation of African culture as a part of Jamaican heritage.

The ACIJ/JMB is a division of the Institute of Jamaica, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport.

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