Bahamians have been curing ailments with herbal remedies, or "bush medicine", for hundreds of years. The art of using plants and vines to cure anything from colds and flu, to asthma, to sunburn, to more serious illnesses, was brought to the Bahamas by African slaves but is not nearly as prevalent today as it once was. With a large cross-section of the population suffering from largely preventable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and STDs, many health enthusiasts tout the benefits of returning to natural cures over prescription medication. Which is the way to go? When choosing between prescription drugs or "bush medicine" most of us simply want the safest, most effective option available.
Many Bahamians, especially the older generation, will happily testify to seemingly magical healing powers of "bush". The Cascarilla plant is commonly used to cure digestive issues. The bark of the Gumbolimbo tree is known to treat everything from rashes to backaches to fever. Cerasee, a bitter herb, can help prevent or treat colds, flu, headaches, constipation and even more serious ailments such as diabetes, jaundice, hypertension and dysentery. Cerasee is also widely considered to be a general blood purifier. According to an article about Bahamian bush medicine on bahamasgateway.com, there are even bush medicine treatments for diseases such as leukemia and cancer and research is being conducted into herbal remedies for hepatitis and H.I.V ( a plant called Hurricane weed is one of them).
And these are just a small fraction of the "natural medicines" available. Herbs, plants, vines and barks were a literal life saver to people living on the "family islands" who didn't have easy access to doctors or conventional medication. Bush medicine is also a free alternative to drugs for people without health insurance. According to some, "bush medicine" is far more effective and safer than prescription drugs and are free of harmful side effects.
Prescription drugs however, are scientifically tested while "bush medicine" is not. Herbalist James A. Duke, Ph.D., says,
"choosing between herbs and drugs is difficult because the information we need to make these decisions is largely unavailable".
Because of this, even with the high cost of healthcare and the potential side effects, modern medicine has become more trusted than "bush medicine" over the years. Yet, some countries are demanding that their governments pay closer attention to the health benefits found in nature over the dependence on prescription drugs. In America. for instance, herbalists have demanded more clinical trials be conducted specifically for that purpose.
“If the government really wants to improve Americans’ health, they should mandate independent research to prove that many herbs are competitive with pharmaceuticals,” says Duke.
Obviously caution must be exhibited here. Despite the pros and cons of both herbs and drugs, it is not safe to begin any new regimen without consulting your doctor first. Some herbs may interact negatively with existing medication and vice-versa. So, do your homework and speak with a health professional to decide the very best option for you and continue to lead a lifestyle that involves a healthy diet and exercise.
Article sources: Bahamian bush medicine. www.bahamasgateway.com ; Bush Medicine in the Bahamas - A Modern Approach. Renate Wilmanowicz MD; Herbs vs. Drugs: Get the facts. www.motherearthnews.com ; Western vs Alternative medicine. www.naturalnews.com ; Historical Perspective on Bahamian Healthcare. Larry Smith , www.bahamapundit.com . Cerasee. www.gardeningdirections.com Images: The Levy Preserve, Google images.