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Free medicine in your backyard

You may not need a trip to your local pharmacy to find the medicine you need for aches, pains or insomnia. Medicine is all around us. For centuries, people found all of the medicine they needed on the land, using plants to treat a variety of ailments and conditions.

According to Dr Orlando Thomas, medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner at Thomas Medical and Shockwave Centre, Jamaica, there are five trees that are in your backyard that can help with various diseases and ailments, including hypertension, diabetes, some cancers, and even your nervous system.

These trees also provide much-needed vitamins and minerals that your body needs daily. He listed them as soursop, moringa, mango, avocado and guava.

SOURSOP:
Soursop (Annona muricata), also called graviola, is a fruit tree that grows in tropical rainforests. It’s also called guanabana and Brazilian pawpaw. People have long used its fruit, roots, seeds, and leaves to treat all kinds of ailments, including cancer.

Modern scientists have been studying the soursop plant for 50 years. They see potential promise in soursop in the treatment of many kinds of cancers. Findings from lab and animal studies have been encouraging. But they haven’t tested it on people to know if the results will hold up. In one study, soursop leaf extract shrank breast tumors in mice.

Other studies looked at the effect of soursop fruit extract on a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). This protein sits on the surface of cells and helps them grow and divide. Some breast cancer cells have too much EGFR. The cells grow faster and are harder to treat. Soursop blocked the growth of these cells. In several studies, soursop extract caused cell death in liver cancer cells.

Soursop leaf extract stopped the growth cycle of lung cancer cells. A powder of soursop leaves and stems caused cell death in pancreatic cancer cells. Soursop also blocked signaling pathways that help pancreatic tumors spread. In studies, soursop fruit pulp extract stopped prostate cancer cells from spreading.

One study found that an extract from soursop leaves killed colon cancer cells in the lab. Even the benefits of leaves are gaining the attention of many health enthusiasts and researchers. An extract from the leaves inhibited tumor growth in a study of mice with skin cancer.

Soursop leaves are rich in nutrients and used as a natural remedy for various ailments. Grenada remains the only Caribbean country with approval to export fresh soursop to the United States market. Despite this position, low production is among the issues preventing the consistent export of high-quality soursop in the volumes needed to meet the demands of buyers.

MORINGA:
Known worldwide by many names – “the drumstick tree,” “mother’s best friend,” “the miracle tree,” “the never die,” and “ben oil tree” – Moringa oleifera possesses an abundance of nutritional and medicinal properties. The tree’s edible leaves contain protein, iron, potassium, calcium, nine essential amino acids, and vitamins A, B, and C.

The seeds are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Mature moringa seeds can be pressed into vegetable oil, suitable for both cooking and as a machine lubricant. The powder from crushed seeds can be used to purify drinking water because proteins in the seeds make bacteria clump and fall to the bottom.

The tree’s leaves and seeds have been shown in lab and animal studies to have strong anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, anti-asthmatic, antibiotic, and anti-diabetic properties owing to their phytochemicals that protect against cancer and even inhibit tumor spread. It is well known that leaf or dried powder is used in smoothies and soups.

According to Dr Orlando Thomas, there are almost 60 nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, amino acids that can be used to treat over 300 diseases. These include malnutrition, diabetes, hypertension and many cancers.

MANGO:
The leaves are used to make tea and supplements. “The leaf of almost any mango tree is very powerful and can be used to boost your immune system. If you are shaking or have tremors, you can take three to four leaves and use them to make tea; taken once per day for two weeks, it can reduce your tremor by 90 per cent in the long term,” said Dr. Orlando Thomas, a pioneering force in functional medicine in Jamaica, who leads Thomas Medical Centre.

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There are over 1000 varieties of mangoes, each with their unique taste, texture, and personality. The import of mangoes from Grenada into the US was permitted in 1987 but interception of mango seed weevil in the early 2000s led to a suspension of imports.

Grenada has now resumed the exportation of fresh mangoes to the United States, following the lifting of an almost 20-year ban imposed by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The first commercial shipment comprised three varieties of mangoes – Julie, Ceylon and Graham and was shipped by well-known trafficker Patrick “Carlo” King on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. The lifting of the ban only applies to commercial shipments.

AVOCADO:
According to an article in the BBC Online Newspaper, Goodfood.com, avocados are high in fat with 60 per cent of this being monounsaturated fats, which research suggests helps to protect against heart disease and lower blood pressure.

They are also an excellent source of potassium, folate and fibre, all of which benefit the heart and cardiovascular system. They also supply more soluble fibre than other fruits and contain a number of useful minerals including iron, copper and potassium.

The oils supplied by avocado include oleic acid and linoleic acid. These unsaturated fats are recommended as part of a balanced diet to help manage cholesterol. There is no doubt that the calorie content of avocados is greater than other fruits and vegetables.

However, an interesting study has shown that the fat and fibre content of avocados leads to feelings of satiety which helps to regulate appetite. Alongside the benefits outlined above, avocados are a rich source of protective vitamin E, as well as carotenes including lutein and zeaxanthin, which are thought to help keep the eyes healthy. Some sensitive individuals may experience allergy to avocado. This includes an oral allergy which may be triggered by a cross-reaction to birch pollen.

A rarer allergic response may occur if you have a latex allergy – if this is relevant to you, refer to your General Practitioner for guidance. Avocado, along with fruits including apples, peaches, raspberries and blueberries, contain natural chemicals called salicylates.

Some people are sensitive to these compounds and may experience an allergic reaction including skin rashes and swelling. It is native to the Caribbean including Grenada. In Kenya is found mainly in the Western, Central and a little bit at the Coast. It is sold in farmers markets and supermarkets in Grenada and a small quantity is exported to Trinidad and Tobago by local huskers.

GUAVA:
Guava fruit and leaves contain nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium that may help support your heart, digestion, and other body systems. What is more is that guava leaves are used as an herbal tea and the leaf extract as a supplement.

The fruit of this plant is very powerful, but the leaves are even more powerful. The leaves are useful to lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and it is amazing if you have chronic diarrhea. Tea made with just three to four leaves can cut any diarrhea within hours.

While it’s low in calories, it contains several powerful nutrients that support digestion, heart health, blood sugar control, and weight management efforts. Eating guava comes with very few risks of adverse effects, but they may cause a drop in blood glucose levels.

People on diabetes medications should discuss potential effects with their doctor before adding them to their diet. Stay mindful of portion sizes, as eating too much at one time may cause digestive upset in some people.

In Grenada, Guava jam and jelly are a favourite among locals and visitors alike. They are as delicious as they are healthy, with lots of nutrients due to the flavorful guava, as well as a high antioxidant content.

Simeon Collins is a former Director of the Grenada Bureau of Standards and first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), a CARICOM Institution