I’m at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Guanacaste and my co-worker just got stung by a wasp. Not your everyday, normal-sized wasp but an angry, too-big, stripey one.
She’s a tough lady but she’s sitting on the ground with an ouch-this-hurts face and our other co-workers are telling her how terrible this kind of wasp is, and the only way to make sure she doesn’t have a really terrible reaction is to wrap some bark around her neck and dump water on her head.
So that’s what they did. Somebody found the special tree and cut a long, inch-wide strip bark. She was told to stay seated; they wrapped the bark around her neck like a necklace and dumped a bucket of water on her head. The end result was no terrible health emergency. So it worked.
Many of the people I’ve worked with over the years in Guanacaste see the plants and trees that surround them not only for their beauty, but also for the healing properties that they possess.
You don’t have to be in Costa Rica long before you learn your natural healing basics – agua de pipa (coconut water), limón and té manzanilla (chamomile tea) heal pretty much any malady. But sometimes the remedy, like the aforementioned bark necklace/water bucket maneuver, is something a little more interesting.
Another good one is a tree that comes in handy when you have a bad tooth. You squish up some of the bark into a wad and place it on the bad tooth. The next day, the tooth falls out. I was warned that it works really well. Well enough, that if you get some of the bark-wad on a neighboring tooth, that one’s coming out, too!
“If you start asking people, especially older people, what plants cure what ails ya, you’re going to get a huge variety of answers. There are many leaves, roots and bark that have the ability help you out.
A tonic of flowers from the panama tree can help with your cough. The madroño tree can reduce your fever. The root of the pochote tree can help with diarrhea. And it’s almost not possible to have a ‘healing properties of plants’ conversation without somebody mentioning, with a lowered voice and wry smile, some fruit, flower or tonic that’s guaranteed to boost your sex drive. “
I had intended to do some more research on plant-based remedies and interview some old folks, but I think it would be more interesting to hear your stories of the natural cures you’ve come across in Costa Rica.
So leave a comment and spread your knowledge of what’s on the shelf in the forest’s pharmacy.
About the Author
Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org