My Herbal Medicine Adventures in the Tropics – Teachings from the plants (and a recipe)


I love the Caribbean and go back year after year to either a new or familiar country. I quickly feel at home as I melt into the heat and slow down and soften into life among mango, guava and almond trees, among the palms and coconuts, and the Caribbean Sea. And I am always excited to learn what I can from and about the local plant and trees.

On my recent trip to Roatan, Honduras I gathered and made tea with guava leaves, helpful for the stomach, and with soursop leaves, renowned for their immune-building properties.

My first full day there I went out kayaking and snorkeling in the prime equatorial sunshine of the day without proper protection, as if I didn’t know better! I saw that the other people going on the trip were ready and didn’t take the time to take care of myself by putting on enough sunscreen, and even rationalized that I’d be fine. (My only defense for this utter foolishness is I’d gotten very little sleep the night before traveling.) Plants are never in a hurry. That is a great teaching!

We kayaked out to the reef and went snorkeling for well over an hour. When we kayaked back across the bay to come in for lunch, I felt great! Over time, however, it became apparent that I’d burnt very badly. By that evening I was red and in pain, and by the next day my legs swelled up as my poor, damaged tissues responded to the burn by leaking out lymph fluid! The edema made my legs feel hard and tight and hurt even more. My anklebones and kneecaps were no longer easily visible. I also sprouted a large purple bruise on my right thigh that I’d received while being helped back onto the kayak by my guides when I was too exhausted to pull myself back up!

For the bruise: I used ice, first, then the homemade yarrow tincture I’d brought with me. I diluted it with a little bit of the homemade infused oil of St. John’s wort that is my usual sun-screen at home, and applied them frequently, watching the bruise turn every shade of purple, yellow, green and black as it healed! With the help of both those anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving herbs, along with yarrow’s profound wound and bruise-healing gifts, the pain was gone in 2 days and, as I write this, 2 weeks later, the bruise is nearly invisible!

For the burn: Fortunately, there was aloe vera everywhere. I sprinkled offerings of sage and roses in the aloe plants and thanked them for their medicine, asking permission to harvest. Over the week, I harvested many, many aloe leaves, cutting them open for the soothing gel and applying it very, very gently. A kind traveler applied them to my back for me several times each day. She was a nurse and said it was a 2nd degree burn and I’d be covered with blisters soon. I didn’t get any blisters at all. Here’s why:

I separated out the red rose buds that I’d brought to wrap precious things in and made a medicinal tea with them. I took out the plastic filter basket in the electric coffee machine in my room, and poured the water into the machine. I put the dried roses directly into the glass coffee pot so they could steep in there for about an hour. Later I poured the tea into a pitcher, squeezing out the roses for the last precious drops, and stored the infusion in the fridge. Rose tea, tepid or cold, is great for healing burned tissue. The chilled tea felt great on the burn. I didn’t want to lose any of the precious, soothing liquid, so I cupped it in my hands a little at a time and soothed my legs and arms with it, and poured it over my upper back. You could soak a cloth in it and apply it that way, too, or, if you are burned all over, add a half-gallon of the rose tea to a tepid bath. It soothes the burn and heals the tissue so healthy new skin will grow as the damaged skin peels away. I’ve just finished with the peeling part of the healing. Whew. What a trip!

It was quite a rebirth! Just in time for spring!

Here is one of my favorite recipes (from The Gift of Healing Herbs):

Relieve the Burn with Flowers

½ cup calendula

¼ cup roses

1/8 cup lavender

Combine the dried herbs into a quart jar. Cover with boiling water and strain after 30-60 minutes. Use as described above.

Learn to connect with nature and to make simple home medicines. It will awaken you to the magic of reality and help you bring healing to yourself, your family, and to our beloved world.


©2016 Robin Rose Bennett

I share hundreds of time-tested healing recipes for tinctures, oils, and much more in my book, The Gift of Healing Herbs (nominated by the International Herb Association for 2015 Book of the Year) and I delve into the magic of reconnecting with nature in Healing Magic: a Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living-10th Anniversary edition.


About Author

Robin Rose Bennett, herbalist and author of two spoken word meditation CD's, Moon Meditations and Ocean Meditations and two books, Healing Magic-A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious LIving-10th anniversary edition, and The Gift of Healing Herbs- Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life, all available in hard copy and digital forms. Please visit her at: 

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