Category Archives: Plants & Their Medicinal Value

Dog’s Tail Boiled To Treat Cold

Do not worry – No animals were harmed in this process!

Dog’s Tail is the colloquial name given to one of several plants or bushes used by herbalists and some country folk in Jamaica to treat various ailments.  Depending on what district you are in at the time, the name can change (not necessarily to protect the innocent).

A botany study was conducted some years ago by G. F. Asprey, M.Sc., Ph.D. (B’ham.), Professor of Botany, U.C.W.l. and Phyllis Thornton, B.Sc. (Liverpool), Botanist Vomiting Sickness Survey. Attached to Botany Department, U.C.W.l.  to document the names of plants and weeds grown in Jamaica that were traditionally used by herbalists in the  treatment of  illnesses and diseases.

It was found that different plants sometimes will have the same name. The study was initiated primarily to categorize the commonly known names with the Latin botanical equivalent.

In their publication entitled:  MEDICINAL PLANTS OF JAMAICA. PARTS 1 & 11. mention was made that in some parts of the Island, breakfast was not the name given for the morning repast. Instead it was substituted with the phrase “taking” or “drinking tea”.  Among the poorer families a cup of bush tea with a small piece of bread or porridge constituted the morning meal.

After reading the Study, I was surprised to learn there were so many medicinal plants occurring naturally in Jamaica.  I have to admit though, many of the commonly used names for these plants, I have never before heard in my life.  I have listed below a few of the names I found very interesting, if not downright comical.  Do you know any of them?

Hug-me-close – common weed – makes tea for colic and colds
Red Head – plant used as an emetic to stop bleeding. Also as worm medicine for kids
Dog’s Tail – tea for colds, “for the belly” and as a wash for sore eyes.
Hog Hook – used internally and externally for colds, coughs and fever.

Libi-dibi – used to make a gargle for sore throats
Stinking Weed – dried seeds are beaten and used as coffee substitute. Also good for kidney and bladder complaints.
Wandering Jew or Rolling Calf Bed – used in treatment of colds
Heal-I-and-Draw – excellent diuretic used by many. Also for colic,  wind and convulsions

Jackass Breadnut – used as a cold remedy
Grease Bush – general beverage for coughs and colds.
Dog-Flea Weed – used for treatment of wounds, also for dog baths for fleas
Creeping Ox-eye – used as a tea for fever and colds

Devil’s Guts – used as a love charm. Also tea used as general beverage for colic in kids.
Pepper Rod – make tea for colds
Carry-me-seed – remedy for fever. Sometimes used for genitourinary infections.
Hug-me-tight – used in a bath for female weakness
Search-my-heart – used as a general drink for colds

Dog’s Tooth Grass – tea made by boiling roots – good for kidneys.
Pig Nut – used in nervous and visceral disorders also for stomach aches
Donkey Weed – treatment for colds and kidney troubles
Duppy Pumpkin – used for colds and as an ingredient in concoction for lame foot or stiff neck
Ratta Temper – used for loose cough.

Duppy Poison – used with sarsaparilla and china root to make a tonic good for blood
Cockroach Poison – pounded with lime juice and used for ringworm treatment.
Clammy Bur – used alone or with licorice  to make tea for colds.
Mary Bush – leaves chopped and mixed with fat and rubbed with castor oil to provide plaster for boils and bruises.
Police Macca – used for colds and malaria – also for kidney and bladder infections. (yellow buttercup weed)

Gotta love Jamaica….



“Duppy Gun” – Mysterious exploding plant…

Ruellia Tuberosa

Known in Jamaica as “Duppy Gun”

As a child, I was fascinated with this exploding phenomenon.  It was such fun to place the little brown pods in the palm of my hand, spit on it (as my Dad showed us) and wait with bated breath for it to explode.

Many times, my siblings and I would gather a mass of pods for greater effect.  It was as if the pods came to life, each one giving a slight movement just before it popped open, stinging a little as the seeds connected with our bare arms and legs.  The sound effects were similar to firecrackers, on a tiny scale.

Apart from providing hours of entertainment for children, the Ruellia Tuberosa has a more important element.  In some countries, the plant is used medicinally in the treatment of gonorrhea, hypertension, urinary retention, diabetes and also as a natural dye for some textiles.

The bulb-shaped roots are used in Suriname for treating kidney disease and whooping cough, while in  Trinidad & Tobago it is used as a “cooling agent” for urinary problems and high cholesterol.

Jamaican herbalists make a tea from the roots which they say is good for coughs, constipation, flu, venereal diseases, as well as,  inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

A scientific study performed on the Ruellia Tuberosa confirms the presence of  potent anti-oxidant activity.

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The Vietnamese have traditionally soaked its roots in rice wine for a long time before consuming the alcohol. They use its leaves to cook soup and consume it for cooling the body, especially the liver.  In the Dominican Republic  it is used as an ingredient in a concoction for  male potency.

I must give thanks where thanks is due.  Having only a fond memory of spitting on these pods, I did not know where to begin to find information on this strange popping plant.  Not for the life of me could I recall a name or even remember if it had one.  I tried several search criteria with no success.  

I was so frustrated.  I wanted so badly to give life to this precious memory, but then figured after several fruitless attempts that maybe no-one else found this mysterious exploding plant as interesting as I did.  Finally, about to give up, I decided to search one more time and simply looked for  “plant that explodes”.  In a matter of  seconds, I came face to face with my childhood memory. Extracting the plant name “Toi-ting lead me to other names for the plant, one of which was Duppy Gun – then it clicked!

Watch as these folks get shot from the Duppy Gun: