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Immigrant Medicine: Herbs, Plants, Faith

August 27, 2016
Plain English Version
Eliseo Trinidad, left, the owner of La 21 Division Botanica in the Bronx, with a customer. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times. “

Eliseo Trinidad, left, the owner of La 21 Division Botanica in the Bronx, with a customer. Photo Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times.

A century ago it was chicken soup. Now it is packets of dried herbs. Immigrants have always brought their cures with them.

A great place to learn about cultural cures is the Bronx, N.Y. That is the home of the New York Botanical Garden. It is one of the great places of learning about everything that grows.

A few blocks away is a store called La 21 Division Botanica. Its shelves hold votive candles, herbal potions and brightly colored plaster statues of saints. Experts from the Botanical Gardens are now studying what is sold at the store.

Immigrants from the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic may not have health insurance. They probably see fewer doctors. Many have very little money. But good health care matters to them.

Products from La 21 Division Botanica for immigrants include dried herbs from Peru. Examples are horse tail (Equisetum giganteum) for bladder problems; palo de Brazil (Caesalpinia brasiliensis) for cleansing the kidney; and anamu (Petiveria alliacea) for fevers and arthritis.

With winter coming, there are remedies to ward off colds; they contain bitter orange, lemongrass and guanabana.

The good news is that traditional medicine is learning from folk medicine. Physicians frequently see patients who are taking their own form of remedies. Doctors have to know how folk medicine drugs interact with one another and with traditional medicines.

The Botanical Garden has received a grant to study folk remedies. The goal is to promote health care that is mindful of medical knowledge from different cultures. A guide is coming out next year that will help patients talk to doctors about medicines. The hope is that the distance between traditional medicine and folk remedies will become smaller.

Source: The New York Times November 13, 2015

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