Da Bush Doctors in da house

Bush teas are usually drunk in the morning hours to cleanse the system and get it ready for the day. Generally they are made up of pleasant tasting herbs like mint, lemongrass, lemon basil, thyme, tarragon, sour sop, and lime leaves often sweetened with honey and flavored with a bit of lime juice.

When you come down with a fever or some other ailment, the prescription might change with the addition of spices, fresh garlic cloves, worry vine, neem leaves, and other bitter and strong flavors, sometimes even chilies. If the bush don’t cure ya, it’ll at least make you forget how bad you feel for a while. What do they say, “not pain no gain?!”

Bush teas are usually made in simple combinations. The Jamaican girls shake their heads at some of my concoctions. Athenia says that her granny said never put more than 3 bush in a pot or “you makin’ poison, not a cure.” She also teases me saying that the bush tea I make with 10 herbs and spices as an after dinner tea at our fine-dining restaurant “tastes so good you might not mind not waking up in the mornin’.”

John Edwards, the island bush doctor, has come up with a variety of “cures” for just about anything and everything. He times his picking of herbs with the phases of the moon so as to harvest them “when they are full” of their curative properties. I have yet to try any of his medicinal concoctions, but you can’t argue with one of his best cures: “drink plenty o water, da more the better, washes ya right out.” That and a bit of herb tea and you’re good to go.
User’s guide to Caribbean Bush teas:

Garlic is thought to be antiseptic, a purifier of the blood
Worry vine fights depression
Neem lowers blood sugar

Mint contains menthol which facilitates digestion and is an antiseptic. Mint is used by the Chinese to calm upset stomachs and combat spasms. Mint infusions are said to cure hiccups and to alleviate migraine headaches. It is thought to be an antiviral, anti-parasitic and sweat-inducing cold remedy. Also can be used as a decongestant, to soothe sore muscles, morning sickness, and menstrual cramps.

Black and white peppercorns are used to stimulate taste buds and are thought to be a great digestive. They are antioxidants and are also used as an antibacterial. The outer layers of the peppercorn, especially black peppercorns, are said to breakdown fats and the accumulation of fat in the body, especially in the liver.

Lime is a coolant. Lime leaves are used as a natural cleanser, deodorizer, stimulant, astringent, and antiamoebic. Their essential oil is said to be an anti-depressant and is good for anxiety. Lime is stimulating, uplifting. It relieves fatigue and improves mental clarity. It is thought to be an antihistamine, anti-carcinogen, antispasmodic, and to have anti-tumor characteristics.

Ginger helps with nausea and seasickness. Also improves appetite, relieves stomach cramps, improves blood circulation and is used to help alleviate joint pain and arthritis. It is an expectorant and is used in Asia for colds and influenza.

Tarragon has been used since the Middle Ages as an antidote for many things including snake bites. It has been used to promote appetite, relieve stomach cramps, combat fatigue and is a folkloric remedy for toothaches. It is said to promote the production of bile which speeds the process of eliminating waste from the body. Also used for de-worming.

Sour sop leaves are used to calm and induce sleep. Said to be better than “weed” to calm you down. Island folk also use it for bladder problems, diarrhea, cough, catarrh, dysentery, and indigestion. Great for insomnia, flu, and fever.

Lemongrass is drunk for antimicrobial properties and well as antifungal uses. Can be rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent.

Dried Hibiscus flowers (also called sorrel) are used as an antioxidant and anti-carcinogen

Sage helps ward off indigestion and is thought to improve your appetite. Used for teething and oral inflammation, sore throats, and upset stomachs.

Basils of all types are used for nausea, vomiting and as an antispasmodic aid for proper digestion.

Bush teas are the traditional herb teas of the island. They have true medicinal values as well as folkloric qualities to make you feel better. “Bush” can be defined as anything that is green, so it is pretty wide open. You’ll find sour sop, lime leaves, and Stingy Thyme in some of the recipes. Don’t let Kroger’s inability to supply them get you down. Sometimes reading about something unattainable can coerce you into doing something unpredictable . . .
I’ll make you a cup when you get here.

Bush Tea Base
1 T island honey
2 slices lime
1 sour sap leaf
2 lime leaves

Sour sorrel- sorrel, ginger, lemongrass
2 T chopped dried sorrel/hibiscus
1 T ginger
1 T lemongrass

Jamaican ginger -sage, apple, citrus
2 T sage
1 T ginger
2 slices apple

Hydro pepper-mint and basil -mint, basil, peppercorns
2 T mint
2 T basil
2 peppercorns

West Indian spice- cardamom, allspice, cloves, cinnamon
3 cardamom pods – crushed
3 allspice berries – crushed
2 fresh allspice leaves
1 cinnamon stick – broken
3 cloves

Island time -stingy thyme, English thyme and lime
2 T Stingy thyme
3 branches English thyme




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