Guest Post: Top 5 Medicinal Herbs in Costa Rica

With the cost of healthcare increasing, medical tourism is on the rise. It is now a well-known fact that Costa Rica is a medical-treatment destination for many people from the USA, Canada and beyond.

However, what is less well-known, is that Costa Rica has many indigenous herbs and plants that provide medicinal qualities. This natural side of Costa Rica medicine is often overlooked. It provides a perfect balance to the modern high-tech medical facilities in the country.

Let us take a look at the top 5 medicinal herbs in Costa Rica, and get a better understanding of the power of nature’s healthcare system.

Satureja viminea. Photo by TopTropicals.com

1. Satureja viminea

Also known as a Jamaican Mint Tree, this bush-like plant is found across Costa Rica. [ed: It is closely related to Summer savory, Winter savory, common calamint, lesser calamint, Alpine calamint, showy calamint and basil thyme] Its leaves are small and oval-shaped, and this lime green foliage has a very strong spearmint taste.

The leaves contain menthol oil which can aid in many ways – such as fighting bacteria, calming nerves and helping digestion. It is also used in mouth washes to help prevent cavities in teeth.

The well-known brand, Kama Sutra Luxury Mint Tree Bath Gel and Body Wash, is made from this plant.

Lippia alba. Photo by Dianakc

2. Lippia alba

The common name of this plant is juanilama [ed: it is closely related to lemon verbena]. It is a short shrub-like plant with small purple or white flowers. It has a brown stem which produces light green serrated leaves.

Juanilama is very common across all of Costa Rica and has been used by Costa Ricans as an herbal medicine for hundreds of years. It is best taken as a tea, which can be prepared by placing the leaves and stems of the plant in boiling water.

It is said to aid digestion, depression and arthritis, and can also be used as a remedy for influenza. It is sometimes used in an herbal bath to cure fevers and stomach pain.

Justicia pectoralis. Photo by Scott Zona from Miami, Florida, USA

3. Justicia pectoralis

Also known as Carpenter’s Bush, this plant is grown in Costa Rica at lower levels in fields and gardens. It can reach between 15 – 200 cm in height and has small purple flowers with light-green oval leaves.

For medicinal use, the plant is often used as an antiemetic. In other words, it is effective against nausea and vomiting – often used to cure motion sickness.

It can be used as an infusion to treat headaches, influenza, whooping cough and fever. There is even evidence of it being used on the scalp to treat hair loss.

Costus spicatus. Photo by Joan Simon from Barcelona, España

4. Costus spicatus

This plant is more commonly known as Spiked Spiralflag Ginger [ed: It is closely related to Crepe Ginger]. It has a distinctive look with flowers which emerge from a tall red cone. Under the cone, there are large green leaves.

The seeds, fruits, leaves and rhizomes can all be used for medicinal purposes. It is most frequently used as a diuretic (commonly known as water pills).

However, it can also be used as an anti-inflammatory, stimulant, anthelmintic and antiseptic.

Piper auritum. Photo by Jim Conrad

5. Piper auritum

This plant is known locally in Costa Rica as Hoja Santa (Sacred Leaf). It is a large plant with heart-shaped leaves that can grow up to 2 meters in height. This plant can grow very quickly, and in a native forest can quickly form large thickets with a dense canopy.

The large leaves can be crushed and applied to the skin to relieve the discomfort of skin irritations, bites and wounds.

It is also commonly infused as a tea for pain relief and to ease bronchial conditions.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, Costa Rica has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to natural medicinal herbs.

You may think that this country has moved away from its traditional roots. That it is now simply concerned with providing cheap medical solutions to people from other countries.

But, if you look a bit closer, you will find Costa Rica has a long tradition of using nature for medicinal purposes. And that these are still important and useful today.

About the Author
Paul Taylor is a contributor to welovecostarica.com. He loves traveling off the beaten track and exploring the less well-known parts of a country. That is, when he remembers to take his passport to the airport.

References:
http://tropical.theferns.info/
http://www.cabi.org/isc/
http://www.guanacastecostarica.com/medicinal_plants.html

Costa Rica’s Most Magical Plants


Strawberry pavlova

Fruit Pavlova – Gluten free recipe

Strawberry pavlova

Strawberry pavlova

A fruit pavlova is a wonderful dessert for any celebration.

This recipe can be relied on to get an oooh! and lots of compliments from your guests at any party you’re planning. You can ring the changes by changing the fruit used as filling. Whatever you choose, it’s guaranteed to go down a treat, but it’s definitely not for anyone counting calories, carbs or aiming for a low fat diet! But it’s not every day we celebrate, is it?

It provides 6-8 Servings.

Meringue:
4 egg whites
250g (½ lb) caster sugar
1 tblsp cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp vanilla essence
Filling:
250ml (8 fl oz, 1 US cup) double (heavy) cream
Fruit of your choice, for example:
2 bananas
1 small pineapple (or a tin of pineapple cubes in juice, well drained)
2 passion fruit
2 peaches

Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F, gas mark 2).

