Traditional Jamaican medicine involves the use of many different medicinal plants.
Most of these plants grow wild on the island. Not only that but many are plants endemic to Jamaica.
Consuming Jamaican bush tea is possibly the most popular way natives use these plants.
The bush teas can be made from trees, shrubs, vines or herbs. And any section of a plant may be used to make the infusion.
Why are Jamaican herbs and spices such an important part of Jamaican society?
It all goes back to the Arawaks who were the first settlers on the Island. The Arawaks were cultivators who grew a variety of crops.
They used many of the plants and herbs they grew for cooking. But some had recreational uses. Still others were used as Jamaican herbal remedies.
That’s how the “love affair” with using plants from Jamaica as medicine for treating ailments.
Medicinal Plants Usage
Today the island’s plants and herbs still play an important role in Jamaican society.
This is most noticeable in Jamaican medicine and the island’s food.
Jamaican usage of medicinal plants serve as remedies for a number of common ailments.
Teas made from these medicinal plants are consumed to relieve discomfort caused by colds, the flu, fevers and headaches.
Many are used to treat more serious illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
Benefits of Jamaican Medicinal Plants
- Shorten Cold and Flu
- Help Respiratory problems
- Improve Digestive issues
- Increase Energy Levels
- Manage Blood pressure
- Relieve Pain
- Cleanse and Detox
- Contribute to Weightloss
And a number of these Jamaican medicinal herbs have been used for centuries.
More recently some studies have confirmed that some of those Jamaican spices and herbs do in fact, have medicinal properties. However, a lot more studies need to be done.
In the meantime, here is a list of Jamaican herbs, their botanical names and their uses.
But first you may recognize that many of these medicinal plants are known by different names in other places. Simply because the natives gave them Jamaican names.
List of Medicinal Plants
Here is a list of Jamaican medicinal plants. This post will help you make the connection between the names used by Jamaican locals and other names the plants are known by.
Uses for Jamaican Medicinal plants seem to naturally fall into specific categories based on what they are being used for.
I have tried to classify them by the ailments they are used to treat:
Jamaican Plants For Cold and Flu
Below is a list of 7 time tested cold bush plants from Jamaica. And the one common ingredient used with these plants is honey.
It is the sweetener that’s used most often.
Some records show that some of these herbs have been used as Jamaican medicine since the 1700s.
Lime leaf (Citrus aurantiifolia) Lime leaves -or other citrus leaves or fruit-are boiled and sweetened with honey for shortening colds .
Leaf of Life ( Bryophyllum pinnatum) leaves and stems boiled for about 5 minutes. Juicing the raw leaves and stems of the Leaf of Life herb is the most common method used for treating coughs.
Fever Grass (Cymbogopon citratus)
Blades and stalks of the grass are cut into about 4 inch lengths, bruised and then boiled for between.
Warm fever grass tea is used to treat fevers and colds.
It is an especially popular medicinal plant for treating children who have a fever.
Jamaican mint bush (Satureja Viminea) nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Also used for colds and fevers.
Eucalyptus– (Eucalyptus cinerea) Tea is made by boiling the plant’s leaves for approximately 10 minutes. This is used to treat colds and congestion.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Pieces of ginger root are often boiled with other herbs such as garlic. The tea is always sweetened with honey.
Jamaican Black Mint (Mentha viridis) a subcategory of Spearmint used to make tea to cure stomach aches, colds, and vomiting since the 1700s.
Jamaican Plants For Respiratory Ailments
Asthma is the most common respiratory ailments that affect Jamaicans.
A number of local plants are used as medicine to relieve symptoms of asthma. These same teas are often used to treat bronchitis and coughs as well.
Trumpet tree leaves (Cecropia peltata) are boiled and taken as a cough suppressant or gargle for sore throat.
Spirit weed l (Eryngium foetidum) The entire plant except the root of the plant makes a herbal tea to relieve symptoms associated with pneumonia.
Asthma weed (Erigeron bonariensis) Drinking this bush tea is believed to help alleviate asthma and dengue fever symptoms.
John charles (HYPTIS VERTICILLATA) Tea made from dried leaves is used to treat bronchitis.
Jack ‘na Bush ( Chromolaena odorata) – translated Jack in the bush -This herb is long known for its curative properties.
It is used for soothing coughs, relieving symptoms related to colds and sinus infections.
Medicinal Plants For Digestion
Quaco bush (mikania) is one bitter tasting guaco herb. Both juice and tea used for treating diarrhea
Pimento (Pimenta dioica) tea made with pimento leaves is taken to alleviate symptoms of indigestion and constipation.
Bissy (Cola acuminata ) Bissy tea is used to treat indigestion, vomiting and other digestive issues. Bissy tea is also taken to counteract food poisoning.
Peppermint ( Mentha piperita) Peppermint) tea used for gas, bloating and indigestion.
Dead and wake (Mimosa pudica) This tea is consumed for relieving diarrhea.
Immune Boosting Plants From Jamaica
However, a lot more studies need to be done. In the meantime learn about some of the common plants used as medicine in Jamaica
Medicinal plants for boosting immunity can be taken in tea from. However the more common practice is to boil a number of herbs together to make a root tonic.
Sarsaparilla (Smilax ornata) tea as well as being used in root tonics to relieve fatigue and boost energy.
Strong Back (Morinda Royoc) Used in teas in addition to being a main ingredient in root tonics. These tonics are used to increase stamina.
