'Rub it over the head for a headache, or snuff it for a cold,' says Mrs Baker
Headaches and colds
Guinea hen weed is a well-known Jamaican remedy for headaches, fever and colds. There are several ways of using it, for example grating the root and steeping it in rum before rubbing the mixture over the head, or simply tying leaves to your head.
The pure root extract is toxic if taken internally in high doses, and may cause miscarriages.
Guinea hen weed is found in the Amazon rainforest and tropical areas of Central and South America, the Caribbean and Africa. It has a long history as a medicinal plant in the Amazon, where it is known as anamu. Its main use is against colds and as a pain reliever for headaches, rheumatism and arthritis. It also features in magic rituals. The root is said to be more powerful than the leaves.
The plant is said to have magical powers. The strong smelling leaves would be scattered around the room to ‘to keep away duppies’ (unfriendly spirits).
The root is traditionally used in an insecticide preparation, probably because of its strong smell.
Guinea hen weed has been widely studied in the laboratory. Its traditional usefulness for arthritis and rheumatism has been supported by research that shows it does have anti-inflammatory properties and may stimulate the immune system.
Plant-screening tests have also shown that it contains chemicals active against some types of cancer cells, including forms of leukaemia and breast cancer, although the effect varies. Other studies claim it is active against many strains of bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast.