Biographical Note

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Biographical Note

After raising her family and getting a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, Verna came to St Lucia in 1982 as a Peace Corps volunteer. She helped set up the herbarium in the forestry department and went on innumerable collection field trips. She also interviewed many local herbalists and this resulted in this document detailing traditional herbal uses. She thanks Laurent Jean-Pierre and the forestry department for their help and support.

In 1987 she returned to Oregon and worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the Silviculture Department, identifying plant communities and surveying for rare and endangered plants. She “retired” in 1999 and now has Depot Gardens. It’s a gift shop and public gardens of flowers, herbs and vegetables.

Many thanks to Armanda Augustin who volunteered to type this difficult document. Somehow she managed to do it quickly and accurately in March 2001.

Roger Graveson

Dec. 19, 1986

First Revision Feb. 27, 1987

Second Revision April 14, 1987

Corrections Nov. 13, 1987

Edited Uses of Plants in St Lucia

Abrus precatorius


gwen legliz; graines l’eglise; jumbie bead; crab eyes; lickrish

The leaves of crab eyes are used with other bush to make a syrup for chronic asthma. The seeds are sometimes used in crafts, but this is discouraged because of the toxicity. The seeds are also put in lamps to make the oil last longer. One herbalist uses of leaves or the seeds to stop hemorrhage in women. For this remedy the seeds are parched with a dry ochra pod (Abelmoschus esculentus) then boiled with three leaves of lozey (sorrel) (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and some chouvalyé wonzé leaves (Portulaca pilosa), strained, and given to the person to drink. Drink a tea of the flowers to become a duppy man or women. The seeds of this plant contain the phytotoxin abrin, a protein molecule of high toxicity when chewed. It is destroyed by heat.

Acacia farnesiana


zakasya; acacia

The seed pod is this small tree, which grows profusely in the dry parts of St. Lucia, has been used as a source of tannin by leather workers. Fishermen sometimes take the bark; five or six long pieces, and build it into their fishpots for good luck.

Achyranthes aspera var aspera



For fever man-better-man root is boiled with chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum) and gwen anbayfey blan (Phyllanthus amarus) and one cup drink three times daily ``very hot’’ after meals. Also it is used alone for bellyache or diarrhea either as a tea or a decoction from the root.

Ageratum conyzoides


zeb a mouton; zeb a fanm; latifi; labonn fanm

Labonn fanm is widely used in a leaf infusion for high inflammation, ``urine burns,’’ blood in the urine, and as a diuretic. Less often it is used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, and as a cooling. Containing hydrocyanic acid, coumarin, and an alkaloid, labonn fanm is toxic to animals.

Alium sativum


lay; laye (F); garlic

If you bathe with garlic essence or sprinkle your house with it, it is said to prevent or break an obeah spell. Or spray your place of business to prevent someone from ``tiening’’ it. For itch all over your body, a rub is made with nine drops of olive oil, nine drops of turpentine and coupida oil then white wine drunk into which has been added nine drops of blood from a rooster’s comb, nine garlic clovers and a teaspoon of reindeer horn powder. For gas a decoction is made of leaves of patjouli (Pogostemon cablin) the yellow one is better; vane van (Ocimum gratisimum), a branch six to eight inches; and the skin of the garlic. For hoarseness, rub the soles of the feet before the fire with garlic and lard well beaten together. For foule crushed garlic is added to crushed pata gonn (Boerhavia species) and tied on the heel. The raw juice of garlic, if applied directly to the skin, can cause blistering.

Allium schoenoprasum


ti lonyon; chives

For tonsillitis the bulb end of the chives is crushed and rested on the handle of a spoon and the handle rested on the tonsil. Then a twist of hair on top the head is twisted tight and tied with a string.

Aloe Vera


lalwé; aloes

Extensive use of aloes for a variety of maladies is common. Taken internally, the slime, or center part of the leaf, is usually beaten up with the white of an egg and a little honey or molasses and swallowed for cancer, stomach pain, bles, inflammation, or mixed with olive oil for a general cooling and cleaning. For burns and other skin problems, it is applied topically. For earache and eye troubles, mix with a little sterile water. For hemorrhoids a two-inch peeled section of the stem is inserted in the rectum and left all day. The bitter part is smeared on a mother’s breast to wean a child or on the child’s thumb to stop thumb sucking. It is also used as a shampoo and hair treatment. Plant aloes by your house to keep evil away and under citrus trees to keep off black mould.

