Natures Medicine Chest of the Tropical Rainforest

Natures Medicine Chest of the Tropical Rainforest

As an herbalist and a health enthusiast, moving to Costa Rica and having the opportunity to live in or near the tropical rainforests has been such an inspiring and delightful experience for me.

These lush green forests are truly a cornucopia of natural medicines - many known now throughout the world, and many yet to be recognized or “discovered” by our modern world.

Indigenous tribes living in the rainforest lands have long known many of these remedies, yet some of that knowledge has been lost through colonization and the destruction of ancient cultures, and others have yet to be shared with us from the wisdom keepers of these sacred lands.

I am forever personally grateful for the rainforest plants and their medicines. When I was healing my body from cancer, I incorporated several rainforest remedies into my healing regimen. I truly believe that these powerful allies are a significant part of how I was able to flush cancer from my body in less than 6 months. My main helpers at this time were Pau d´arco, Sangre de Grado (aka Dragons Blood), Graviola (the leaves of the Guanabana fruit tree), Ganoderma Lucidum (aka Reishi mushroom), and Sarsparilla. With the use of these plant medicines, organ cleansing, and a specific alkalizing diet high in nutraceuticals such as turmeric, spirulina, and shiitake mushrooms, I am still here - healthier than ever, and now assisting others to naturally rid their bodies of cancer and other health inhibitors.

For those of you looking to take a peek into the dense and rich medicine chests of the tropical rainforests, I will share a few of my favourite remedies and how you can use them.

Dragon´s Blood, aka Sangre de Grado or Sangre de Drago… or as known in Costa Rica “targua” (croton lechleri). This medicine is a red sap from a fast growing rainforest tree. The sap looks much like blood. This sap can be used internally and externally. It is anti-cancerous, useful for ulcers, allergies, inflammation, immune deficiencies, digestive troubles, herpes virus, HIV, colitis, diarrhoea, infections, and more. Dragons Blood is anti- fungal, viral, bacterial, and septic. It can help in healing the notoriously damaging leishmaniasis infections, as well as other flesh wounds and infections. It is a very bitter and astringent medicine, best used internally when mixed with water. Most internal applications will call for 10-15 drops in water 2-3 times per day. Use externally on wounds, infections, and other skin issues.  When used externally on the skin, Dragon's Blood dries to form a “second skin”. It seals the wound or cut. When washing it off it is best to use warm water to help soften this strong second layer that the medicine helps create.

Passionflower, aka Pasiflora (pasiflora incarnata) - the medicine of passionflower uses both the flowers and the leaves of the passion fruit vine. Passionflower helps to calm the nerves, ease anxiety, treat insomnia, reduce pain, reduce inflammation, stop convulsions, treat depression, and expel intestinal worms. Passionflower is known as an analgesic (pain-reliever), antispasmodic, cough suppressant, aphrodisiac, central nervous system depressant, diuretic, and sedative anticonvulsant, antidepressant, astringent, tranquilizer, vermifuge (expels worms), and nervine. I have used Passionflower extract to help ease the pain experienced by teething babies, as well as to help bring calm for people suffering anxiety or insomnia. It is an excellent remedy for women experiencing menstrual pains, anyone suffering from headaches or migraines, muscle pains, restlessness, toothaches, or post injury pains. You can enjoy passionflower as a tea or in tincture form. Take caution not to use passionflower if you are already taking any sedating or tranquilizing medications.

Bitter Melon, aka Sorosi (Momordica charantia) - this cute little vine-growing fruit is known through the Americas, as well as Asia. Bitter Melon has been known to successfully treat diabetes, cancer, digestive troubles, viral infections, and more. Bitter Melon is known to lower blood sugar levels, and this is why it can be useful in treatment of diabetes.  Bitter Melon is known to be antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antiparasitic, antiseptic, digestive stimulant menstrual stimulator, and vermifuge (expels worms).  Bitter Melon is contraindicated in pregnancy, as it has effects on the uterus as a uterine stimulant and could lead to miscarriage. It is a great remedy for delayed menstruation. Bitter Melon can cause temporary sterility in men, so for couples trying to conceive it is recommended to avoid using this plant. The leaves and fruit are utilized in natural healing. A decoction from the tea alone or mixed with the juice of the fruits, is the best way to enjoy this bitter medicine. You can make a skin wash for wounds and infected sores by using a tea from the leaves. Some herbal companies now offer Bitter Melon capsules and extracts, or if you live in the tropics just ask the friendly locals, as they are sure to know where it is growing.

Gavilana, aka Tres Puntas or Jackass Bitters (Neurolaena lobata) - this wild growing hardy “weed” is found along coastal areas, roadsides, pastures, and mountain forests. It is a highly adaptable and resistant herb – which tells us a lot about its healing potential. Gavilana, as it is known in Costa Rica, is an excellent remedy for fevers, colds, influenza, parasite infections, fungal overgrowth, candida, cancer, digestive issues, head lice, staph infections, and more. It is known to be anti-fungal, bacterial, cancerous, viral, malarial, and septic. Gavilana is bitter, astringent, cooling, and deeply cleansing. Long term use of Gavilana is not recommended, as it is such a deep cleaner that it could also wipe out healthy gut flora. I have used this herb in a wide array of applications, including treatment of dengue fever, influenza, parasite infections, head lice, digestive troubles, and more. The taste is highly bitter and no amount of other ingredients will mask the taste. For that reason I prefer it in tincture form. It is an excellent herb to know in the tropics of the Americas for emergency treatments of fevers, dengue fever, parasites, and skin infections. To use externally for lice and treatment of skin infections – make a strong tea and use as a head wash, in poultices, skin washes, and so on.

Kalanchoe, aka Siempre Vida, Life Everlasting, or Air Plant (Kalanchoe pinnata) - this lovely scalloped-leafed succulent is found growing near beaches, along roadsides, and in many people’s back yards throughout the lower Americas. I was first introduced to this healing ally by Jamaican women living on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. They showed me how they sliced it and sprinkled it with salt, and gave it to their loved ones to treat “toz”, or coughs. I personally prefer to blend the leaves with water, strain and drink the liquid extract, instead of chewing the thick, slightly bitter and astringent leaves. Kalanchoe is an excellent remedy for ailments effecting the lungs (asthma, coughs, weak lungs, etc.), as well as bronchial infections, fevers, colds, viral infections, inflammation, and fungal issues. Kalanchoe is analgesic (pain-reliever), anti- allergic, anaphylactic, inflammatory, tumorous, ulcerous, bacterial, fungal, viral… as well as a febrifuge (reduces fever), cough suppressant, diuretic, and uterine stimulant. Kalanchoe can be used much like aloe vera for sunburns – simply macerate the fresh leaves and apply to the burn, cover with gauze, and leave on several hours before changing the dressing.

Suma (Pfaffia paniculata) - I have yet to find any Suma growing in Costa Rica. This amazing healing plant is more commonly known in South America.  Suma root is a wonderful helper for women – as it can assist in balancing hormones, treating PMS, postpartum discomforts, and menopause. Yet Suma is not just an herb for women. Suma is also known as an adaptogen (a plant that increases the body's resistance to stress and imbalances in the body,  and has a restorative effect on the entire system), an immune stimulator, regenerative tonic, memory enhancer, longevity tonic, and cellular oxygenator. Suma has been known to treat a wide range of sexual disorders, immune deficiencies, sickle cell anemia, hormonal disorders, and chronic fatigue. Suma is anti-inflammatory, tumorous, cancerous, and also is an aphrodisiac, cellular protector, adaptogen, antioxidant, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), estrogenic, immunostimulant, nervine (balances/calms nerves), and tonic. It is recommended not to use Suma with estrogen-dominant cancers.

I could go on and on sharing information on healing plants of the rainforest, yet it would be a labour of endless effort. Our rainforests are a true wealth of wisdom and of knowledge. I have deep respect and love for these sacred forests. The amount of resources they contain - from the wisdom of the ancient cultures, to the food, medicines, beauty, and more - is priceless.

Living amongst these green goddess strongholds has taught me the need we humans have to make changes in how we have been living on the planet. The destruction of these precious forests is very real and very much something we can all help to change. The reality of cutting forests for beef, lumber, and hydroelectric projects is something I have sadly witnessed firsthand. Many acres of forest are often destroyed to grow pasture for sometimes no more tan 5 cows. These forests are home to a plethora of biodiversity - animals, insects, rare plants, healing medicines, old growth trees, and human beings. The people that live in these forests often hold sacred and ancient wisdom that has never been preserved in books - and without their passing of this wisdom through oral traditions, we risk losing information that could help us solve many of the issues we are facing now on Earth.

I ask each of you to consider the impact of all your choices as consumers, to avoid beef, boycott companies and organizations that are known to contribute to rainforest depletion, and to help create or sign petitions to end logging, mining, cattle farming, and other projects that contribute to the destruction of our rainforests.

I also encourage you to seek natural remedies, such as the ones I listed here, instead of chemical concoctions sold at pharmacies and allopathic clinics. Most of the natural remedies are as strong and effective, if not more, than most any lab created medicines… and safer for your body.

I send you each my blessings from the magical land of rainforests and lush tropical beauty.

May all forests be honoured and protected, and may all water run free and be pure - for all the generations yet to come, and for all creatures on this sacred planet we call home.

I offer healing consultations, health education and guidance, via Skype internationally. You can contact me at zahrahsita (at) gmail (dot) com for inquiries or to schedule an appointment.


Brittany Tomlin
Added 20th May 2021

Hi, I am conducting research in hopes of launching a new venture which will rely heavily on my knowledge (or someone’s mentoring me) of plant life in the Amazon. I’d love to connect with you to discuss further details. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

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