Your Garden Pharmacy  –  Sure you can just pop into town and pick up your pharmaceutical needs at any drugstore but what with the traffic and the congestion, wouldn’t you rather just head out to your garden instead? Stocking your garden with only a few well-picked medicinal plants will take care of more than a few of your basic ailments.  Below I’ll discuss a few of the must-haves and give you some tried-and-true traditional remedies you can apply yourself. 

The king of the medicinal garden in the Virgin Islands and much of the Caribbean, if not the rest of the world, is the aloe vera (aka Aloe barbadensis or Barbados aloe).  The aloe vera is a succulent that prefers full sun although it can stand light shade.  Best of all, particularly for those of us who live in the drier areas of the Territory, it doesn’t need much water.  Although not necessarily the first plant that comes to mind when aesthetics are a concern, its fleshy grey-green leaves are quite striking.  It blooms in spikes of yellow flowers that are very attractive to bees.  The aloe vera is used for a variety of complaints ranging from cuts to burns to colds and is also used in facials and the like.  


For small burns that don’t require a visit to the hospital, wash an aloe leaf with soap and water then pound it to extract the juice.  Soak the area in a warm salt solution for twenty minutes and then apply the juice.  Do this once a day.

Local people often used aloe to wash or condition their hair.  If you’re troubled by dandruff, apply the juice of the aloes to your scalp, massage it in, and leave on for about an hour.  Wash it out with normal shampoo or simply rinse it out with water.

To soothe a sore throat, cut an aloe leaf into five or six sections, slice them open to extract the jelly and use them as you would a lozenge.  Discard and replace with a new piece when the juice is finished.


The neem tree (Azadiractha indica) grows wild in the territory although, as its scientific name indicates, it originated in India.  Neem can grow to a height of twenty to thirty feet and has dark-green leaves.  It grows best in full sun in fairly good soil and has modest water needs.  Like the aloe vera, the neem tree has wide uses that are both cosmetic and medicinal.

Steep a few leaves of the neem in warm water for a tea that is said to relieve high blood pressure.  

The coralita or bee bush (Antigonon leptopus) is an under-appreciated vine here and if one sees it, it’s usually growing wild along the roadside, ignored and overlooked, except by adoring bees.  Native to Mexico, this vine can take the kind of sun and heat that wilts most other plants and it requires little water, too.  Best planted to drape over a fence or wall, the coralita flowers in long, arcing sprays of tiny pink flowers that will make it an arresting addition to your garden.
If stung by a bee or mosquito, rub a coralita leaf on the area.  Tea from the leaves is said to be good for diabetes while a tea made from the flowers is said to lower blood pressure.


There are several other plants and trees, many of them native to the Virgin Islands, such as the Bay Rum (Pimenta racemosa), the Fitweed (Eryngium foetidum), the Turpentine (Bursera simaruba), the licorice weed (Scoparia dulcis) and the Noyau vine (Merremia dissecta) that also have important medicinal properties but which are becoming less and less common as development continues its onward march.  Finding specimens, growing them in your garden and teaching others about them is important if they’re to survive into the next generation.