Ambrosia hispida


lapsent; wormwood; gap fwize

For fe mal the following plants are placed in a bottle and covered with rum; laspsent; kachou (Mikania micrantha); chinna (Exostema sanctae-luciae); twef (Aristolochia trilobata); tiel (Tilleul carpentras), purchased; konmonmi (Matricaria chamomilla), also purchased; and patjouli (Pogostemon cablin). Wormwood is also put in rum to soak and taken by the teaspoon for hernia and bellyache.

Anacardium occidentale


nwa; cashew

The nut is roasted until burned then pulverized to use with a combination of other ingredients in dry gin to treat hernia in men. The nut is roasted and eaten traditionally in connection with some ceremonies. The fleshy part of the fruit is eaten and enjoyed fresh, especially by children. The bark and seeds of this tree are toxic, possibly because of the alkaloid andirine of the resin urushiol and can cause severe dermatitis in some people. Care should be taken when the nuts are roasted.

Andira sapinodoides


Syn. A. inermis

Angelin; anndjelinn

This forest tree, which is more prevalent in the north of the island, has become rare, it is never found in stands anymore. Used for saw timber, only a tree every three or four months is now harvested.

Anethum graveolens


lanni; dill

Dill is grown in herb gardens for use on cocoa tea and in other teas, cereals, food preparations and drinks which includes one made especially at Christmas. The name ``lanni’’ is more correctly applied to anise (Pimpinella anisum). These herbs look alike and are often used interchangeably.

Ananas comosus



Pineapple is combined with gayak (Guaiacum officinale) as an abortifacient. It contains a proteolytic enzyme, which can cause irritant dermatitis.

Annona muricata


Soursop; kosol

The leaves of soursop, a popular fruit for eating and juicing in St. Lucia, are made into a tea and taken at bedtime as a mild sedative. The veins (called bones) are removed before drawing. For a sore foot take two dry leaves. Make a cross, and tie on the spot. As a diaphoretic or for cooling, draw young leaves, with veins removed, for a tea. A few leaves and a branch of balyé dou (Scoparia dulcis) are pounded together, the juice is squeezed, added to a spoon of olive oil, and taken for asthma. A tea made from nine leaves of soursop and nine leaves of avocado (Persea americana) is recommended for high blood pressure. A small, immature soursop, along with pounded leaves of kod-a-vyelon (Desmodium incanum), pistach mawon (Desmodium barbatum), mayok chapel (Entada polystachya), lyenn chasen (Pinzona coriacea?) and ti patat (Ruellia tuberosa) is put in water and drunk as a tisane for gonorrhea. When menstruation continues longer than normal, take nine leaves of soursop and draw for a tea. The second day use eight leaves and continue down to zero. Also for cooling, peel and chop and immature fruit, soak in water and drink the liquid. For fever boil with lime (the fruit poked full of holes) and three leaves of medsinnyé benni (Jatropha curcas) each cut in three pieces.

Annona squamosa


Sugar apple; ponm kannel; kachiman blan

Use three brown leaves of sugar apple in a tea for high blood pressure. Also for high blood pressure, three leaves boiled with a piece of breadfruit leaf (yellow) (Artocarpus altilis) and three leaves of gorela (Momordica charantia) and drink as a tisane. For indigestion boil three leaves with three yellow leaves of bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) and a piece of jejanm root (Zingiber officinale). Or, for the same purpose, boil it with zeb a ve (Chenopodium ambrosioides), a little piece of avocado (Persea americana), guava leaves (Pisidium guajava) and ponm kannel leaves.

Anredera leptostachys


djewi tout; guerit-tout (F)

For abcess, or ``when a blow you get and the blood dies and turns to pus,’’ use Barbados oil and djewi tout.

Aristolochia constricta

Aristolochia trilobata


twef; tref; trefle caraibe (F)

Leaves of the Aristolochia species or the caterpillar of Battus polydamas that feeds on them are soaked in rum and taken as a protection against evil, to break charms, and for bellyache. For epwidan make a tea of leaves together with those of go ponpon (Leonotis nepetaefolia), chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum), lime (Citrus aurantifolia), and gwen anbafey blan (Phyllanthus amarus).

