Superstition or traditional medicine?
Bottle with pimento and rum sparks social media frenzyMonday, August 02, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
TERRESTRIAL biologist Damion Whyte has always indulged in journeying across the island in search of unusual plants, animals and, lately, artefacts.
On a recent trek, the 40-year-old stumbled upon a glass bottle containing pimentos soaked in rum on the grounds of a great house in St Ann on July 21. He took a picture of the bottle with the mixture and posted it on his social media platforms, including Instagram and Twitter.
“This is my hobby and I do it for fun. I was on a trail of finding frogs and all types of things, but then I found the bottle and decided to take it up. When I opened it, I saw a lot of pimentos and I also smelled alcohol,” said Whyte who has been a biologist since 2004.
But, little did Whyte know that he would capture the interest of hundreds of people on social media, who linked his discovery to not only traditional medicine but also superstitions.
“I was a bit surprised with the feedback because I was just posting like I normally would. I didn't expect that it would go viral,” he told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
One Facebook user said, “Don't open it!” And a Twitter user said, “The ancestors need to have a word,” with another writing, “Nuh so dem catch duppy?”
Based on the responses of the social media users, medical anthropologist Dr Steve Weaver suggested that there is still a high belief in superstitions in Jamaica.
“I would say so. What I find is that a lot of the superstitions fall within the cultural and religious framework. People still believe in some of these things,” he said.
Weaver said he was unable to link the use of pimento and rum to any superstition but pointed out another example.
“I've never heard of it, but I do know that when you are in certain ceremonies and you want to see a spirit, you put the white rum in your mouth and you breathe it out. However, not many people are very comfortable with that behaviour in the church settings as they fear that it might not bring about healthy spirits,” he said.
Whyte, however, stuck to his belief that the combination of pimento and rum is used as traditional medicine to heal various injuries.
“People say that when you use that, is for duppy. But, I know that traditionally in the country, they would have pimento soaked in rum, a centipede, or a scorpion to rub on your foot for pain. Some people even use pimento with ganja for pain as well,” he said.
In support of Whyte's view, functional medicine specialist Dr Orlando Thomas said the pimento leaves and dried seeds have medicinal properties.
“They are powerful antimicrobials so they kill bacteria viruses, fungus and parasites. They are also very powerful analgesics, which mean they can be used for pain and they are also very powerful anti-cancer properties,” said Thomas.
Adding that the alcohol component is not unusual in herbal medicine, Thomas said, “Alcohol is used in many instances to extract nutrients or different kinds of compounds from herbs because it has a unique property in that it can dissolve both fat soluble [like pimentos] and water soluble components of herbs.”
Thomas said more people are using traditional medicine, as “there is now research proving the efficacy and safety of many of these traditional medicines and herbs that we use. We now know dosages and the side effects”.
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