Living on such a remote group of islands where medical care was thousands of miles away, Chagossians historically used plants to treat medical conditions when people fell ill. Certain plant species are still used today by many cultures instead of standard medicines. Below are a few examples of those used in Mauritius and the Seychelles by Chagossian communities.
Known as “Saponer” in Mauritius or “Roz amer” in the Seychelles Catharanthus roseus(its scientific name) is widely used to treat a variety of ailments including dengue fever, diarrhoea and diabetes. This “bitter rose” is also known as the Madagascan periwinkle and comes in both white and pink coloured flowers.
The Indian nettle, also known as Lerb chat, has been used to help with a cough, upset stomach, itchy skin and spots. It was added to boiled water to drink, or crushed and brushed over spots.
Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) has been used to treat a fever, with people known to have bathed in water infused with it, or add it with ginger, lemon and honey as a hot drink.
Other top plants...
Catnip, known for making cats deliriously crazy, has health properties which are great for humans too! It is known to relieve symptoms of a cold and is useful in breaking a fever as it promotes sweating.
Sage is an incredibly useful herb, known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Its great reputation is even represented in its scientific name, Salvia officinalis, derived from the Latin word, salvere, which means 'to be saved'.
Around the world roughly 50,000 (1 in 6) species of plants have been used to treat medical conditions. Many are only used in folk medicine but around 100 species have contributed significantly to modern drugs.