Guide to Medicinal Plants of Puerto Rico

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Guide to Medicinal Plants of Puerto Rico Made for Nuestras Raíces By members of the Sustainable Agriculture class at Mt. Holyoke College: Erin Coates, Alexis Liston, Kate McQuillan, Ally Neher

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English Name: Anise Seed Spanish Name: Anís de Grano Scientific Name: Pimpinella anisum Uses: Antidepressant, indigestion, post-partum care, asthma, colic Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefers warm, sunny areas with well-drained, rich sandy soils. It is suitable for all areas of North America. It is an annual, and grows 1-2 feet high. It needs 120 days to produce fully ripened seed heads. (Suitable for outdoor growth) Notes: The whole herb is used for medicinal practices. English name: Annatto tree Spanish name: Achiote, Bija Scientific name: Bixa orellana Uses: The seeds are believed to be an expectorant, while the roots are used as a digestive aid and cough suppressant Ideal Growing Conditions: Flourishes in disturbed areas as a shrub in inland areas; tolerates a wide range of soil types; successfully introduced in areas outside of its natural range (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Also used as non-toxic substance for coloring cheeses, butter, lipstick, and ointments (by crushing the seeds and soaking them in water) Anise Seed Annatto Tree

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English Name: Black nightshade Spanish Name: Yerba mora Scientific Name: Solanum americanum Uses: Respiratory problems, skin eruptions, treatment of cuts and wounds Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefers disturbed areas; rocky or dry open woods, thickets, shores or openings, often on cultivated or waste ground; invasive species (Not recommended for growth) Notes: The sap of the leaves and juice of the berries are the components most commonly used. For treating cuts or wounds or as a general prophylactic, it is mixed with salt. CAUTION: Can be very toxic and is an invasive species. English Name: Canafistula, purging cassia Spanish Name: Caña fístula Scientific Name: Cassia fistula Uses: Moderate laxative, antioxidant, lowers blood sugar, astringent, relieves pain, reduces fever, lowers cholesterol, stimulates digestion Part Used: Fruit, leaves, bark Ideal Growing Conditions: Caña fistula is a fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous tree which grows to about 9 meters in height. Leaves are compound, with 4-8 pairs of opposite leaflets. It produces flowers which are golden yellow and hang in showering bunches of up to 40 cm long earning its common name of "golden shower tree." (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: For treatment of constipation, break up a pod of caña fistula and boil up a piece measuring a few inches long in a cup of water; take throughout the day in small amounts. CAUTION: Overdose can cause vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and cramps. Black Nightshade Canafistula

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English Name: Caribbean spearmint, Red mint Spanish Name: Yerba buena Scientific Name: Mentha x villosa syn. Mentha nemorosa Uses: Asthma, clearing lungs and throat, cough, colds, stomach pain, headaches. I deal Growing Conditions: Cool, shady, wet conditions; can be grown in a many different areas and climates (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea made from the leaves of the plant. English Name: Spanish Cedar, West Indian cedar Spanish Name: Cedro Scientific Name: Cadrela odoratia Uses: Reduces inflammation, fever, and mucus, rheumatism, ear infections, and skin wounds, digestion aid, astringent Ideal Growing Conditions: Found over a wide geographic range; not frost tolerant; prefers a seasonally dry climate; well drained acidic soils; plenty of light (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: The bark is used for baths or infused into teas. The leaves can also be infused in tea. Caribbean Spearmint Spanish Cedar

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English Name: Gale of the wind, Stonebreaker Spanish Name: Chanca piedra, viernes santo Scientific Name: Phyllanthus niruri Uses: Liver protective, diabetes, antilithic (expels stones), pain-relieving, antispasmodic, antiviral, antibacterial, diuretic Ideal Growing Conditions: Wet rainforest conditions; grows and spreads quickly; potential invasive species (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea. CAUTION: Do not consume if you have heart disease or are pregnant. Long-term use can have negative health effects. People with hypoglycemia and diabetes should not use this plant unless they are under the care of a healthcare practitioner to monitor their blood sugar levels. English Name: Garlic weed Spanish Name: Anamú Scientific Name: Petiveria alliacea Uses: Reduces pain, reduces inflammation, cancer, increases urination, enhances immunity, reduces spasms, reduces anxiety, reduces fever, lowers blood sugar, anti-fungal Part Used: Whole plant Ideal Growing Conditions: Anamú is an herbaceous perennial that grows up to one meter in height; shade-tolerant plant; plenty of moisture (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: For treatment of boils and external cysts, heat leaves of anamú with some steam and use them as a hot compress for growths to prevent bursting. For cancer treatment, drink the boiled seeds of el cundeamor with shoots of anamú and common plantain leaves (el llantén). For internal pain, mash up a large handful of anamú with a cup and a half of water. Strain the mixture and drink the liquid as needed. Teas of anamú can bring on a late menstruation period. CAUTION: Pregnant women should not consume anamú; consumption can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to abortion. Anamú contains coumarin, which has a blood thinning effect. People on blood-thinning medications should not use this plant without the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. People with hypoglycemia and diabetes should not use this plant unless they are under the care of a healthcare practitioner to monitor their blood sugar levels. Gale of the Wind Garlic Weed