Whisk egg whites until peaking. Add sugar a tablespoonful at a time, whisking until the meringue is very stiff. Whisk in the cornflour, lemon juice and vanilla essence.

Pile meringue mixture onto a baking sheet lined with paper and spread into a 23cm round. Hollow out the centre slightly and bake for 1½ hours.

Cool meringue, remove paper and place on a serving dish.

Cut pineapple in half and scoop out flesh. Remove the central core and discard. Dice the rest of the pineapple. Peel the passion fruit and peaches and slice. Peel the bananas and slice.

Whip cream until stiff and fold in some of the fruit. Pile into the centre of the pavlova and decorate with remaining fruit.


Remedy for aches and pains

Aches and pains can take away the enjoyment of life

Aches and pains can take away the enjoyment of life

Whatever the time of year, aches and pains can plague us from time to time, and this only gets worse as the weather turns from the cool days of autumn to the frost and snow of winter.

Of course, aching joints and muscles aren’t all created equal but although they can often be quelled by taking over-the-counter painkillers, many people prefer to use more natural methods.

When looking for a remedy for aches and pains,, the first step is to try and work out the cause, as it’s helpful in working out the best treatment to use and where to apply it (if it’s topical). So if you don’t already know what’s going on, take a bit of time to visually check out the area affected to see if there’s anything obvious.

Severe unexplained pain in the leg, foot or ankle, accompanied by one sided swelling, areas that are higher in temperature to the touch and/or a change in skin colour is a possible sign of DVT which is a medical emergency requiring Urgent Medical Care. If this is you, take immediate steps to get treatment.

Possible causes of aches and pains

Pain in the legs, joints or muscles can be caused by arthritis, varicose veins, sciatica, injury, a sprain or other muscular strain. All pain in bones and muscles may also be associated with a zinc deficiency.

  • Arthritis occurs mainly around the joints, which are often swollen, though there may be some transference. There are several types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis seem to be auto-immune disorders, sometimes triggered by gluten.
  • Varicose veins are usually visible as blue lines under the skin. They can make your legs feel uncomfortable, heavy and aching, possibly accompanied by a burning or throbbing sensation. They are a result of failure of the valves which normally prevent blood flowing in the wrong direction.
  • Sciatica is caused by a compressed or irritated sciatic nerve (in the lower back), but the pain generally travels down from there and can reach as far as the toes, though usually only affecting one leg.
  • Sprains and other injuries such as torn ligaments are generally caused by an accident of some kind, though some injuries may be the result of over-enthusiastic exercise.
  • Muscular strain is caused by exercise which is heavier than you’re used to – especially at the start of a new exercise regimen.
Pains in any part of the body can be a symptom of serious disease, so if they are severe and longstanding, or if they don’t improve with the use of the remedies suggested here within a few days, please consult your doctor to ensure that you aren’t ignoring a potentially life threatening condition.

Remedies for aches and pains

Remedy for aching joints

If you suffer from aching joints, this is generally caused by some form of arthritis. The most common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis, which as mentioned above may be related to gluten or other foods in the diet. To test this, take your medical practitioner’s advice or you could try eliminating gluten from your diet for 3 weeks (it takes this long for gluten to leave your system) and keep an eye on your symptoms. An improvement is an indication of a possible link, but you can check this by going on a gluten-rich binge the day after the three weeks is up, and see what happens.

If you’re coping with any joint pain (even osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear) you can obtain some pain relief and reduction of inflammation using topical remedies either alone or in conjunction with prescribed medication.

A zinc supplement may also be helpful, particularly if you’re suffering from RA. You can talk to your doctor about this or read my article about zinc for information on other symptoms that may indicate you’re deficient in zinc.

Another well known supplement used by many people with RA is evening primrose oil (EPO). This contains high levels of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and trials indicate that a dose of 6g (6000mg) EPO a day is helpful in relieving both pain and morning stiffness in the vast majority of users.

If you have holly or even nettles in the garden you can make a home remedy:

Holly home remedy

Make a holly leaf decoction using 2-4 tablespoonfuls of leaves. Put them into 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) cold water in a small pan, bring to a boil then simmer until the liquid is reduced by half.

Nettles home remedy

Make a nettle infusion using 3 handfuls of fresh nettles. Put them in a teapot or other container, add 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) boiling water, cover and leave to brew for at least 10 minutes (up to 4 hours) before use.

The dosage in each case is up to 1 cup a day.

Although the other remedies recommended for general aches and pains below can also be used (in particular helichrysum), lavender essential oil blended with your favourite carrier oil is specifically recommended for massaging into painful and swollen joints.

Psoriatic arthritis may benefit from adding avocado carrier oil additive to the lavender oil blend. Eating avocadoes or using avocado oil in salad dressings etc. may also be helpful.

