Friday, 4 April 2008 1:13 PM

More Than Just a Tree

Solomon Islands have many plants that are used as medicines, often prescribed by traditional healers for all kinds of sicknesses.

In Malaita the coconut tree is not used just for copra, the most common use of the coconut in most parts of the Solomon Islands. The coconut plant is used as a medicine for illness such as diarrhea, tooth ache and for nausea.

Speaking with one woman from Malaita, Ms. Lily Mae said that coconut is very important because of its multiple uses, particularly before the introduction of Western medicines.

Ms. Mae said that the coconut fruit is often used as a medicine for diarrhea, "we collect the dry fruit and husk the outer skin...this is then used for medicine," she said.

She said that it is then boiled in hot water until it went dark red. It is then left to cool before it is prepared to drink. "The part that we boil with water, is called 'If 'if Liu' in our language in Central Malaita," she told Solomon Times.

Ms. Mae also said that the bark of the coconut tree is another source of traditional medicine. "When you peel off the first layer of the bark, you will see the white part inside," Ms. Mae explained. "That white part of the coconut bark is used for tooth aches."

The bark is also boiled, with at least three cups of water and three pinches of salt, once it is ready the bark is strained out and the juice is used as mouth wash, Ms. Mae explained.

"After washing the mouth with the juice, the pain will easily go away," she said.

Ms. Mae went on to say that "the young coconut fruit is best for those who have fever.... drinking the young coconut fruit does help."

Ms. Mae said that even with the increasing supply of Western medicine, many still opt to use these traditional methods of healing, although she says that it is wise to always consult a doctor if symptoms persist.

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