Plants that heal

Student presentations in ethnobotany on local plants that have healing users.


Tremay Esiel presented the use of Premna serratifolia (Premna obtusifolia), Pohnpeian oahr, to treat fever via an umwulap (herbal steam bath).

Tumeric ginger used in coconut oil to treat and prevent fungal skin conditions

Ann-Julie Hainrick presenting tumeric


Mary-Ann Henrybrought in the larger leafed Premna serratifolia, known on Pohnpei as topwuk. As with the small leafed oahr, this plant can also be used for fever. The black fruit are also used to treat Herpes zoster, locally known as kilsarawi. The ripe fruit is also used in the treatment of the Herpes zoster induced disease chicken pox.


Raydeen Julios of Mwoakilloa brought in Senna alata. The Mwoakillese name for the plant is soahn kihdo. The word suggests linkages to both Kosraen's sra kito and the Kitti word for leaf, toahn, rendered as tehn in the northern municipalities of Pohnpei. Sra and soahn both refer to leaf. On Pohnpei the plant is known as tuhkehn kilin wai, where kilinwai, kihdo, and kito, all refer to the same skin condition. Tuhke means tree. The leaves are used to treat a variety of fungal skin conditions. The leaves are either rubbed vigorously into the affected skin, or a coconut oil is produced containing Senna alata and applied to the skin after bath.


Genrisa Kovac of Pohnpei shared a Pohnpeian use of Clerodendrum inerme, ilau, to treat dark spots on the skin. The ilau is mixed with copra scrapings and rubbed on the skin daily.


Mitchell Marino of U on Pohnpei noted the efficacy of Piper methysticum (sakau) leaf for the staunching of blood flow from a cut.


Natasha Oliver of Mwoakilloa also presented on Senna alata as an anti-fungal.


Yostrick Rosario of Pohnpei also noted the use of Clerodendrum inerme for umwulap in the treatment of viral respiratory illnesses.


Dannia Route of Pohnpei brought in coleus, Solenostemon scutellarioides, koramahd on Pohnpei, to treat salengamat (bad ear smell). The juice is squeezed into the ear to treat this condition. The condition is likely the result of bacteria or fungii in the outer ear canal.


Sasha Santiago of Pohnpei brought in Piper ponapense, konok, and claimed that if one end of the stem of the plant blown into, a liquid will come out the other end of the stem that relieves the symptoms of pink eye.


LynnJella Seilo of Kuttu, Mortlocks, brought in Terminalia catappa leaves. Terminalia catappa is also known as an Indian almond or sea almond. The tree is known by the Chuukese name of asas. The old leaves, once they have turned red, are infused in boiled water. The water is then cooled and used to bathe the eyes of someone who has pink eye to relieve the symptoms of pink eye.


Theodore Sigrah of Kosrae explained the guava leaves can be boiled in water to produce an antiseptic bath used to prevent infection in foot wounds and cuts.


April Suzuki of Pohnpei noted the use of a mixture of crushed Clerodendrum leaves (ilau) and coconut milk to produce a hair conditioner that yields long, silky black hair.


Rose Jany Torres brought in Morinda citrifolia, known as weipwul on Pohnpei, and covered its use in an umwulap to treat fever.


Lienna Zarred of Oneop in the Mortlocks brought in Morinda citrifolia. Lienna noted that while Kuttu refers to the tree as "nen" - a word also found in lagoon Chuukese - on Oneop the tree is called "nin." Heated leaves of the tree are placed on a woman's belly post-partum to help her heal internally after delivering a baby. The young, bitter fruit is also used to prevent and treat sea sickness. Eating the fruit helps stop sea sickness.


Grant Jonas of Kosrae noted the use of guava leaves in the treatment of diarrhea.


Naoya Ogaki of Japan explained the use of Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (chidomegusa) to stop bleeding in Japan. Hydrocotyle ranunculoides is known commonly as water pennywort, floating pennywort, or floating marshpennywort, is an aquatic plant native to north and south America. This may be a misidentification as Hydrocotyle ranunculoides was first identified in Kyushu as an introduced species in 1998. The correct identification might be Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides, lawn pennyroyal. Images of the plant appear similar to a plant that a Yapese student once planted in the ethnobotanical garden at the college, a plant that has since disappeared. Lawn pennyroyal has a longer history of use in Japanese ethnobotany.


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