Paging Dr. Greenthumb

By Juan Jardinero

“Grow your own drugs.”
James Wong.

When you’re traveling, it´s common to get sick, sometimes because we’ve had too much to drink and the midnight street food seems irresistible or at other times a simple cold will strike and take you down. Obviously if you are feeling terribly ill it’s good to visit a doctor, but sometimes the best thing to do is page Dr. Greenthumb.

Dr. Greenthumb would recommend you check your garden. There you could find essential plants to not only strengthen your immune system but also to reboot your body when you’re feeling ill. While plants are rarely part of multi-billion dollar human clinical trials to prove them efficacious, they have been used since time immemorial to both nourish our bodies, and to prevent and treat disease. And they also come highly recommended by my grandmother.

So before running out to buy pills, here are some commonly used plants and remedies used in Guatemala to improve your health using plants that can be easily be grown in your garden, or bought in your local Mercado.

Pericon: A green perennial bush with yellow flowers. Two tablespoons of the small leaves for a cup of tea. This is an excellent remedy for digestive problems, especially stomach aches, diarrhea and vomit. It’s a very nice tasting tea but if you still want to sweeten it use honey.

Albahaca / Basil: We’ve all used and enjoyed basil in our food; here are its medicinal uses: When used as a tea it’s helpful for stomach problems but also colds and other related illnesses. Basil can also be helpful to treat headaches and flatulence. Prepare in a tea, not the best tasting tea so try adding some spearmint or mint to improve flavor.

Apazote: This is one of my favorites. It’s known to cure hangovers to healing cuts and burns. However it’s most common use is against stomach parasites and other stomach problems, also in the form of a tea, drinking a cup of apazote tea every morning before breakfast for at least three days. We’ve also seen it do wonders on big cuts, helping the wound heal. And maybe next time you stay out to late doing Q5 tequila shots, maybe you can ask your host mother for a good old caldo de huevo con apazote (egg soup with apazote), to get you back on your feet.

Hojas de Higo /Fig leaves: Most people ignore the benefits of using the leaves from a fig tree. This plant which can also be made into a tea and is a beneficial when treating things like: diabetes, high levels of triglycerides which can lead to heart problems, asthma and other respiratory problems. Fig leaves when chewed have been known to help heal canker sores.

Aloe Vera: Here’s another plant we regularly see. The gooey part of the plant can be applied to sunburns, cuts, mosquito bites, or dry skin. It’s also good for your hair and helps repel bugs.

So these are only a few of hundreds of plants available to heal yourself. It’s easier to grow them, then deny yourself a midnight snack from the park.


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