While on a recent vacation to Cat Island, in the Bahamas, I noticed a little shack by the side of the road that was selling the usual assortment of straw hats, purses and dolls along with homemade hot sauces. However, much more interesting than all that - the sign on the shack also said "Bush Medicine". That was enough to get me out of the car and at her doorstep. "Miss Emily", herself a breast cancer survivor, heard my story, reached under her counter and handed me a plastic grocery bag containing a branch with dried leaves attached. She said to boil this up and take three sips a day. I asked her what it was and she said she didn't know but that her cousin sends it from Nassau as it no longer grows on Cat Island. She said she drinks it herself everyday and believes that it's kept her in remission.
Not one to shy away from anything new, I boiled up the branch and leaves and let it steep for a few hours as per the instructions. I strained the "tea" into a container and braced up for my first sip. First sip indeed - it was absolutely VILE!
In the meantime, my husband had found a book on bush medicine in our rental home and identified the plant as a common anti-inflammatory. It has indeed been used for centuries to treat anything from the common cold to cancer. I lasted about 8 sips or three days and decided that I'd stick to ibuprofen if I needed that kind of relief!
Here is a good book on the subject:
Bush Medicine in Bahamian Folk Tradition - Martha Hanna-Smith