My visit to a herbalist’s paradise

By Fiona Chapman
I am lucky to have just come back from St Lucia, a beautiful volcanic and tropical island with the Atlantic on the east and the Caribbean sea on the west.
There is a rain forest in the middle of the island. Around the edges on the cliffs there are wonderful indigenous trees with peeling bark, which the locals call the ‘tourist trees’, which highly amused me. Between the cliffs on the flatter bits there used to be sugar plantations.
Where we were, the sugar plantation had been changed into fruit, and although 50 years ago it was left to go wild, there were still mango, banana, guava, coffee, chocolate and coconut palms, lemon, orange and lime, as well as a host of trees and shrubs with medicinal properties. A herbalist and naturopathic paradise.
I asked the local islanders about their medical system. As in most of the world, the doctors are there IF you can afford them. Most people have to rely on herbal medicine and, from all accounts, it is extremely powerful and effective. Many grow the herbs in their gardens or go out into the forest and harvest them. They use everything fresh – they can as the growing season doesn’t change that much.
There are lots of oils in the leaves and they boil them up – with a lid on – and drink the resulting liquid. Over here, we tend to use dried herbs and tinctures mainly because it is easier and we don’t have the amazingly tropical flora, the growing season or space to make sure that our herbs are organic and uncontaminated.
One of the ‘herbs’ used was Soursop or Graviola from the Annona muricata tree.
The fruit and leaves are sedative, which I was recommended for the flight home and jet lag. They are also used for digestive issues and parasitic infections. The fruit is full of vitamin C, which is obviously good for the immune system. Interestingly, it is used for high blood pressure and inflammation of the joints and muscles. There are also claims that it helps with cancer.
Sadly, I did not manage to get hold of any fruit or leaves from the tree, not that I could have brought them back, but what made me really notice it was that it was made into a delicious-looking ice cream, extremely popular locally.
n Fiona Chapman is a Naturopathic Herbalist (

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