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Haiti and Earthspirit Herbs

2/17/2010 2:19:00 PM

Tags: Marguerite Dunne, Opinion, Health, Haiti, World


Marguerite Dunne is a city girl and traveler. Visit her website at or listen to her radio show, The Urban Herbalist, on Marguerite was also the third place winner in The Herb Companion's essay contest, "Looking Forward to Herbs."

It’s too early yet, to glimpse what might lay ahead in Haiti, as the harsh isolation of poverty continues to divide and define the fragile existence of life. I’m touched by island life since my dad was from Puerto Rico, and I’ve been to so many Caribbean islands, each time enjoying the beauty of sun and sea and heart song found only in island life. The curanderas have continued to gather, heal the jibaros, and weave the pueblo into casas verdes, recalling our Earthspirit mothers and the miraculous, natural teachings from the garden. Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico (Verde Luz, 1998), a lovely little book by Maria Benedetti, describes the life of the village healers today, planting and gathering in the mountains of Puerto Rico. So many people still live close to nature in Central and South America, yet even this life may be completely lost to the Haitians now. Cities in shambles, no roads upon which to carry and deliver goods, and fields stripped bare from years of desperation, with no hope nor moontime to till and harvest. Where will the Earthspirit go?

Photo by Vianney (Sam) Carriere/Courtesy Flickr

“According to Dr. Esteban Nunez Melendez, professor emeritus at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Puerto Rico and author of Plantas Medicinales de Puerto Rico (La Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1988), ‘The Caribbean region has contributed many aromatic oils, which are used in creams, unguents and rubs absorbed by the skin.’ The aromatic essential oils offered by citrus trees and other plants abound in Puerto Rico are highly valued throughout the hemisphere, not only for flavoring and scents in medicine and perfumes, but also in local anesthetics and preservative for emulsions.” –Earth and Spirit

If we could be outside with our abuelitas right now, las espiritistas, we’d have taken up our baskets and be gathering the pazote, verdolaga, yerba buena, ruda, and oregano for healing. Under the moonlight, and by the ocean’s shore, between the flowers and under the avocado trees, the healing herbs grow there for us. 

I hope the Haitian grandmothers have taken up their baskets and are ministering, like all the gathers before, restorative arcane herbology—still a woman’s rite.

Editor’s Note: The Herb Companion does not endorse the opinions offered by our guest bloggers. Our blogs are intended to further discussion about the impact herbs have in our lives. 

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