Herbalism is the study of botany and the use of medicinal plants. Herbal remedies date back to the Paleolithic Age, which is approximately 60,000 years ago. There is archaeological evidence which proves that many ancient cultures depended on these herbal remedies and documented them in books called ‘Herbals’.
I am sure we all have elders in our families who share the remedies taught to them by their elders and some even trusting in them more than modern medicine. Growing up, there was a strict routine in my family: the ‘before-school-starts’ senna pod tea, the ‘Wonder of the world leaf extract’ for ENT (ears, nose and throat) infections and most popular, the ‘Fever grass’ sickness cure.
I often recall my sister, cousins and I hiding from our parents dreading the taste but there was no escape!
Herbal remedies are such an important part of Caribbean culture. Many modern-day pharmaceutical companies use plants as their key components in their products.
Three herbs that are still extremely popular today are turmeric, lemongrass and chamomile. Turmeric (Curcuma longa), belonging to the ginger family, is a root plant. It has a golden colour which gives curry powder its visual appearance and it is very popular for its medicinal properties.
Turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids (curcumin) which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Further research conducted suggests that curcumin is linked to improved brain function, lowers risk of heart diseases and can even be useful in the control of depression and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Lemongrass, also known as ‘fever grass’ (Cymbopogon citratus) is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. It is a tall, stalky plant which can grow up to six feet and has beautiful blade-like leaves with a potent fresh, lemony aroma and a citrus flavour. It is used in tea where the leaves are tied together into a bouquet and simmered with sugar and water.
Lemongrass is known to have antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, promotes sleep, relieves pain, boosts immunity and many more. It is not uncommon to have a lemongrass and turmeric tea for the common cough and cold.
In other cultures, the grass is used in soups and other dishes.
Chamomile, my personal favourite, is a herb that comes from the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae plant family.
To create the tea, simply draw the flowers in some hot water. Its major benefit is aiding in a good night’s rest. It contains an antioxidant called Apigenin, which binds to certain receptors in your brain that can promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia. It also lowers your risk of several diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
All three herbal teas can be found at your nearest supermarket in the tea aisle in the form of ready-to-use tea bags. I encourage you to obtain these ingredients and try creating the teas on your own. You will create a stronger remedy and it will also be cost effective. Hope you all give these a try!
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