A study of the herbal remedies being used by Latino and Caribbean immigrants in New York is the subject of a Nov.15 feature in the New York Times by Richard Schiffman. The study is being conducted by ethnobotanist Ina Vanderboek and will be published next year by the New York Botanical Garden. Schiffman recounts:
“until the 19th century, physicians were generally botanists as well. According to a 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Health, nearly half of all new drugs approved for use in the past 30 years were developed from natural sources, mainly plants.
“Traditional knowledge of plants often fades as people move to cities. But the opposite is happening in New York’s immigrant communities, where the latest wave of people from Mexico and Central America and Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans have been comparing notes on using herbs and foods as medicines.
“’You go to a Latino grocery store,’ Dr. Vandebroek said, ‘and you overhear someone on the checkout line talking about, say, cucumber being good for hypertension.’
“But she added, ‘People are sometimes afraid to talk to doctors about their use of plants.’ Beyond the language barrier for Spanish-speaking patients, there is the perception that medical professionals frown upon herbal remedies.
An accurate perception, a familiar frown. —FG