Having pretty much always been a “big city” girl, the idea of picking starfruit off a tree in my very own back yard could only happen in my dreams! But… that dream certainly comes to life whenever I visit Jamaica. I am always –each and every time– in awe by the amount of incredible vegetation that grows in the average household’s “yaad”. It’s like having your very own Whole Foods… but minus the price tag. Plantains, guava, limes, callaloo… the back yard is not only a source of delicious produce to eat, but a fountain of youth…a magical place where all sorts of incredible health concoctions can be found. The Jamaican back yard provides a source of inspiration for multiple usages. Some I had known about, but many I learned with each of my trips… Below are just a handful of examples… and remember, its nothing you’ll ever “learn” or experience at an all inclusive resort!
ALOE VERA – aloe vera is globally renown for its soothing skin benefits and it grows in abundance in Jamaica! If I come across some, I slice them up and use the gel (inside the leaves) right on my skin- pure, natural stuff! And obviously, if you end up with a sunburn, aloe vera is going to be your friend! One lady I met on Winnifred Beach (in Port Antonio) told me she mixes aloe vera with olive oil and uses it on her hair. For a more radical experience, you can consume aloe vera as a “wash out” (read: if you are constipated)… but I’m not too familiar with the details around that 🙂
Dried cerasee leaves that will later be used as an infusion
CERASEE – This herb, also known as Bitter Melon, is a staple in Jamaica, where it grows wild. The leaves can be dried and consumed as a herbal infusion. It is claimed that the health benefits by consuming cerasee ranges from preventing colds, flu, headaches, bellyaches, diabetes, hypertension, and digestive upsets.
Avocado or “Pear”
AVOCADO – Note that in Jamaica, avocado is called “pear”, and I’ve seen it grow in many back yards! A mashed-up avocado will do wonders to your hair. You can leave it in as a hair mask for 15 minutes or so, and then wash it out. It will leave your hair super-smooth!
PAPAYA “PAW PAW” – other then being a delicious fruit, papaya contains exceptional enzymes to aid digestion and intestinal cleansing.
MORINGA – Now this is one “super plant” with a multitude of health benefits. According to sources, moringa is used for “tired blood” (anemia); arthritis and other joint pain (rheumatism); asthma; cancer; constipation; diabetes; diarrhea; epilepsy; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections. Moringa is also used to reduce swelling, increase sex drive (as an aphrodisiac), prevent pregnancy, boost the immune system, and increase breast milk production. Some people use it as a nutritional supplement or tonic.
Citrus peels… good for the soil!
CITRUS PEELS – Do not throw out your juiced-out limes, lemons or oranges! Throughout my travels, I’ve seen people leave them on the soil (it’s good for the plants) or inside their sinks, to keep things smelling good.
Ginger in Rum for nasal congestion
GINGER – You might already know that ginger is great for digestion and reducing nausea, but what I didn’t know is that if you let it infuse in rum and take a whiff of the concoction, it helps clear nasal congestions! How cool is that?
SUSUMBA – This green bitter berry is supposed to be good for high blood pressure and the leaves are sometimes used as a home remedy for flu and colds. Also- I learned that you can use the leaves to rinse off glass cups (use them instead of a sponge). They leave glasses with a sparkling shine!
MINT – this refreshing herb has always been known to help improve digestion and with it’s cool taste, it helps combat bad breath too. Additionally, it helps relieve pain associated to menstrual cramps. But it does not stop there- mint also has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial for clearing skin imperfections: drinking mint juice acts as an excellent skin cleanser.
SOURSOP – I believe that this is going to be the super fruit of the future, and I hope Jamaicans realize how lucky they are to have this growing in abundance! It has been the subject of numerous studies at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as it appears that soursop contains a number of natural substances that have biological activity. Research has shown that soursop could have the potential to prevent or slow the growth of cancer. For example, in one study published in 1997 in “Journal of Medicinal Chemistry,” compounds from soursop were tested on breast cancer cells and found to be up to 250 times more effective in killing the cells than some chemotherapy drugs.
COCONUT – Last but not least, the iconic coconut… where do I even start with this one? It’s not just the coconut but also the tree itself. In some countries, it is called “the tree of life” and this doesn’t come as a surprise as today we are increasingly learning about the amazing health benefits and healing powers of the mighty coconut. Use it for your skin, teeth or as an energy booster, the bottom line is: make coconut a part of your life!
Have we forgotten something? Let us know- just leave a comment on the blog!
Please note that the above statements are based off research, word-of-mouth, etc. We are not medical experts at Real Jamaica but we sure love all the magic that can be found in a Jamaican back yard!
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