Bush tea and good nutrition. Is it an acceptable combination?
How many leaves? Should I boil some of the root? How much should I grate and put in the cup of water?
These are popular questions being asked out of desperation in the effort to ease the symptoms of chik-V.
Our African heritage has become more obvious amongst our people in the past months with the wave of the chikungunya virus that has found its way in the homes of the Jamaican people. Most persons have become aware of the remedies for itching, fever, pain, and all the other symptoms ... the practice of 'bush medicine' is now widespread.
There is an increased use of weeds, leaves, roots, fruits, and seeds to supposedly cure or heal chikungunya. But what effects do these have on our bodies when we choose not to consume healthy meals at this time.
Persons experiencing chikungunya are not necessarily interested in eating nutritious foods unless there is claim of it doing something spectacular such as easing the pain or itching. I wish I knew of a magic food, nutrient or recipe that could stop all the suffering.
Interaction of herbs with food
Research has proven that plants and herbs contain substances that may prevent diseases and relieve symptoms. There is no discrediting the usefulness of bush medicine, because growing up in the country or being exposed to 'country people', we were healed by the great bush tea. The concern of the traditional medical team is the interaction of these herbs and plants with foods and prescribed medications for various disease conditions.
The general recommendations regarding the use of bush medicine are:
Tell your health-care provider about the additional treatment ... . Don't hide it, tell it!
Be aware of possible interactions between the prescribed medications and the bush tea or drink consumed.
Be aware of the effects of the tea or drinks and foods eaten, especially if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease.
Be able to identify the bush, leaves, roots or seeds that you are using. There are stories of people selling pear seeds for bissy. Know what you are buying. Ask questions!
Be aware of the number of leaves or the quantity to be used, the recommended dose and how often it is to be used per day.
Be aware of how long the tea should be boiled or brewed and appropriate sweetening agent.
Eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, peas, beans, nuts, sardines, mackerel, milk, cheese, chicken, yam, potato, rice, and dumpling for energy and to build the immune system.
Eat small amounts of food four to six times every day.
The teas and special drinks do not have the nutrients needed by the body for strength, and to build up the body to prevent any relapse or illness coming back. Hence, the importance of making healthy food choices.
Drink more porridge (any type), soup (add more peas), shakes/smoothies (add cow's, soy or almond milk), fresh fruit juices, including coconut water, to prevent dehydration from fever.
Bush remedies can be effective, but like all items taken into the body, there is a limit - know this limit. More does not necessarily mean better. Moderation is key, and knowledge is power.
Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Centre, Montego Bay, and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.