Chaney root (Smilax balbisiana) This is an essential ingredient in root tonics but also used as a tea to increase stamina.
Chaney root is an essential ingredient in Jamaican root tonics.
Jamaican dandelion (Cassia occidentalis). This medicinal plant is used as a liver tonic to stimulate function. Dandelion tea is often used as a substitute for coffee.
PawPaw (Carica papaya) This is one of the plants that have many uses. The leaf is used to make tea for boosting the body’s immune system.
Papaw seeds are used to expel intestinal parasites and treat indigestion. The ripe fruit is eaten raw or it makes a refreshing tropical drink.
Jamaican Medicinal Plants For Pain
Headaches and stomach aches are some of the more common ailments that are treated with bush tea. These are a few of the Jamaican herbs used to treat them.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera) tea is used for headache relief.
Pennyroyal (Micromeria brownei) leaves are used to make tea for stomach pains.
Hyssop (hyssopifolia ) tea is believed to be effective in easing menstrual cramps and intestinal pain.
Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina or Piscidia or piscipula). Tea has long been used to treat migraines and nerve pain.
This medicinal plant is also used to relieve anxiety and induce sleep.
Ganja (cannabis) Although the herb is native to South Asia, It is possibly the most widely known medicinal plant in Jamaica. Ganja has been used for recreational and medicinal purposes.
Ganja tea is used to treat pain, asthma and as a diuretic. An infusion made from the herb is also used to wash the eyes.
Jamaican Herbs For High Blood Pressure
Arilia (Aralia guilfoylei) tea is also used for relieving headaches and migraines. Leaves are placed on the forehead and held in place with a head tie.
Cullen mint (Lippia alba) leaves are steeped in hot water and used to relieve headaches and high blood pressure usually in tea form.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a relative of onion, leek and scallion. Garlic is a base ingredient in many recipes. However this herb is widely used as a treatment for high blood pressure in Jamaica.
A couple cloves of garlic are steeped in hot water for approximately 5 minutes. The infusion is strained and sipped while still warm. It is believed that this lowers blood pressure.
Breadfruit Leaf (Artocarpus altilis) Breadfruit leaf tea is used for treating high blood pressure. It is also used for treatment of some infections.
Spanish Needle (Bidens alba) Tea made from this herb is used for lowering blood pressure and treating sinus infections.
It is also believed that Spanish needle tea helps improve circulation.
Detox Plants In Jamaica
These are some of the most popular herbs for cleansing and detox This process is referred to as “taking wash out” on the island. These plants and divided into two categories.
The first category belongs to herbs used as blood purifiers. The second category is for those plants that are labeled as laxatives.
Cerasee (Momordica charantia) the most famous Jamaican bush tea for detox and cleansing. Considered helpful for weight loss.
Aloe Vera ( this one is not always a tea. Sometimes the plant leaves are pureed and added to other foods.
Senna (Cassia species) tea brewed using dried leaves and pods consumed a laxative and cleanser.
Mexican Poppy (Argemone mexicana) Its use in traditional medicine dates back to the Aztecs.
The tea is used as a laxative and to treat fevers and headaches. These are symptoms associated with malaria.
Duck Flower (Aristolochia grandiflora) Tea is taken to relieve colds, flu and stomach aches.
Tea made from dried duck flower is also used as an aggressive detox.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it is a useful one. Feel free to use them for making a cup of Jamaican bush tea.
How to Make Jamaican Bush Teas
Many times these bush teas are made from a combination of two or more plants.
For instance, it is not unusual to combine ginger and some other herb to make a cold bush tea for treating the common cold.
Most teas are boiled, with the exception of a few like mint teas, that are steeped instead of being boiled.
The ratio is usually two to one. That means two cups of water makes a cup of tea.
The average time it takes to boil bush teas is about 10 minutes. After that it is sweetened and taken as a hot or warm beverage.
Importance of Medicinal Plants
Why is there now an interest in plants from Jamaica and traditional medicinal herbs?
The herbal medicine market is expected to grow to USD411 by 2026 according to one source.
The same report states that the growth is being fueled by consumers desire for traditional treatment.
The report noted that between 70 and 80 percent of people surveyed worldwide, expressed a preference for treatment using herbal medicine.
Jamaican Medicinal Herbs
More than 50 percent of the plants that are used in pharmacology can be found on the island and more than 30 percent of those are unique to Jamaica.
With so many plants endemic to Jamaica, it only makes sense that there should be an interest In exploring the potential benefits of these plants.
It will be very interesting to see how many of the island’s herbs that have been used used as folk medicine get validated by new research data.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of plants from Jamaican. But I hope it provided some of the answers your were searching for.
This is a short list of the most well known plants from Jamaica and what they are used to relieve. Some live plants or seeds can be purchased from your local plant store or online marketplaces.
Many of them are available in the form of loose leaf herbal teas. These can be bought at your local market or from online marketplaces such as Etsy.
On a side note, Possession of more than 2 ounces of Ganja in Jamaica is a criminal offence that can land you in jail.
That being said, Ganja is widely used as a recreational drug on the island. The plant is also used to make tea for treatment of pain and other common ailments.
As the demand for herbal remedies increases, no doubt more studies will be done. These will determine how to best use these Jamaican plants and flowers plants safely.
Disclaimer: All information in this article is for informational purposes. It should not be used to determine the course of your medical treatment. Please consult your professional healthcare to discuss your care. (see full disclaimer)