Alternative medicine gains ground in Guyana
`Bush' - a cure for all

By Stacey Bess
Guyana Chronicle
February 4, 2001

FROM creation, we have been coerced into studying and experimenting with possibilities for curing a myriad of diseases.

Many have pursued the conventional way - studying and practising medicine. Others have taken an alternative route, devoting their energies to homeopathy.

The term homeopathy is derived from the Greek words homeo (similar) and pathos (suffering from disease).

The first basic principles of homeopathy were formulated by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. Curious about why quinine could cure malaria, Hahnemann ingested quinine bark and experienced alternating bouts of chills, fever, and weakness, the classic symptoms of malaria.

From this experience, he derived the principle of `similars', or "like cures like", that is, a substance that can cause certain symptoms when given to a healthy person can cure those same symptoms in someone who is sick.

Homeopathic medicines, or remedies, are made from naturally occurring plant, animal, and mineral substances.

Within the Caribbean Diaspora, such remedies are commonly called `bush' or herbal cure.

The use of such medicine is becoming more popular in contemporary Guyana, and underscores the view of many that there is a herbal remedy for any ailment. In the past, such treatments were associated with the folklore of `old' people.

But even young Guyanese are gravitating to the alternative domain in the treatment of ailments. Many of them were forced to consume distasteful concoctions. Nevertheless, in the process, they learned about the properties of herbs and their uses for various disorders.

Many of the `bush sellers' around local markets received instruction in the use of `bush medicine' from their grandparents or other elderly relatives.

Today, the Chronicle begins a series on `alternative medicine' in Guyana.

***************************** Indian Bush Girl One bush seller at Bourda Market known as the `Indian Bush Girl' was delighted to divulge her insight of the medicinal properties of local herbs.

The bush business is a legacy of her family. Her grandmother initiated it. Her mother was enticed to also become involved in the livelihood. The Indian Bush Girl was an involuntary heir.

Last week, as Sunday Chronicle tracked down several practitioners of alternative medicine and sellers of local herbs, the Indian Bush Girl willingly divulged the herbal remedies to some common ailments.

She was quick, obviously having the information on the exotic-sounding barks, plants and herbs at her fingertips. This was a dazzling manifestation of her 20-year experience in the bush business.

She lives in Better Hope, East Coast Demerara, but her limited yard space does not permit her to plant her own herbs. She buys from persons who cultivate them on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.

Her business is lucrative. She services about 100 persons per day, and earns an average of $20,000 per week.

The illnesses that she specialises in treating include: colds/flu, `biliousness', back pain, `thrush', `worms', kidney diseases, hypertension and skin diseases.

Instead of using one specific `bush' to cure an ailment, Indian Bush Girl recommends the use of a potion of several herbs.

For colds and flu, she would dispense a combination of Tissam, `Suriname Cherry', Eucalyptus, Sweet Sage, Sweet Broom and Lemon Grass. These should be boiled together and drunk as a hot beverage.

A bottle brew of `Pear Leaf' `Zep Grass' Corilla, Neem, `Bitter Tally', `Carrion Crow Bush', `Sand Bitters' is her recommendation for `biliousness. This brew should be kept in a refrigerator and the patient should drink a `schnapp glass' once every day for seven days.

For a post-natal clean-out, Indian Bush Girl prescribes a concoction of `St. John Bush', `Inflammation Bush', `Gully Root', `Mini Root' `Wild Black Pepper', `Cow Foot', `Maran', `Man Piapa', `Woman Piapa', Corilla, `Sand Bitters' Neem, `Bitter Tally' and Broad Leaf Thyme. These should be boiled together with ginger and black pepper. Half a pint should be drunk each day, twice a day, for one week.

Back pain will need a combination of `Capadulla', `Sasparilla', `Granny Back Bone', `Locus Bark, `Cooper Bark' `Monkey Ladder', `Devil Dulla, `Caction' and Iron Weed. These barks should be chipped and boiled together with sugar and `steel drops'. A `schnapp glass' full should be drunk twice a day, until the pain subsides.

For `Thrush', Indian Bush Girl recommends `Buck Cotton', `Fiddle Wool', `Ants Bush' and `Congo Lana'. Half a pint twice a day is the dosage.

A bottle brew of `Peach Leaf', `Almond Nut Leaf', `Mocha Mocha', Periwinkle, `Spanish Needle', `Sand Bitters', Corilla and Neem is dispensed.

A worm-out takes `Senna Pods' and `Simatu Leaf' boiled together, while for kidney disease, Indian Girl dispenses a potion of `Conga Pump' `Iron Weed', `Bishop Cap', `Stinging Nettle', and `Pap Bush'.

She recommends the use of `Bird Vine', `Black Sage' and `Bread Fruit Leaf' for hypertension, and for skin diseases, a concoction of Neem, `Bitter Tally, `Carrion Crow', `Money Bush'; Corilla; `Physic Nut Leaf'. These herbs should be boiled with salt. The patient should bathe with brew. After the bath, the patient should rub skin with crab oil.

Indian Bush Girl also sells prepared brews for the different sickness.

She said that she is unaware of any side effects associated with the use of herbs, adding that she prefers to use them because they are natural.

Asked specifically about Noni, she said that it could be used for ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, pain and swellings.

For pain and swellings, she said that the leaf of the Noni should be heated and applied to the affected area. For the other disorders the juice should be used. She said that the juice is extracted by placing the washed Noni in a covered container and leaving for a number of days. She said that the juice is self-extracted. She pointed out that it is important for the ripened fruit to be used. She said that the juice should be taken twice per day. She gets Noni from Berbice.

She told the Sunday Chronicle that she would only visit a medical doctor if the bush remedies do not or cannot cure a malady, for example, fractured bones.

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