C-238 Medicinal Plants

Today we are walking through a rainforest
in Jamaica. Half of our group decided to come do the trip up the mountain, and the other
half decided to go to a Maroon community. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hiking.
Something you’re not used to when you’re just stepping off of a boat. But it was really
nice to stretch our legs again, and just kind of explore in the rainforest. This is the plant which is called Soursop.
When it is ripe, it becomes soft. When take the skin off, there is a white texture inside.
A very good fruit for the nerve. If you have a good glass of orange juice and soursop juice,
and tired, then it’s gonna put you to sleep. Rufus was our tour guide. He is a descendent
of the Maroon community, that when they ran away from their slave owners they couldn’t
use any of the traditional doctors otherwise they would have to go back and be punished,
so they ended up trying to find traditional remedies so the Maroon community is very closely
tied to the medicines of the island. And Rufus himself was very forthcoming with all of his
knowledge and all of his information of the plants we were going over. -Everybody’s plant, it’s all about practice.
It’s all about—you got to be there with it. You got to grow with it—it’s got to
be a part of you. He was talking about exactly how you make
chocolate from the cacao tree. -Inside here, this is the cocoa beans. He seemed to grab plants out of nowhere and
say “Ah—well this one will cure stomachaches; this one can close wounds!” I wrote my change paper on a topic called
“Authority versus Experience,” in terms of medicines and how medicines have been used
throughout the years on the different islands in the Caribbean. And I focused on how traditional
remedies used by the natives have been influenced by the use of modern medicines in drugstores.
We ended up doing an addendum. At the end of this trip, after we have researched our
topics and visited communities on the port stop destinations, the information we gather
by actually being immersed in the culture, we use to change our opinions of what we’ve
been writing about since we first started writing just from documents. It was one thing to read the document on a
computer screen. It was another thing to see those exact same words in an original copy
of the Sloan book. But now to see the actual plants that he has perfect beautiful illustrations
of—it’s a different experience entirely. It’s one I never thought I’d be having.
It’s fascinating! It’s absolutely amazing just to be here, and be able to be in an area
where you can find all of these remedies around you. They’re everywhere—we’ve seen them
in the back of peoples’ gardens. We’ve sampled them from the back of peoples’ gardens.
It’s fascinating. It’s amazing to be able to see the plants that Sloan was recording
so many years ago, just sort of being part of the society still today. I feel like people, certainly in the rural
communities in this valley, do use the plants around them. I don’t know if the whole island
does, but I ran into a couple people at the market yesterday too, who were talking about
how they still go into the forest and pick the certain plant that helps cure a certain
ailment and they’ll make a paste, or they’ll boil it and they’ll make a remedy for themselves.
But then I ran into some other people who solely trust the pharmacy. So, there’s a
mixture. There’s certainly a mixture in this area.

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