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
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,
2 T chopped dried sorrel/hibiscus
1 T ginger
1 T lemongrass
Jamaican ginger -sage, apple,
2 T sage
1 T ginger
2 slices apple
Hydro pepper-mint and basil -mint,
2 T mint
2 T basil
West Indian spice- cardamom,
allspice, cloves, cinnamon
3 cardamom pods – crushed
3 allspice berries – crushed
2 fresh allspice leaves
1 cinnamon stick – broken
Island time -stingy thyme, English
thyme and lime
2 T Stingy thyme
3 branches English thyme