Artocarpus altilis


bwapen; breadfruit

For diabetes the yellow leaf is boiled, cold water added and the liquid drunk. Boil a little piece of the bwapen leaf, three korela leaves (Momordica charantia), and three leaves of ponm kannel (Annona squamosa), add water and drink as a tisane for a high blood pressure. A plaster is made of the sap of breadfruit for internal injuries. This tree is utilized for saw timber if there is a straight piece and also for charcoal.

Asclepias curassavica


koton kadwin

Put the milk of koton kadwiv into an aching tooth. It stops the ache but may break the tooth and the dentist doesn’t like that.

Azadiracta indica


Neem tree

This sacred tree from India, where it is used for many purposes, was probably brought to St. Lucia by indentured servants. Very few if any still exist on the island. The leaves made into a tea are used to treat many ailments including stomach disorders, diabetes, heart and blood circulation problems, and nervous system problems, and to promote general good health. (Update RG 2001 – neem is now quite widely planted as an ornamental)

Bacopa monnieri


kwinin pavé

Take five of six branches, draw, cool and drink for high inflammation. For fever, a handful is boiled with salt in three cups of water. It is drunk three times a day and reportedly improves the appetite and cleans the tongue.

Bambusa vulgaris


Bamboo; banbou

For indigestion, three yellow leaves of the bamboo are boiled with the root of jejanm, (Zingiber officinale). Bamboo shoots are eaten as a vegetable. The wood is used in crafts, for musical instruments, fences and buildings. It is reported that, as a fatal poison, the bamboo prickles are put into a drink, usually beer, of the person to be destroyed. This may explain why, at a bar in St. Lucia, a beer is always opened in front of the customer. Antidote for this poisoning is the gwenn djiné (Cyperus rotundus). It is also believed that possessing the seed of the bamboo gives you power to become a duppy person. A tea for gas is made of three leaves of bamboo, three of koton (Gossypium barbadense), and a stem of mint (Mentha nemorosa).

Bidens pilosa


zeb a zedjwi; needlegrass; zherb zed pruit (F)

zeb a zedjwi reportedly helps women with sore breasts or lumps on the breast. To make a poultice for this problem mix the plant with lard, take a cabbage leaf, pass it over fire, put the mixture on it and wrap the breast. For children with bles, pound the plant, put in a little water, squeeze it, and a little coconut oil (Coco nucifera) and salt to this water and give to the child first thing in the morning, about a teaspoonful. An infusion of needlegrass is drunk for diabetes or, for cooling, five leaves of needlegrass and five lemon buds are drawn separately in four ounces of water. Drink 40 ounces a day.

For fevers, boil the leaves and sweeten.
Bixa orellana


woukou; roucouyer (F); annatto; achiote; roucou

Woukou as a food additive is used only as a coloring, but also to add vitamins A and D to the diet. The seed is washed and the water poured over meat and fish. It is thought to help to dissolve blood clots of inside injuries after a blow. For this, squeeze the seeds and boil for a tea. For diabetes three leaves are boiled daily for a cup of tea.

Blechum pyramidatum


zo new; fonn san

fonn san is used in a tea to give to someone who has had a stroke. Also in the tea is planten (Plantago major), miskad (Myristica fragrans), cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), and half a sour orange (Citrus aurantium). A pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt are added to the warm tea. This tea is called sangwi.

Boerhavia coccinea, Boerhavia diffusa?


pata gonn

For fouli, ``when a stone hurt you on the heal,’’ pata gonm pounded with crushed garlic and tied on the heel.

Bryophyllum pinnatum


kawakté lezom; wonder-of-the-world; leaf –of-life

For athlete’s foot or ground itch, pass the leaves over fire and put them on or between the toes. Or for a child with bles, boil in water and give to drink a little everyday.

Bursera simaruba


gonmyé modi; gommier maudit (F); birch

A syrup is made of acajou blan (Guarea sp.) tjitjima (Curcuma domestica) and bark of gonmyé modi. The tjitjima is grated and pounded, water added and all the liquid squeezed out. This water is strained and put to boil with a quart of honey, two pieces of bark of gonmyé and acajou. It is boiled down to a syrup and used for ``anything wrong inside.’’ A similar medication, a tea, without the acajou but using four leaves of chapantyé (Justicia pectoralis), is also recommended for bles. Another herbalist adds even more herbs in a tea for bles. Also for bles, especially in children, a piece of bark is combined with three leaves of black sage (Cordia martinicensis); three leaves of kalbas (Crescentia cujeta); a little turmeric (Curcuma longa); a branch of fonbwazen (Ocimum micranthum) and three to five leaves of zeb a goudon. A little sugar is added plus salt and rum for adults and ½ cup drunk three times a day.

