THE ST. 1CROIX AVIS FRDAY. EPTE'MBER 1. 199M NO. 204
Fighting Diseases With Nature's Remedies
Over a month ago. I was invited as a guest
speaker to the Bethel Seventh-Day Adventist
Church for a seminar entitled -Healthy
Lifestyles." At this seminar, hundreds of people
turned out to learn how they can live healthy.
Such topics as "Meat Fables" by Pastor Analdo
Gonzalez. "For Junk-Food Lovers Only" by David
Sweeney and "Milk: Does It Really Do The Body
Good?" by Bernice Hogan were discussed.
Other topics were "What You Don't Know About
Salt And Sugar" by Dr. Lloyd Henry. "A Free
Over-The-Counter Prescription" by Erica Charles.
"Vegan Style Gourmet" by Barbara Francis and
"Nature's Remedies" by Olasee Davis. This article
will focus on the history of how
certain diseases became preva-
lent among black people in the
Western Hemisphere and the
contribution of medicinal
plants to mankind.
When slaves were imported from Africa to the
Caribbean and the Americas. they were imported
in horrible conditions. The slaves were packed
like sardines on the ships where they did every-
thing from defecate to urinate on themselves.
Many slaves were thrown overboard because of
poor health. Slaves needed nutritious food if they
were to be physically strong and capable of per*
forming the labor their masters required of them.
They needed carbohydrates and fats which are
the body's main sources of energ3proteins for
repairing the cells that are constantly broken
down and repaired, and calcium. Iron. vitamins.
and other essential elements to live. Slaves also
suffered from inadequate footwear and clothing.
They were also unable to change from wet to dry
clothing and were thus prone to contract fevers
Apart from privileged slaves, blacks were sel-
dom issued shoes and stockings. As a result.
cuts and bruises on their bare feet and legs were
common as they engaged In hazardous work.
Under this condition, ugly sores and ulcers
developed which culminated and led to gangrene
and death. Many black women were raped by
white men which caused many women to commit
Thus. slaves rebelled against this evil system.
For this. many slaves were nailed down to the
ground. and then fire was applied In degrees
from the feet. hands, burning them gradually up
to the head. Diseases and death were related to
environmental conditions, hygiene, diet. punish-
ment. occupation and conditions of labor. Chil-
dren of slaves were also highly susceptible to
They suffered from bowel disorders, whooping
cough, colic and worms. among other diseases.
Adult slaves were susceptible to pneumonia.
Influenza and respiratory disease of the pleura.
They also contracted Intestinal disorders like
diarrhea and dysentery, and were plagued by a
variety of worms that had their bodies disfigured
and made miserable by sores, elephantiasis and
leprosy. Many women had gynecological disor-
ders that included menstrual difficulties and
complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Today. many blacks suffer from high blood
pressure and diabetes which directly relate to
diet. During slavery, blacks ate lots of salt-pork
which contributes to diabetes and high blood
pressure. Such parts as pig feet.
head. mouth and guts were
thrown away by whites but used
by blacks for food. To this day.
pork Is a major part of blacks*
Studies were done to find out why diabetes and
high blood pressure were so prevalent among
Food scientists found out that diabetes and
high blood pressure were non-existent among
African people many years ago. They said as
slaves' diet changed in the West from what they
were used to eating In Africa. the immune system
broke down. resulting In such diseases as dia-
betes. This disease and others can now be inher-
ited or passed on from generation to generation
in blacks if diets are not controlled.
In spite of the horrible conditions blacks faced
in slavery, medicinal plants and the will of slaves
kept many alive.
As in Africa. medicine which combined mysti-
cal beliefs and rituals with herbal remedies and
poisonous substances played an important role
in black culture in the Caribbean. The use of
medicinal plants by slaves became so powerful
that many whites were afraid.
In 1835. R.R. Madden. M.D.. said. "... they
could not Ignore African 'black magic.' any
longer, which included the use of poisons and
other means to throw off the shackles of
bondage. The upshot was a preoccupation with
the malevolent side of African medicine and Igno-
rance and neglect of the day-to-day practice of
On St. Croix. many of these medicinal plants
grow in the rain forest. especially In Caledonia
and the Creque Dam areas. It was these plants
that kept our great great grandparents alive.
So why not have a cup of bush tea with me.
You know. It is good medicine. It will protect us
Otosee Dowis is a St. Croir ecologist.