Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 6th 2014 Contents A38
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 6, 2014
Generations ago, when you had a cold,
your grandparents would more often than
not go in the backyard and come back with
a handful of bush, boil it and command you
Those mixtures may not have been very
palatable, but they were almost certain to do
the trick, as your cold would be cleared quite
Fast forward to present day and in this age
of pharmaceuticals, the handful of bush has
been replaced by a box of tablets.
Children are no longer given "bush tea"
because many parents simply have no knowl-
edge of the old home remedies.
To this end, the Caribbean Yard Campus
recently hosted a three day symposium from
September 26 to 28 titled Sweet Broom and
Bitter Bush, which was geared at educating
the public about the different types of indige-
On the first day at the Lloyd Best Institute,
there was a panel discussion on the theme
Traditions of Caribbean Indigenous Medicine
(Ethnomedicine) which featured contributions
from different cultural traditions including
the First Peoples, African-Caribbean, Indo-
Caribbean and Spanish.
The following day, everyone participating
in the symposium journeyed to the nature
trails at Aripo to engage in the collection,
classification, identification, recording and
storing of plant specimens.
The event climaxed on the third day at
Santa Rosa with the preparation of teas,
decoctions, rubs, potions and other traditional
Speaking on the first day, Cristo Adonis,
medicine man of the Santa Rosa First Peoples
lamented the fact that the younger generations
have not been taught the values and tech-
niques of indigenous medicine.
Noting that the secrets of bush medicine
lay mostly with the elderly, Adonis said that
society needs to care more for the senior cit-
izens and stop "locking the teacher out of
Describing the art of preparing bush med-
icine as spiritual, he explained that in order
to have good medicine from plants, people
need to respect everything around them and
keep their surroundings clean.
Representing the Yoruba faith, Ifa priest
Babalorisha Olatunji Somorin described food
as the first source of medicine, explaining
that the food people eat can directly affect
their overall health and well being.
Using the hog plum tree as an example,
Somorin said that in his country, depending
on the method of preparation, the leaves of
the plant were used to both enhance a per-
son s memory as well as relieve aches and
"A plant has different essences and ways
to tap into these essences whether it be by
boiling or soaking in alcohol," he explained.
Drawing reference to pharmaceuticals, he
continued that most modern medicines
stemmed from the knowledge of plant med-
"Let your food be your medicine and let
your medicine be your food."
"It is all about what we eat, drink and
expose our bodies to. There is something out
there to prevent whatever ailment. It is up
to you to tap into it," he said.
Professor Compton Seaforth whose pres-
entation was entitled Science in the Service
of Folk Medicine, outlined the classification
and identification of medicinal plants.
He blamed the various environmental
enhancement organisations for contributing
to the lack of knowledge of common medic-
"The problem is that weeds growing in
your backyard or on the roadside are hard
to meet these days because of the work of
Cepep and URP," he said.
"So young people growing up are likely to
be less familiar with these bush remedies
because their parents themselves have less
opportunity to show them these plants that
Noting that medicinal plants are grown in
other countries worldwide, and people use
nature to their benefit, he continued that
such a lack of knowledge could cause people
to believe that growing plants is not neces-
sarily good for the health of the nation.
"So there are a lot of losses for young peo-
ple growing up today where the environment
doesn t engage even the older people and
the best solution to this is education."
"It means for example that starting from
primary school, the computer could be used
to show pictures of plants more often than
before since you can t find them outside and
description of their uses not just for medicinal
value but their food value."
"Education is really what the whole country
needs to recognise the usefulness of the
Bring back sweet broom and bitter bush
Compton Seaforth speaking about the use of
herbs and herbal medications at the
symposium. PHOTOS: CORI BAYNES
Lemongrass, also known locally as fever
grass is a common remedy for fever.
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