Byrsonima spicata


bwa tan (si); bois tan

The bark of this tree is used in the process of tanning leather. The berries are eaten by children who have given it the name “sweetie gwan bwa”. A similar species, bwa tan rouj, (B. martinicensis) can be used for dye and the wood is sometimes used in St. Lucia for boards and posts.

Caesalpinia bonduc


kannik; gwenzyé bouwik konic

kannik is used for gas and also to bring mother’s milk. The whole seed is usually roasted until burned then pulverized and used by the teaspoon in rum for gas or in dry gin with other ingredients for men with hernia. It is also used to treat impotency in men.

Caesalpinia pulcherrima


fle makata; pride-of-Barbados

fle makata flowers are reportedly used for abortion. One herbalist says it’s good when ``blood goes up in somebody’s head and make them kind of crazy.’’ A drink is made of the fle makatata, bonmidjez and lard and the head is wrapped with ponm pwezon (Solanum capsicoides).

Cajanus cajan


pwa angol; pois d’ angole (F); pigeon pea

If you have been in a draught, ``don’t feel yourself right,’’ use white pigeon peas with chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum), boil, put in salt and drink. To use pigeon peas as a laxative, take a handful of leaves, pound and extract the juice and add it to three oils: Barbados oil, castor oil, and cooking oil. Swizzle well and drink. To treat white blood cell disease, parch the peas and pulverize them. Use a tablespoon in two quarts of water as tisane. For bles, pound the leaves, squeeze out the liquid, add a little water, salt, and any oil to it and drink warm. Also used for bellyache.

Calophyllum calaba



Water-loving, this tree is recommended for watershed protection. The shallow root system root system does not take the deep ground water and the tree had a low transpiration rate. It is often used for windbreaks, less often for saw timber.

Cannabis sativa


Marijuana; ganja; kalli

Marijuana leaf is an ingredient in a syrup used for asthma or cough. Also boiled and used as a poultice on bruises and to wash your hair if you have dandruff. For tuberculosis take leaves of marijuana and tomato, chop, add a little oil and eat as a salad.

Canna indica


toloman; malobi

The root of malobi is grated, strained through a cloth, and put to dry. The meal is made into a porridge for babies five or six months of age or older. The seeds of malobi are used for crafts and in the musical instrument, chak chak.

Capraria biflora


dité peyi; du the pays (F)

A tea of dité peyi is used for fever, alone or sometimes in combination with chapantyé (Justicia pectoralis) or go ponpon (Leonotis nepetaefolia). Also a tea of this plant is believed to help people adapt to a severe change of climate. A tea made of a small branch is drunk three times a day for gas.

Capsicum frutescens


piman gwiv; bird pepper

Leaves of piman gwiv are warmed over the fire or boiled and placed on a wound to keep away insects and extract pus. The pepper is also used in combination with zeb a pik (Neurolaena lobata) for fever, including malaria. Eight leaves of the zeb a pik are soaked in vermouth for 21 days. The pepper, cut in half into a cup of hot water, is for sweating (``Go under a blanket to sweat’’) followed by the vermouth preparation, a wineglass full twice a day. For carbuncles, the pepper leaves are washed and covered with a paste made of lard and ripe pawpaw (Carica papaya) or soft candle then placed over the carbuncle. For sore throat gargle with coconut water and crushed bird pepper. Soak an ounce of pepper in rubbing alcohol and mix with coconut oil for rheumatism or arthritis and when you have flu cut a little and boil with a piece of lime, sweeten with honey and drink. It is also used for wounds. Peppers give off a noxious gas when burned causing sneezing and choking. Chroniclers tell of it being used in warfare and hunting but current uses of burning is apparently confined to ridding an area of evil spirits.