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English Name: Genipap Spanish Name: Jagua Scientific Name: Genipa americana Uses: Asthma, bronchitis, body paint, diarrhea, tooth extraction, uterine cancer Ideal Growing Conditions: Small to medium sized tree; prefers slightly acidic soil; annual rainfall between 1200-4000mm; very sensitive to low temperatures (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: The flowers are used as a medicinal infusion. The bark, resin, and fruits are also used for medicinal purposes. The fruits are edible when green. English Name: Ginger Spanish Name: Jengibre dulce Scientific Name: Zingiber officinale Uses: Digestion aid, antiseptic, stimulant, colds, nausea, asthma, bronchitis, congestion, headache, toothache, flu Ideal Growing Conditions: Well-drained, moist soil; pH neutral to slightly acidic; shade-tolerant; frost sensitive (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea. Genipap Ginger

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English Name: Guaco Spanish Name: Guaco Scientific Name: Mikania cordifolia Uses: Coughs, bronchitis, colds/flu, asthma, allergies, antibacterial, yeast infections, bites and stings, pain-reliever, anti-inflammatory Ideal Growing Conditions: Moist conditions; thrives in floodplains; potential invasive species (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea. Leaves can be rubbed on insect bites and stings for relief. CAUTION: Guaco contains coumarin, which has a blood thinning effect. People on blood-thinning medications should not use this plant without the supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Overdose may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea. English Name: Guava Spanish Name: Guayaba Scientific Name: Psidium guajava Uses: Dysentery, diarrhea, colic, heart problems, cough suppressant, pain-reliever, reduces fever, colds, flu, sore throat, topical remedy for ear and eye infections Ideal Growing Conditions: Guava thrives in both humid and dry climates at an altitude of 0-1500 m (or up to 2100 m in some regions); tolerates a wide range of soil conditions; sensitive to cold weather; potential invasive species (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: All parts of the plant are used, mostly via infusion. CAUTION: People with heart conditions should not use the guava plant medicinally. Guaco Guava

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English Name: Kalanchoe Spanish Name: Yerba bruja Scientific Name: Kalanchoe pinnatum Uses: Pain reducer, inflammation, antibacterial, antiviral, ear infections, respiratory infections, flu, fever reducer Ideal Growing Conditions: Growing conditions unknown; Potential invasive plant (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: The plant extract (obtained by heating leaves to extract plant oils) can be applied in the form of drops into the ear to fight ear infections. CAUTION: A number of species are cultivated as ornamentals here in the U.S. and they are becoming popular tropical house plants however these types of plants have been genetically modified for their qualities and appearance as ornamental plants and they shouldn't be used internally as a natural remedy. Avoid long-term use because of its immune suppressant effects. The plant should not be used during pregnancy. English Name: Lemon grass Spanish Name: Limoncillo Scientific Name: Cymbopogon citratus Uses: Fever reduction, stomach cramps, flatulence, colic, arthritic pain, digestive aid Ideal Growing Conditions: If possible plant lemongrass in fertile loam - but it will tolerate many other types of soils, including sand, if given some care; bright sun preferred but will grow in light shade; likes moisture but can survive some drought although its appearance will suffer. (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea. Kalanchoe Lemon grass

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English Name: Licorice weed, Sweet broom Spanish name: Orozuz, Escoba anarga Scientific Name: Scoparia dulcis Uses: Antiviral, antibacterial, inhibits tumors, wounds, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar regulation, phlegm, promotes menstruation Ideal Growing Conditions: Tolerant of a variety of climates; shade-tolerant (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: Most commonly used as a tea. CAUTION: Do not take while pregnant. Do not take with antidepressants or barbiturates unless under the supervision of health care practitioner. English Name: Mango Spanish Name: Mangó Scientific Name: Mangifera indica Uses: Asthma, expectorant, laxative, antiseptic, diarrhea, chronic dysentery, chronic urethritis. Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefers wet conditions; sensitive to cold weather conditions; needs protection against wind (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: All parts of tree may be used. Fruit can be eaten. Fruit, seeds, leaves, and bark can be infused in a tea or ground into a topical paste. Mango flowers can be dried and used and kernel decoction and powder can also be used for medicinal purposes. Licorice Weed Mango

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English Name: Needle Grass, Shepherd’s needle Spanish name: Manzanilla del país, romerillo Scientific Name: Bidens pilosa Uses: Diabetes, antibacterial, antivirual, reduces inflammation, protects liver, prevents ulcers, inhibits stomach acid Ideal Growing Conditions: Able to grow in a variety of climates; considered a weed in many areas; tolerates dry air and soil (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Needle grass is related to marigold. CAUTION: Should not be used during pregnancy. Contains caffeine. English Name: Nutgrass, Nutsedge Spanish Name: Coquí, Coquito Scientific Name: Cyperus rotundus Uses: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, astringent, diuretic, diabetes, stimulant, asthma, headaches, upset stomach, skin diseases Ideal Growing conditions: Can grow in a variety of climates and soils; easily dominates over weaker grasses and herbs; potential invasive species (Not recommended for growth) Notes: The root is usually used to make a paste for topical or internal use. CAUTION: Has been referred to as the world’s worst weed because it affects more crops in more countries than any other weed. Major danger of becoming an invasive species. Needle Grass Nutgrass

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English Name: Panama Tree Spanish Name: Anacagüita Scientific Name: Sterculia Apetala Uses: Colds, at times the wood is used for construction. Ideal Growing Conditions: Perennial. Approx. 120 feet tall; very hard, straight trunk with very developed buttresses; flowers from November to March and fruits from January to April; the palmate lobed leaves are deciduous for most of the dry season; potential invasive species (More research on invasiveness suggested before experimentation with growth) Notes: A tea can be made from the anacagüita flowers to treat symptoms of a cold. It is the National Tree of Panama - probably because of its abundance. English Name: Bitter Melon, Sorossie Spanish Name: Cundeamor Scientific Name: Momordica charantia Uses: Anti-fungal, cancer, diabetes, lice Ideal Growing Conditions: Grows in tropical conditions (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: For skin fungus, boil some cundeamor until water is deep green; apply this tea to affected area. This tea can also be used as treatment for head lice: apply as a shampoo, but leave on the head for 15-20 minutes—repeat in one week. For cancer treatment, drink the boiled seeds of el cundeamor with shoots of garlic weed (el anamú) and common plantain leaves (el llantén). A tea can be made to lower blood sugar. CAUTION: Pregnant women should not consume cundeamor; consumption can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to abortion. The plant may cause lower rates of fertility in both males and females and thus should not be consumed by those seeking pregnancy. The plant chemicals can also be transferred through breast milk. Diabetics should check with their doctor before using this plant. Panama Tree Bitter Melon

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English Name: Papaya Spanish name: Papaya, Lechoza Scientific Name: Carica papaya Uses: Antibacterial; inflamed tonsils; digestion aid Ideal Growing Conditions: Needs plenty of water and good drainage; is very sensitive to frost and must grow in a tropical climate; limited to growth between 32 degrees north and 32 degrees south of the equator (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: The fruits and seed extracts act as an antibiotic and antiviral agent. The fruit juice of the plant is used on inflamed tonsils. The leaves are often used to aid digestion and act as a laxative. CAUTION: Papaya can cause sever gastritis when ingested. Leaves contain latex which can irritate skin. Some people are allergic to latex and the whole papaya plant. Papain can induce asthma and rhinitis. The latex can cause conjunctivitis and vesication, and can also be a poison. English Name: Peppermint Spanish Name: Agua florida Scientific Name: Mentha piperita Uses: Bronchitis, stomachache, cold, colic, spasms, Ideal Growing Conditions: Most of the species grow in open areas, but some occur as undershrubs; while a few occur in rain-forests, many are adapted to dry conditions; easily adaptable as a potted plant (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Commonly used as a tea made from the leaves of the plant. CAUTION: Overdose can be toxic, causing kidney failure or even death. Do not use as on small children to treat colic as it can cause jaundice. Papaya Peppermint

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English Name: Star anise Spanish Name: Anís de estrella Scientific Name: Illicium anisatum Uses: Antibacterial, diuretic, stimulant, promotes digestion and appetite Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefers light, moist, well-drained soil, sun or semi-shade; not very cold-hardy; tolerates temperatures down to -10 degrees C (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Only the fruit is used for medicine. No side effects when taken in a customary dose. CAUTION: Do not confuse with the similar Japanese star anise, which is poisonous. When anise oil is taken in large quantities, it may induce nausea, vomiting, seizures, and pulmonary edema. English Name: Tarataran Spanish Name: Talantro Scientific Name: Cassia alata Uses: Antibacterial, laxative, antifungal, lowers blood sugar, increase bile Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefers open areas and sunlight; tree grows in full sun prefers soils of clay, loam and sand (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Like most Cassia and Senna plants, contain a group of chemicals called anthraquinones. These chemicals are well known for their laxative effect Star Anise Tarataran

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English Name: Turpentine Tree, Gumbolimbo Tree Spanish Name: Almácigo Scientific Name: Bursera simaruba Uses: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, stomachaches, muscle fatigue, obesity, renitis, rheumatism, tumors, venereal diseases, wounds Ideal Growing Conditions: Tolerates wide variety of conditions; native to Florida; tolerates a variety of conditions; poor wind resistance (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: A tea can be made from the bark of the plant. A topical remedy for skin problems can be made from the bark. English Name: West Indian Elm Spanish Name: Guácima Scientific Name: Guazuma ulmifolia Uses: Asthma, hair loss, digestive aid, stomachache, diarrhea, dysentery, and stomach inflammation, wounds, rashes, skin parasites, dermatitis, fungal infections antiviral, antibacterial, astringent Ideal Growing Conditions: Prefer the humid tropics; medium sized tree; tolerant of temperatures above freezing (Potential greenhouse growth) Notes: The most common use is as a tea made from the bark of the plant. A thicker decoction is made for topical use. CAUTION: People with heart conditions should not use this plant without doctor supervision. This plant should not be consumed during pregnancy. Turpentine Tree West Indian Elm

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English Name: Wormseed, Mexican Tea Spanish Name: Pazote Scientific Name: Chenopodium ambrosioides Uses: Intestinal worms and parasites, skin parasites, lice, ringworm, liver health, acid reflux, intestinal gas, cramping, chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, coughs, asthma, bronchitis Ideal Growing Conditions: Can tolerate a wide variety of conditions; potential invasive species (More research on invasiveness suggested before experimentation with growth) Notes: The plant is used to make teas or bathwater for treatment. English Name: Worry vine, Porterweed Spanish Name: Verbena Scientific Name: Stachytarpheta jamaicensis Uses: Allergies, respiratory conditions, cold, flu, asthma, bronchitis, digestive problems, pain-reliever, anti-inflammatory, liver health, intestinal worms Ideal Growing Conditions: Tolerates most soil conditions, but prefers sandy, well-drained soils; thrives in warm weather, but can survive cold winters (Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: This plant attracts butterflies. The plant is most commonly used to make teas from the leaves. CAUTION: Overdose may be toxic. Pregnant women should not use consume this plant. People with heart conditions should not use this plant medicinally. Those allergic to aspirin should not use this plant as it contains salicylic acid, which is a natural precursor to aspirin. Wormseed Worry Vine

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English Name: Soursop Spanish Name: Guanábana Scientific Name: Annona muricata Uses: Cancer, antimicrobial, internal parasites and worms, high blood pressure, depression, stress, nervous disorders Ideal Growing Conditions: Best growth is achieved in deep, rich, well-drained, semi-drysoil, but the soursop tree can be and is commonly grown in acid and sandy soil (Potential greenhouse growth; Potential outdoor growth with experimentation) Notes: Most of the research on graviola focuses on a novel set of chemicals called Annonaceous acetogenins. These chemicals have significant antitumorous properties and selective toxicity against various types of cancer cells (without harming healthy cells) Soursop Sources Benedetti, María. Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico. Cayey, Puerto Rico: Verde Luz, 1989. Benedetti, María. Sembrando y Sanando En Puerto Rico. Cavey, Puerto Rico: Verde Luz, 1998. Iglesias, Jaime. Interview in Holyoke, MA. 27 April 2006. http://www.tropilab.com http://www.rain-tree.com http://www.gardeningeden.co.za/index.html http://www.hort.purdue.edu

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