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Boosting the immune system with herbs

Published:Wednesday | December 15, 2021 | 12:06 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer

Growing up in a Jamaican household means you have perhaps learned about a lot of great Jamaican herbs and spices. While these herbs and spices go great in recipes for their flavour, they also have many healing properties.

Herbs were our first wonder drugs, and they remain powerful medicine to this day. Have you ever chewed on a piece of ginger to curb your nausea? Or sprinkled ground cinnamon in your oatmeal to help lower blood sugar? If the answer is yes, you are taking part in a tradition that stretches deep into our past.

For all of human history, people have explored their natural environments and found plants whose component parts: leaves, flowers, bark, stems, roots, seeds have bolstered health and even cured ailments. The luscious leaves of parsley, basil, cilantro, mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary and the like not only add enticing aroma, fresh flavour and vivid green colour to food, but also have remarkable health benefits.

According to Paula Hurlock, convenor, Wellness Experience Jamaica, paradigms are shifting and health and wellness are a priority now more than ever. She said people are beginning to move beyond thinking of herbs as mere garnishes and start to see them as major culinary players, with a whole world of healthy tastes being opened to them.

“All of the plants that we grow, that we even pass by in our garden, have some value. Herbs are like food and you cannot overdose on food. Most of them alkaline our body, which creates an environment that is not enabling to virus, bacteria or inflammation,” she said.

Many people use botanical remedies because they are worried about the side effects of conventional drugs or simply because these drugs have not helped them. It seems researchers are playing catch-up in regard to these practices, testing the efficacy of various herbal treatments. Sometimes they confirm the value of traditional remedies; occasionally, they disprove them. Often, they discover entirely new applications.

“Herbs have been used since ancient times for their medicinal properties, mostly concentrated into teas and tinctures. But the true power of herbs lies in their wealth of protective polyphenols, plant compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies show that polyphenols in herbs help combat such diseases as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and more,” Hurlock said.

ANTIMICROBIAL

Polyphenols are antimicrobial, so they can help protect us from harmful bacteria as well. Although many of the studies on herbs’ effects have involved concentrated solutions of the leaves’ active components, there is evidence that their benefits still apply when they are cooked and eaten as part of a regular meal, too.

“Most herbs are rich in elements that the body needs. For example, sarsaparilla is rich in iron, copper and zinc. These are important elements to ensure that the body has during this pandemic. So even if you get the coronavirus, the illness is not as severe,” Hurlock said.

Coming out of interaction with a number of local herbalists who have been researching the healing properties of herbs, Hurlock and her Wellness Experience Jamaica team have developed and launched two high-quality herbal blends to boost the immune system. These blends include 11 wild harvested Jamaican herbs and potent traditional Chinese medicine that are rich in iron, copper and zinc, to name a few. All of the herbs can alkaline and detoxify the body and are excellent support for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com

Here is a list of some of the herbs grown in Jamaica and their uses. It is advisable that if you are not familiar with a particular herb, you should seek advice from people who know about the herb before you even think of using it.

Where possible, do the necessary research to determine important information such as allergies and drug interactions, as it relates to the herb you contemplate using.

• Aloe Vera: Aloe vera is used to fight infections, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation in arthritis, improve the skin, treat ulcers and heartburn, detox, improve cardiovascular health, among other things.

• Bissy (Kola Nut): Bissy is the Jamaican name for kola nut. Bissy is best known as an antidote for poisons but is also useful to relieve menstrual cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, gout, rheumatism, jaundice and other uses.

• Cerasee: A tea made from this vine has a bitter taste but has maintained a tradition as a good remedy for belly aches.

• Fever Grass: Also known as lemon grass, a tea made from fever grass reduces fever, hence the name. It is also used for relieving headaches and stomach and urinary problems.

• Garlic: Use mostly for culinary purposes, the strong antioxidant qualities of garlic make it a popular remedy for high blood pressure and the common cold. It may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and improve bone health.

• Ginger: Ginger beer is a popular drink made from the root of the ginger plant. Ginger is also used as a culinary flavouring but its medicinal qualities cannot be overstated. Ginger is a good remedy for gastroenteritis, upset stomach, indigestion, and other ailments such as nausea, to lower blood sugar level, relieves menstrual pain, fights infection, and may also help to protect against Alzheimer’s.

• Guinea Hen Weed: This herb is grown wildly in Jamaica. It is known to have several health benefits, which include alleviating problems associated with the prostate, fibroids, cancer and menstrual cramps. When soaked in alcohol, guinea hen weed is good for headaches when applied to the spot.

• Leaf of life: Leaf of Life, as the name suggests, can be a life-saving plant as it is a good remedy for hypertension, colds, ulcers, insect bites, arthritis and other forms of illness.

• Mint (peppermint): A hot cup of peppermint tea is usually a good remedy for gas and stomach ache.

• Moringa: Almost every part of the moringa plant is useful – leaves, roots, bark, flowers, seeds. The plant is said to be a valuable source of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, protein, folate and biotin. Jamaicans use it as remedy for anaemia, skin infections, body pains, bowel disorder, fever, headaches, and other ailments.

SOURCE: www.tasteofjamaicatours.com; Instagram: @wellnessexperiencejamaica