Cardiospermum microcarpum


bonné kawé; bonnet carre (F); lyenn pok pok

bonné kawé is most often used for a tea after childbirth to contract the uterus and expel blood. One herbalist recommends it as a nine-day tisane with sour orange (Citrus aurantium), miniroot (Ruellia tuberosa) and hog plum bark (Spondias mombin). For skinny people or when ``your bone dry, shabby,’’ drink as a tea.

Carica papaya


Paw paw; papaya; papay

Green paw paw is used for high blood pressure. Cut the paw paw into pieces and use two or three pieces to make a tea twice a day. Too much can make your pressure go too low. The ripe fruit is also eaten for the heart. Paw paw is beaten to a paste with lard, smeared on a clean pepper leaf (Capsicum frutescens) and placed on a carbuncle to draw it out. The seeds are eaten as an anthelminthic. As a cooling, grate and pour boiling water over it and drink twice a day. The root is boiled and used to treat gonorrhea. To treat foule, a green paw paw is boiled, a poultice made with lard and applied warm. The latex of pap paw, used in meat tenderized, can cause irritant dermatitis.

Cassia alata


kasialata; Christmas candle

kasialata is most commonly used in a tisane for cooling or as a laxative. As a bath for itching, crush kasialata and kaka betje leaves (Senna bicapsularis) in water and bathe with the liquid. One herbalist uses kasialata, three to five leaves, with china (Exostema sanctae-luciae), an inch of the bark, when ``the blood is dirty, have boils on the skin, have pus.’’ kasialata leaves are boiled and the water used to wash the face or if something ``comes up on the skin’’ A bath made of these leaves makes the skin ``come shiny.’’

Cassia fistula


kas; casse; golden shower tree

kas is used as a purgative, about half of a pod crushed and steeped in boiling water. For cooling use only the leaves. For itch in children, the seeds are boiled in milk. This is said to be an African medicine.

Casuarina equisetifolia


Casuarina; whistling pine; jiwof fley; fi laho

Needles of this tree are used in a bath for old people. Wash them and put them in the bath at dawn. By noon the water has changed color. Bathe the person. Also, a pillow of the needles makes you sleep soundly. Casuarina is often planted as a windbreak and an ornamental tree.

Catharanthus roseus


kaka poul; periwinkle; caca poule

Only the one with a white flower is used. For diabetes the whole plant is used, flower, leaves, and root, in a tea. Or an ounce of the root is taken in six ounces of whiskey. Phytochemical studies prompted by the use of this plant for diabetes led to the discovery of the drug’s leurocristine and vincaleukoblastine, both effective against the cance, leukemia.

Cecropia peltata


bwa kannou; bois canot (F)

Boil together the heart of bwa kannou and three branches each of chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum) and gwen anbafey blan (Phyllanthus amarus) and drink for epwidan. Boil the leaves, strain with a fine cloth to remove hairs, and drink for flu. bwa kannou is also used for animals to dispel the placenta after giving birth. Rafts and musical instruments are made from this bwa kannou. Caution: bwa kannou may harbor stinging ants.

Cedrela odorata


acajou; red cedar

Unfortunately, this important species of forest tree, which grows well in dryer areas, is in danger of disappearing from St. Lucia. Very few of these trees remain in the natural forest. It is highly prized as saw timber for making furniture, beds, and cabinets and for internal finishing and decorating.

Ceiba pentandra


fonmajé; silk-cotton tree; fromager (F)

The fonmjé is closely associated with spirits. ``The Devil like that tree.’’ The prickles are placed over doors and windows as a protection against black magic. The seed, which is gathered when the wind blows the cotton about, is considered powerful and a tea is made of it with the seed of fey do blan (Chaptalia nutans) and drunk to invoke the Devil. The leaves are cooked and eaten and a tea made for children ``when their teeth starts to come out’’ to prevent disease. As a forest tree, it is found in the drier areas of the island. The cotton is utilized as filling for pillows and similar items.

Chamaesyce hirta


Syn. Euphorbia hirta

zeb malonmen; herbe mal-nommee (F); malomae; milkweeds

For measles, take a branch of the ``male,’’ (``which is brownish, not whitish like the ``female’’) and wash it. Take nine grains of corn, two inches of pumpkins and 12 grains of barley, boil them and use the water to draw the zeb malonmen. Take for no longer than nine days. A similar tisane for measles used rice instead of barley. The milky juice of this plant is used to remove warts.

