Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Some plants can keep you healthy
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Title: Some plants can keep you healthy
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: April 25, 1997
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Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00182
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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The Daily News. 04/25/97 23 Isli-d LiWe

Some plants can keep you healthy

Pew weeks ago, the University
of the Virgin Islands Cooperative
Extension Service has started warn-
ing the public not to use medicinal
plants. But medicinal plants are part
of the Virgin Islands culture from
the first inhabitants of these islands.
When these islands were under
the administration of the Navy,
nurses.from the mainland discour-
aged natives from using medicinal
plants for healing illness. Instead,
they encouraged the use of prescrip-
tion drugs for illness. Yet, it was the
herbs that kept the African commu.
cities in theso islands during and
after slavery strong anddisease-free.
In the 1970s. Arona Petersen's
book, "Herbs and Proverbs of the
Virgin Islands," increased public
interest in the uses of medicinal
plants. Today, alternative medicine
is big business. Last year. Ameri-
cans brought $1.5 billion worth of
herbal products.
Medicinal remedies awm included
in some of the world's oldest books
and scrawled on ancient buildings.
Civilization of many races includ-
ing Africans, Indians, Japanese. and
Chinese discovered through trial
and error the medicinal uses of
plants growing in their environ-
ment. Many of these plants have
stood the test of time while others
have failed.
Although plants have been used
in medicines for thousands of years,
many are poisonous. But today,
many scientific studies of herbs
have resulted from the increased
use and beneficial effects herbs
have on health.
About two-thirds of the world's
medicine come from plants in the
forests of tropical countries. Peri-
winkle (vinc. roseal) is native to
Madagascar and a very delightful

W` 0 mmat

medicinal plant to grow in your gar-
den. It requires very little care
except an occasional watering, yet
this plant is very important in the
treatment of Hodgkin's disease and
childhood leukemia.
From the pretty periwinkle vin-
blastine is obtained for treating
Hodgkin's disease, which attacks
the spleen, liver and lymph glands
and vincrestine for leukemia, a dis-
ease of the blood.
The problem locally about
medicinal plants are the name of
plants. For example, a plant that
grows here can be known by one
common name and the same plant
grown on another island is called
something else.
Common names of plants are
traditional plant samen used by peo-
ple wherever they live In the world.
Common names usually describes
something about the plant and
reflect the cultural ecology history
St. John won (Hypericum perfoe-
ratum) that grows in temperature
climates might be different to local
growing St John wort even though
they mighr have the same common
name. Many people believes when
they buy St. John from a local
health food store that it is the same
plant that grows in their back yard.
Plants should not be identified
by their common names only, but
by the scientific or botanical names
which is governed by Intemational

code for botanical nomenclature
aitd accepted by the world scientific
community. Many people are seek-
ing natural ways to treat them-
aelves. But a person must know the
plant uses and species names before
using the plant for medicinal pur-
Natural may not always be better
unless scientific data proving of the
plant use. Traditional use of medici-
nal plants are important to modern
medicine. But it must be used cor-
rectly with knowledge to avoid
problems. Penonyroal is a beth many
health food stores in the country
carry. But doctors and herbalists are
concerned about the increased inter-
est in the potentially toxic Penny-
Pennyroal oil has a long folk
history as an abortaclent," said Dr.
Lise Alschuler at Bastyr University.
In most cases, It fails to induce
abortion. Alschuleor said, "what
women are doing in these cases is
creating high toxicity that their own
body is unable to sustain the preg-
nancy. If Pennyroal oil is to work
on an abortifacient, it is going to
work because it poisons the moth-
Also, when using herbs, never
use hertbs when you amre on medica-
tion. Don't take herbs if you are
pregnant, trying to become preg-
nant. or nasing.
To be on the safe side, ask some
one who has professional of identi-
fying plants and the uses of plants.
For plant identification contact UVI
Cooperative Extension service on
St. Thomas at 693-1080 and St.
Croix 778-9491.
Olasee Davis, who has a master
ofscience degree in range manage-
mentr and forestry cology, is a St
Crow ecologis activist and writer.

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