Rev Panam Salud Publica. 1997 Mar; 1(3): 174-9.
Use of medicinal plants for diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago.
Nutrition and Metabolism Division, Ministry of Health, Trinidad.
Use of herbal remedies from medicinal plants (bush medicines) was studied in 622 people with diabetes mellitus attending 17 government health centers on the island of Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago. Bush medicines were used by 42% of patients surveyed and were used for diabetes by 24%. Bush medicine use was more frequent in Afro-Trinidadians and in those of mixed ethnicity than in Indo-Trinidadians, and was also more prevalent in those with lower educational attainment. Most patients using bush medicines (214/264, or 81%) reported gathering the plants themselves, and 107/264 (41%) took them more frequently than once a week. Patients taking bush medicines mentioned 103 different plants used in remedies. Among the 12 most frequently mentioned, caraili, aloes, olive-bush, and seed-under-leaf were preferentially used for diabetes. Vervine, chandilay, soursop, fever grass, and orange peel were preferentially used for other indications. Patients who reported burning or numbness in the feet or feelings of tiredness, weakness, giddiness, or dizziness used bush medicines for diabetes more frequently than did patients who reported a range of other diabetes-related symptoms. Insulin-treated patients were less frequent users of bush medicines. It is concluded that bush medicines are taken regularly by many patients with diabetes in Trinidad. Plants most frequently used as remedies for diabetes have recognized hypoglycemic activity. Patients' culture, educational background, type of symptoms, and formal medical treatment may also influence the selection and use of bush medicines.