Chaptalia nutans


fey do blan; feuille dos blane (F)

It’s claimed that if you tell fey do blan you love it, it will grow by your house. This way you have dependable supply. The leaves are boiled and drunk for gas. A tea of the seeds of fonmajé (Ceiba pentantra) and leaves of fey do blan will allow you to invoke the Devil. If you need to vomit because your stomach hurts and you think someone might have put something in you drink, a tea of fey do blan may help. mawi pouwi (Petiveria alliacea) and chapantye (Justicia pectoralis) may be added. For diarrhea a tea of mawi powi, chapantye, fey do blan, djapanna (Eupatorium triplinerve) and guava (Psidium guajava) is recommended.

Chenopodium ambrosiodies


zeb a ve; semen contra (F); simen kontwa; wormgrass

A tea of zeb a ve is the most common vermifuge in St. Lucia. Oil is sometimes added. The leaves made into a poultice with other herbs are used to treat wounds and sores. For combining it with other herbs in a syrup for asthma and cough. It is thought to benefit the pancreas, and aid digestion and clean the womb after childbirth.

Chimarrhis cymosa


bwa wivyé; bois riviere

A large soft-wood, wet area tree, bwa wivyé is common along riparian zones where it is important for protection of streamside areas. It is seldom used for timber, though sometimes for posts.

Chrysobalanus icaco


ponm zikak; pomme icaque (F); fat pork

The root of ponm zikak is boiled to treat diarrhea. The fruit of this common shrub is eaten by children and adults as they walk the paths of St. Lucia’s drier areas, especially by the sea.


Syn. Phoebe elongata

lowyeé kannel; laurier cannelle (F)

Unfortunately, because of the popularity of this tree due to its lasting qualities, it has nearly disappeared from the St. Lucian forests. If, while walking a forest path, you notice old stumps, they are most likely lowyé kannel which takes years to disintegrate.

Cinnamomum verum


kannel; spice, cannelle (F); cinnamon

The most common use of the kannel other than making a refreshing tea an as a flavoring is to combine it with other bush in various remedies. Asthma, clods menstrual problems, convulsions, rheumatism and stroke are among the maladies these tonics are used for.

Cissus verticillata


lyenn godmo

lynn godmo provides a useful material for the basket, makers of St. Lucia. Because it is soft and limber it is used for the first few rounds in the bottoms of baskets. Medicinally the leaves serve as a poultice with soft candle or pawpaw (Carica papaya) and a lard for carbuncles. It is said to be poisonous to rabbits.

Citharexylum fruticosum

Citharexylum spinosum


bwa koklet; bois cocklet; bwa leza

bwa koklet treats asthma. Five or six leaves are pounded and the juice extracted and mixed with a spoon of Barbados oil. On one occasion, a woman who was carrying a dead fetus reported that a person appeared in a dream and showed her the bwa koklet. She said she boiled the leaves and after the second dose delivered the fetus. For a bad chest cold with phlegm, juvenile leaves are pounded in a little water to extract the juice and a teaspoon each of olive oil and castor oil or coconut oil added, swizzled well, and given to drink. For rheumatism, remove the thick bark of the tree, dry it, and put it in a pint of wine. Drink a small wine glass full every morning. This is to purify the blood.

Citrus aurantifolia


siton; lime; citrus

siton is used for fevers, colds and pneumonia in conjunction with other herbs, usually as a decoction. go ponpon (Leonotis nepetaefolia), chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum), gwen anbafey blan (Phyllanthus amarus) and china (Exostema sanctae-luciae) are most commonly used. For burns the juice is mixed with sea water as a wash and, for warts, with salt as a rub. leaves are passed in the fire and put between the toes to treat athlete’s foot.

Citrus aurantium


jowanj si; Sour orange; citrus

For post-delivery and other female health care, sour orange is often used, combined with other herbs, especially bonné kawé (Cardiospermum microcarpum), as a tisane or tea. The juice, added to the water used to boil a shoot of pistach mawon (Desmodium barbatum), with a little salt is said to bring in the mother’s milk. It is also used for colds with china (Exostema sanctae-luciae). An inch of china bark is boiled in little water; the juice of ½ sour orange and a spoon of whale oil is added. Also warm a sour orange in hot ashes, cut it and rub it on the feet for athlete’s foot. I children eat large quantities of the peel of sour orange it can cause violent colic and death.

Citrus sinensis


jowanj; orange; citrus

To stop vomiting, the white part of an orange skin, the pith, is boiled and given to the person to drink. For colds, the yellow rind is pared very thin, rolled inside out and thrust in each nostril.

Clusia alba

Clusia pluckenettii


awali; aralie

The roots of awalie are important for weaving baskets especially the larger market baskets, baby bassinets, and clothes hampers. Awalie is thought to keep away evil spirits. Nine leaves and a pack of sulphur are burned with nine pieces of charcoal to keep the spirits away for three months.

Cocos nucifera



koko; coconut

The coconut is probably the most exploited plant in St. Lucia with no part left unused. Leaves are plaited for crafts and used for thatching and, tightly bundled, lit as a torch. The trunk is sawed into lumber, burned as fuel, and made into crafts. The nut is eaten or the oil extracted for cooking and medicine. The nutritious and thirst quenching water of the green nuts is considered sterile enough to use as an eye wash. An unverified report states that in an emergency the matter was given intravenously to a child dying of dehydration by inserting the needle into the coconut eye. The water is considered effective against bladder infection and drunk for cooling. The shell and husk are burned to dry copra and the husks are also used for a mattress stuffing. To treat a toothache, the shell is lighted and covered to catch the condensation which is applied to the tooth. As a rub for bles the oil is mixed with soft candle, lard, grated miskad (Myristica fragrans) and la bom de jes (sp). If caught in a draught, a three-inche piece of the root of a young coconut is boiled with a fit weed (Eryngium foetidum), gwen anbafey blan (Phyllanthus amarus) and an inch of spice root (Cinnamomum verum) with a little salt. An inch of the root in rum treats impotency in men. For sore throat a gargle of coconut water and crushed bird pepper (Capsicum frutescens) is recommended. The shell is used in tanning leather.

Coccothrinax barbadensis


latannyé; latanier (F); thatch palm

A small palm growing in the drier areas, it is used extensively for making brooms. This tree is overexploited and good fronds are getting hard top find.

Coleus amboinicus


Syn. C. aromaticus

go diten; gross ditay; big leaf thyme

As a diuretic three leaves of go diten and a pye poul plant (Eleusine indica) are boiled together and drunk cold. Go diten is most commonly used for seasoning foods and, to relieve gas, steeped in a tea with various mint species or ti bonm blan (Croton bixoides)

Colubrina elliptica


mobi; mouby, mabi (F)

mobi, made from the bark of this species, is a popular drink in St. Lucia and around the Caribbean. It is also and ingredient of the mildly alcoholic drink, Porter, which is frequently used as a base of bush medicine. Mobi is used to treat high blood pressure. A similar species, C. arborescens, also grows in St. Lucia.

Commelina elegans

Commelina diffusa


zeb gwa; watergrass; cockroach grass

From zeb gwa a tisane is made to treat high blood pressure and bladder infection. A suppository of the stem lubricated with castor oil (Ricinus communis) is used infants move their bowels. The plant is fed to chickens and rabbits and the sticky juice was once used by school children for glue. zeb gwa is also used with the juice of a yellow lime (Citrus aurantifolia) (peel it first) as a wash for vaginal rashes.

Cordia martinicensis


maho nwe; mahaut noir (F); black sage

For diarrhea, three yellow leaves of maho nwe, three leaves of guava (Psidium guajava) and three leaves of blackberries (Myrcia citrifolia) are made into a tea and drunk with a little sugar. For bles a tea is made of three leaves of maho new, three leaves of the large kalbas (Crescentia cujete), three inches of turmeric (Curcuma longa) and a branch of fonbwazen (Ocimum micranthum.) Or use chapantye (Justicia pectoralis) instead of kalbas and sweet basil. As a shampoo and tonic for dandruff boil a handful of the leaves with a handful of nettle (Laportea aestuans) and add a little rosemary or green tea if desired.

Cordia obliqua


kaka poul; caca-poule; clam-cherry; gumtree

kaka poul is used by leather tanners as a source of tannin. The fruit is chewed by children and used as a glue. Other cordia species such as C. sulfate, known as sip , are utilized for posts and charcoal and C. sebestana is a popular ornamental.

