Bush Medicine in The Bahamas

on May 28, 2016 | By Donald Duncombe

Parliament Square Cultural Center / Donald Duncombe

Bush Medicine in the Bahamas
Seven Man Strength
The Bush Medicine culture in the Bahamas has possibly two origins: West African and American Indians. Both of these two groups had a strong sense of the use of nature and “bush” in their culture. Both groups came to the Bahamas around the 1700’s and 1800’s. We may have lost some of their heritage but this one was certainly passed on from one generation to the next. The essence of Bush comes from the use of what is ordinarily found in one’s environment and the beneficial properties that may exist with the use of these simple finds.
The salt water is used as a healing bath for aches, sores and cleaning of the teeth. A bath is normally taken at the “ebbing” of the tide to “wash” the ailment away. Sand at the shore of the sea is used to “brush” ones teeth and the seawater is a mouth wash.
Bush medicine must have come from some learnt norms such as shiny compared to dull leaves, aroma and smell that come from the leaves and colours that may bleed from the bark since most of these pants were not ordinarily found in West Africa or America.
The Aloe is one of the few plants that may have been familiar to West African cultures since it was used from the time of the early Egyptians. Cleopatra would have used this as a part of her beauty regiment. The Aloe has uses for external conditions such as sun burn or any minor burn, rash, skin toning after a sore where the “slime” on the inside is rubbed over the affected area. It has internal uses for sore throat, as a colon cleanser where the “meat” on the inside is cut in small pieces and steeped in a glass of water that is drunk in the morning. The “meat” can be eaten as well.
The simple Shepherd’s Needle, a wild local Bahamian plant that has small flowers like Daisy and “needles” that attach to clothing once it is brushed against is a good remedy for many skin conditions such as rash, measles, poison ivy among others. The bush is gathered and boiled in water and the patient bathes in the warm water brew. White and Red Sage along with Rooster Comb also provide relief for the same things.
Bay Geranium (Bay Jeraina (Bahamian dialect) normally grows along the sandy shore lines and acts as a means to hold the sand in place to prevent erosion is used to treat colds and flu as well as a stomach cleaning tonic. The vine is gathered and a hand full is placed in a pot of water which is boiled. The brew is taken in doses of one small tea cup once a day for a few days, no more than a week.
The Love Vine which is really is a parasitic plant grows on shrubs and trees and sometimes on the grass on the ground. This is good for washing the hair when boiled in water and when taken internally as a tea provides relief for backache.
There is a concoction that is referred to as seven man strength. This comprises of Strong Back, Cat’s Tongue, Poor Man’s Strength , Sweet Margaret, Gum Emeli (Gum Malamee), Five Finger, and Madeira Bark and Love Vine. This is used to treat back problems, low libido for men and women, increase opportunity to become fertile and just for providing a lift.
Breadfruit and Sour Sop leaves can help with high blood pressure. A few Sour Sop leaves provide a good tea to help poor sleeping.
Pigeon Peas root helps fish poisoning complications. Gather the root and boil it and drink the tea.
Cerasee when taken a small does for a period of time especially before the cold and flu season helps to ward off these ailments. The Cerasee also is good for cleaning out the digestive tract.
Coughs can be remedied with Pond Bush, Life leaf, and Salve Bush,
Diarrhea is relieved using Pear Leaf (Avocado), Pigeon Plum, Coco Plum, green Guava and bark (for tea) and Stopper Bush.
Fever Grass is used to treat fever and as a good refreshing tea and for gas or wind.
Some other good teas are lime leaf and orange peel.
Some bush like sweet Margaret does not need sweetening and there are some like Castor oil for constipation and Aloe that no sugar can sweeten.
For more information see the work done by Jeffrey H. McCormack. This is the most comprehensive work done since work on Bush Medicine began with Leslie Higgs in Nassau. http://www.bushmedicine.org/

Donald Duncombe

Nassauvian living in Freport, Grand Bahama. I operate Grum Ma's House Cultural Center in Hunter's , Grand Bahama where we offer Bahamas culture, heritage and cuisine tours to school children, residents and gusests.

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