There is also a wide range of specific remedies for arthritis, many of which I offer in my online shop.

Remedy for aching legs

Varicose veins may benefit from a home remedy made from alkanet: put 15g (half an ounce) of dried root in a small saucepan with 1 UK pint (2½ US cups, 570ml) of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, strain and allow to cool before use. Apply to the area affected and allow to dry.

If your legs ache due to muscular pain read the next section.

Remedy for aching muscles and sciatica

There are several essential oils which are good for massage blends for muscle pain, including all varieties of eucalyptus oil, lemongrass oil and rosemary oil, but the real star for this purpose is helichrysum which is perfect for any type of musculo-skeletal pain, including sciatica.

Helichrysum is very expensive to produce and therefore usually sold in a ready diluted form, but the others need to be diluted with a carrier oil before use. Add 1 drop to each 2ml of carrier oil and shake well before use.

Note that rosemary oil is not suitable for use by pregnant women, children under 6 years, or anyone suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure) or epilepsy.

I hope that this post has given you some insight into natural ways of dealing with general aches and pains to help you avoid just reaching for the pain killers.


New layout for Frann's Alt.Health shop

New Site Layout for Frann’s Alt.Health Shop

New layout for Frann's Alt.Health shop

New Site Layout

I’ve been working on a new site layout for a while now, and I’m pleased to announce that it’s done.

The new design has actually been running for a few days, just to try and ensure that the bugs are all ironed out. Inevitably I’ll probably have missed something, but if you would take the time to take a look and play around, any that are left will be notified to me, and I can fix them. So you’d be doing me a favour if you came over to look, even if you don’t buy anything.

Feedback so far has been pretty good. Let me know what you think in the comments, please.


yum

Announcing Frann’s Alt.Health Shop

Frann's Alt.Health Shop

Frann’s Alt.Health Shop

Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

I’m pleased to announce that my new online shop, Frann’s Alt.Health Shop is now open for business.

In actual fact, the shop opened on 1 November, but now I’ve added loose herbs, herbal teas and blends, remedies and lots more. I hope you like it.

Why not take a look at my range of herbs and herbal teas or remedies right now?

I’m really excited about this new venture 🙂 I hope you find it useful.


Announcing Favourites and a 10% discount

favourites

Favourites are marked with a red heart

I’m really excited to be able to announce my new Favourites system.

This lets you (and me) save the things you’d like to buy at some point whether for a gift, or just for your own use.

Your favourites will show up in every list of products with a pretty purple heart. Items you haven’t favourited have a grey heart. Just click on the heart on any item to add or remove that item from your favourites. It’s maybe a little hard to see on the image above, so I’ve added a border to show the items on this (essential oils) page that are in my favourites.

My favourites

View all your favourites together

Everyone who uses your computer can have a different set of favourites, if they want, and they can access them from any device at any time, simply by signing in.

You can also view all your favourites at once by selecting My Favourites just above the navigation bar:

The other reason for signing in is that you will get a 10% discount on every item that you add to the cart. If you add stuff before signing in, this discount won’t happen.

Every week on Friday (if there’s any news), I’ll sent you an email with details of new products, competitions, new posts and an early warning for upcoming events like Mother’s Day.

So. That’s my announcement done. Hope you like it.


I’ve done a bit of a revamp

fireworks

woohoo

Happy New Year! I’m excited and pleased to tell you that Frann’s Alt.Health Shop has been updated and improved. Just a little bit.

I’ve changed some of the pages, dropping the Herbs section and moving the items from there to 2 separate places:
Herbal Tinctures is now in the Remedies section
Herb Teas has been split into:
Infusions, in the Remedies section, and
Herbal Teas, which are now on the Drinks page, in the Food and Drinks section

Herbal Powders is now only in the Powders section.

I’ve also added some new pages:
Bach Flower Remedies (in Remedies, as you might expect)
Super & Wholefoods (in Food and Drinks), and
FairTrade in a section all of its own.

I’m sorry all this took so long, but I hope the results are worthwhile.


Frann’s Alt.Health Shop is live

Screenshot from 2015-11-05 18:36:25

My shopfront

The launch seems to have gone well. No major crashes reported and a few compliments have reached me, which is nice.I’m also pleased to hear that quite a few people have decided to have firework parties to celebrate the launch. Really, that’s so kind :)If you haven’t had a chance to drop in yet, or you didn’t know about it, please pop over whenever you’re ready. I’d love to hear your comments.frann


I’m getting excited

fah-shop

What do you think of it so far?

I’ve been keeping it quiet, but recently I’ve been very busy getting a new online shop ready…

Frann’s Alt.Health Shop will start off selling herbs and herbal products. We hope to branch out into aromatherapy in the near future, and possibly supplements at some point.

The new shop will be opening for business in just a few days…

Watch this space!