Cornutia pyramidata


bwa kasav; bois cassave

For a poultice on sprains and strains or dislocated joints bwa kasav is boiled in salt water. When salted beef was shipped to St. Lucia, this brine was used because it ``cured better.’’ The fruit of bwa kasave is used for a blue dye.

Crescentia cujete


kalbas; calabash; calebassier (F)

The kalbas, St. Lucia’s national tree, has a long cultural history. Probably brought here by the very early island inhabitants, folklore attending this most useful plant remains as evidence of its importance as a holding vessel and utensil. It was believed that feeding a child from a kalbas bowl would help in learning to talk. Boys thought if they rubbed their penis on a young kalbas still on the tree, (or girls their breasts), as the fruit grew these parts would develop. To release a bad spell, bath with seven kalbas leaves then throw them over the shoulder and don’t look back. For blood clots, nine leaves of kopi le bwa (Polypodium phyllites) put in a new kalbas and water added. This liquid is drunk every day for nine days with one less leaf every day.

Crotalaria retusa


chak chak

The flowers are used in a infusion for chest colds in children in combination with chapantye (Justicia pectoralis), djapanna (Eupatorium triplinerve) and fle siwo flowers of elder (Sambucus simpsonii). The herbalist cautions that only the short chak chak that is covered with caterpillars is used. Some doctors claim the alkaloid monocrotaline found in this plant is seriously harmful to kidneys, especially in children.

Croton bixoides


ti bonm blan; ti bonm; go bonm

A suggested preventative for lota is to pick a handful of ti bonm leaves when you’re walking and sweating, wipe your skin, then throw the leaves other your shoulder without turning back (looking back) until you get home. The berries of ti bonm are used as acauterizer and an antibiotic and the wood is used for making chairs. For flatulence ti bonm is boiled with go diten (Coleun amboinicus) and lanmant fanm (Mentha nemerosa). Or when you’re ``feeling weak’’ three leaves are boiled and drunk with a little salt. Croton bixoides, C. Flavens, and other Crotons species grow profusely in St. Lucia covering the dry slopes. They are utilized for making charcoal. The leaves often turn red in dry season providing color for these otherwise drab areas.

Cucurbita pepo


jonmou; pumpkin, squash

jonmou, commonly called pumpkin, serves as a food staple in St. Lucia and doubles as a medicinal component in folk medicine for measles, jaundice, insomnia, colic, and treatment for amoebas. For jaundice a three-inch piece is boiled with nine grains of corn and 11 grains of barley and the water poured over a grated carrot. This water is mixed half and half with one bottle of Porter, and one-third drunk hot three times a day for nine days. For colic in babies a male flower is boiled with three inches if khus khus (Petiveria alliacia) and a branch of mint. Nine seeds of pumpkin boiled in water and poured over three leaves of lettuce (the kind with long leaves that sends milk) make a tea for insomnia. For parasites, a pound of seeds are pulverized, mixed with water and allowed to ferment in the hot sun for four or more hours until the fermentation odor is obvious and the mixture looks green. Two glasses are given at night on an empty stomach followed by a dose of castor oil the next morning. For measles a piece of pumpkin is boiled with three leaves of malomain (Chamaesyce hirta). And lawzé or gwen anbafey blan (Phyllanthus amaras), chadon benni (Eryngium foetidum) and six grains of rice.

Curcuma domestica


Syn. C. longa

tjitjima; turmeric; chichima

tjitjima, a common seasoning, is used medicinally for bles, as a poulice or with other herbs in a tea. As a poultice, it is pounded and applied or the juice squeezed and mixed with oil, salt, keg butter and bonmdidjez. As a tea the root is boiled 10 to 15 minutes and drunk with a little salt or a two-inch piece boiled with gonmyé modi (Bursera simaruba), (a two-inch piece with outer layer removed), and four leaves of chapantyé (Justicia pectoralis). Another tea made with three leaves of black sage (Cordia matinicensis), three leaves of the large calabash (Crescentia cujete), three inches tjitjima and a branch of sweet basil (Ocimum micranthum), is also for bles. For a cough, two inches of tjitjima is boiled with four inches of jiwof fle (Lantana camara) and four inches of charpantyé, a little sugar added. tjitjima root may also be used as dye for natural fibers used in crafts. ``If you put it in your food it gives it taste and cleans up the blood’’.

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