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Ivelyn Harris plants 'Healing Herbs of Jamaica' in new book

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

During her childhood in Cornwall Barracks, Portland, healing herbs were a natural way of community life for Ivelyn Harris.

"Any children around the yard, they used to send us to pick this and that. We grow up knowing what plants good for eczema and other ailments," she said.

Now she has committed a lifetime - so far - of knowledge to text with the recent launch of her book Healing Herbs of Jamaica, the introduction written by Dr Al Sears, MD.

It is not the first time Harris has transferred her knowledge of leaves' healing properties to the leaves of a book, as she had input in a multi-author book titled Common Medicinal Plants of Portland, some of that content woven into her wider-ranging, new book.

On the cover, the potential reader is encouraged to "soothe headaches, fever, muscle pain, joint strain and tension", as well as "improve eyesight, sexual stamina, blood pressure and bone strength", among other health-related matters. And Harris has personal experience of what she is advising, her turning point coming when she was in the hospital awaiting the surgeon's blade.


"I left and came to Kingston when I was young," Harris said. At 18 years old she had appendicitis. "I was having terrible pain. They take me to University Hospital and put me on IV drip. They were going to operate on me the next day," she said. But Harris had a dream where her grandmother was telling her to use a certain herb, commonly known as 'Mary Goules'.

She promptly left the hospital under her own power and located a Mr Bolt who had a farm in Red Hills. He got her the herb and Harris took it. "That thing leave me from this day. And I never been sick since," Harris said.

Neither has she lived in Kingston. Harris returned to her roots, in terms of living in Cornwall Barracks as well as the herbs she knew of as a child. She has dug deeper into the healing herbs as well, as she says "I find out from the elders, but you don't have many elders left. I am just documenting as many plants as I can before they kill them out with Gramoxone," she said.

Harris is also preserving as many of the herbs as she can and said she has all the herbs she writes about in Healing Herbs of Jamaica, in her garden. "Most of them grow wild, but they try to kill them out as most people using the herbicide. I know I had to have certain herbs around my property, (I) make sure I have them in there before they die out. I am like a custodian for the plants. That is my aim, to preserve the plants for future generations," Harris said.

While Healing Herbs of Jamaica points to specific herbs for particular ailments, Harris is quick to note "it is not replacing doctor's advice".

Neither is it an overnight process.

"People want a quick fix, but it depends on the disease," Harris said, pointing out that there are relatively common ailments now that she never knew about when she was growing up.