Our herbal products were developed from roots that the natives of the Dominican Republic have been using for
centuries to live long, healthy lives.
"BEJUCOS" = BIG ROOTS OF THE WEST INDIES
The indigenous population of the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic is usually said to be extinct. But,
thankfully, it is not. A small group of under fifty people still lives an almost completely traditional lifestyle
on the central north coast. Ironically, this remnant of the original peaceful people has survived less than 100
miles from where the Columbus brothers established their first fort in the New World, and subsequently exterminated
a vast majority of the indigenous population.
Astonishing as it is to find these people still living, it is equally astonishing to learn about their local
native medicine plants. Many of these plants exist only in relatively small areas of this island. In a
countryside that has been ignored by the outside world, many new species of plants and animals are just
recently being "discovered". But all the useful medicinal plants are already known to those who still live
in this unbroken native tradition.
I, Cheryl Kolander, am a Master Natural Dyer, and was looking for a rare dye
when I happened upon one of the last enclaves of traditional indigenous people on the island. What I noticed first
about this group of supposedly extinct people is that despite what we would call extreme rural poverty, the kids are
healthy, happy and full of vitality. The adults are strong, peaceful and intelligent. And, if they survive accidents,
they live to a remarkable old age with excellent function.
According to documentation now being prepared regarding the indigenous family Perez-Brito, a very large group
of about 2,000, at least five of the past generation had lived to 125 years. One woman lived to be 135.
The current Great-grandmother, Dolores Brito, is now 95 and is fully ambulatory, with keen wit, clear eyes
and many more years to delight her great grandchildren with stories of times past. As the mother of 21
children, some twins and triplets, her vitality is astounding.
The use of natural herbs is still common, especially amongst the older generation. One of the most widely used,
indeed it is the "national drink" of the island, is a tonic of roots, barks, woody vines and leaves called "Mama Juana".
It can be bought at all the local fresh food markets and at most small shops that sell to locals. There is also a packaging
for the tourist trade, with labels in English and German, but few buy, because they have no idea what's in it.
Also, it is evident to any moderately trained observer, that the actual ingredients in different labels vary widely,
although they all list the same ingredients.
With the help of village leader Nicolas Perez-Brito (1), I have identified the individual ingredients, and over
four years have tested each for its unique effect in the blend. Meanwhile I also researched these plants in all the
available literature in English and Spanish, and visited the National Botanical Garden in the capital, to identify
species at their herbarium. With this information and experience, Nicolas and I have formulated a
tonic that we believe to be the best possible combination for bodybuilding and tonic use.
Bejuco de Indio, Gouania polygama. Considered by Arvigo (2) to be "a superior remedy for male
impotency". Used alone, it energizes the entire lower body. From the waist down, nerve sensation is enhanced.
A large dose gives sensations of vibration in the legs. It imparts a strong "sexy" odor to sweat and body secretions,
enhancing the attractive pheromones.
Bejuco de Costilla, Paullinia pinnata L. A woody
vine, it is the bark of the stem that is collected. Like Bejuco de Indio it
energizes the lower body; like Timacle, it contributes to greater flexibility.
It also imparts a sense of heat to the body, which can be quite remarkable
for some people, tho barely a noticeable effect for others.
Batata de Bejuco de Chin, Smilax sp. The root is the "batata" = potato. This is sarsasparilla,
well known as an endocrine enhancer and mild sexual stimulant. There are several species, all seem to be active.(3)
One Smilax or another is found in almost all current male enhancement combinations, and in female breast enhancement creams.
Timacle, Chiococca alba (4). An amazingly robust vine with huge gnarly roots. Its main action is
on the ligaments, making them instantly more flexible. This effect lasts for several days. A mild diuretic and anesthetic.
It also has a remarkable energizing effect on the mind, promoting clear thinking. Timacle is an indigenous word, originally
meaning 'brave' or 'big, handsome hunk of a guy'.
Bitter Ginger, Jengibre Amargo, Zinbiger zerumbet. A member of the ginger family, the root looks
almost identical to regular hot and spicy ginger. It is a little more yellow in the flesh and darker in the bark.
The taste has overtones of regular ginger, but is less hot and instead is strongly bitter. It is used as a heart tonic,
improving circulation. It is also used to improve digestion and ward off internal parasites. It has potential as an
effective arthritis remedy, reducing pain and swelling and increasing strength and range of motion. It is being investigated
as a topical treatment to the scalp, to encourage stronger hair growth.
The other ingredients: local cinnamon bark, bay rum leaf, and other leaves called canelila and osua are traditionally
added for their flavor and aroma.
This combination has a history of several thousand years of use in the native culture. The traditional use of this
tonic combination takes several forms. About half use it as tea. About a quarter of the use is as tincture made with
the local rum. This is the form when the herbs are used as an aphrodisiac; the men commonly drink several shot glasses
at a time. The third way of using these herbs is to ferment them in water with sugar or honey. This "mabi" is sold from
vendors carts like soda pop.
To most closely duplicate traditional use, and to conserve the potency of these unique herbs as carefully as possible,
yet make them accessible to Western habits, the plan is to eventually wildcraft, air dry, grind and encapsulate the herbs.
In the meantime, we sell a body building tincture, a
stretch tincture of pure timacle, and a rejuvenation cream
for topical use.
The knowledge of these herbs has been passed down for the thousands of years people have lived on this island. Sadly,
not a lot of wild land remains, and even these people, who have survived in their traditional lifestyle all these centuries,
are about to be wiped out. The government has decided to sell the entire community of 3,000 people, almost all part of
this huge indigenous family, as well as the rare coastal natural area they have conserved, for yet another unneeded tourist
resort; that is, if they can get a buyer.
The community has been facilitated to organize a co-op for production of these increasingly rare herbs, and the business
plan calls for organic cultivation to begin immediately to supplement the currently wildcrafted ingredients. These products
can help this remnant indigenous group buy back their land, so they can continue to live as a peaceful demonstration to the
world of their mutually supportive, family based culture, that has much yet to teach us of the wild medicines of their island.
For more information on how you can help this community in its struggle to own its own land, visit our non-profit
Mama D.O.C. site.
(1) Pérez-Brito, Nicolas, Indigenous natural healer.
(2) Arvigo, Rosita, and Michael Balick, "Rainforest Remedies",1993. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes,
WI. Page 111: "The root is a superior remedy for male impotency".
(3) Grieve, Mrs. M., "A Modern Herbal", 1931. 1971 by Dover, NY. Vol. 1, Page 744: "All the Sarsasparillas have medicinal properties and can be used in the same way."
(4) Liogier, Dr. Alain Henri, "Diccionario Botanico de Nombres Vulgares de la Espanola", Jardin Botanico Nacional,
Santo Domingo, Rep. Dominicana, Second Edition, 2000. Also Dr. Angel B. Cordero, "Plantas Medicinales Dominicanas".