Leaves of Life: Volume 1 (Single Herbs)


Guyana’s natural ecosystem consists of eighty percent rainforest and expanses of untouched neotropical forests with different species of plants found nowhere else on earth. For example, curare is a paralytic, plant-derived poison used in fishing and hunting in Guyana, while it may also be used in modern medicine as a muscle relaxant, and as an adjunct to anesthesia in heart surgery. Leaves of Life: Volume1, Single Plants reveals the secrets of Guyana’s biodiversity and tropical vegetation. These secrets were traditionally confined to the “Bush Men” and women who were the keepers of this knowledge and the individuals who made their living cultivating plants.

Leaves of Life (Vol.1) is a priceless resource of information on over one hundred single plants, believed to have been lost over generations. With this reference manual of plants from Guyana, organized into easily useful diagnostic categories, you can use this information to improve the quality of your life and to spread the knowledge of the medicinal and healing properties of single plants.

The aim of Leaves of Life is to assist the layperson in self-healing through the use and preparation of herbs by providing important information on the medicinal and traditional uses of herbs from Guyana in a succinct easy-to-use form. In Guyana, the knowledge of the uses of these medicinal plants traditionally passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.   Both in its philosophy and its practical application toward healing, Obeah, as an African healing system, has a great deal to offer Western Medicine.  There are still large numbers of medicinal plants, which remained, undocumented and uncharacterized.   Every day new plant sources of medicine are also being discovered.[1] The advent of pharmaceutical chemistry during the early twentieth century brought with it the ability to synthesize an enormous variety of medicinal drug molecules and allowed the treatment of previously incurable and/or life-threatening diseases. It is estimated that Americans consume more than 40 billion tablets a year.[2]   Nearly $500 million is spent on over-the-counter drugs containing aspirin each year. [3] However, synthetic drugs have been plagued by unwanted toxic side effects.  The emergence of new infectious diseases, the proliferation of disorders such as cancer, and growing multidrug resistance in pathogenic microorganisms have prompted renewed interest in the discovery of potential drug molecules from medicinal plants. 

[1] Ahmad Iqbal,  Aqil Farrukh and Owais Mohammad, Modern Phytomedicine: Turning Medical Plants into Drugs, Germany: Wiley-Vch Verlag Gmbh & Co. KGaA, 2006;  252.

[2] Hou, Joseph P. and  Jin Youyu, The Healing Power of Chinese Herbs Binghamton,  New York: The Haworth Integrative Healing Press, 2005; 2.

[3] Ibid., 2.

In Leaves of Life, Volume1: Single Herbs, the author of the Behutet series and native of Guyana, posits the view that herbal medicine is becoming more popular in contemporary life and that there is a herbal remedy for any ailment. Scientists have come to recognize the capacity of the rainforest to treat or cure ailments and diseases that plague modern life, such as AIDS, cancers, venereal diseases, heart problems, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, infertility, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and more. This priceless resource of over one hundred single herbs, thought to be lost over the generations, will ever be at your finger tips.

The Efficacy of Herbs Compared to Drugs


Herbs are often considered to be safer, gentler, and of lower cost than conventional pharmaceutical drugs.  Herbs are safer than modern-day synthetic or lab-produced drugs because they are naturally rich in both biologically active and inert substances. Many of these nutrients have strong antioxidant, detoxicant, scavenging, and dual-functioning properties, which a great number of people do not realize. Herbs do not act like chemical drugs but more closely resemble the orthomolecular substances of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that naturally exist in our bodies. There are those who argue that medicinal herbs usually do not give immediate reactions and are not the first choice to treat severe, life threatening diseases.  However, herbs have been used as the primary choice of treatment for thousands of years in Africa, Asia and the Americas. The effects or herbs are subtle and gradual. They tend to fill the needs of one's system as a whole.  The herbal properties balance the positive and the negative, gradually bringing the entire body to a natural state.


Advantages of natural (herbal) medicines are that they are mild in action, lack side effects at normal dosage, and are relatively inexpensive compared to most synthetic drugs.  In addition, crude preparations of herbal medicines, when taken orally, have interesting benefits. With oral consumption, the release of active ingredients into the bloodstream is relatively slow. The low concentrated release of the medication provides for a sustained dosage, which is a possible explanation for the minimal side effects experienced from herbal preparations.  The body is not subjected to a sudden surge of chemicals.  Instead, the herb is introduced to the body's system slowly and gently.


Leaves of Life (LOL) presents an ecological perspective of health and disease as it examines the interrelationships among environmental, cultural, social, and physiological factors.  It incorporates the traditional pharmaceutical practices with modern medicine, and presents a compendium of over a hundred medicinal plants from Guyana and their usage. Plants have aided us in the fight against diseases.  The remedy quinine from the cinchona bark eradicated the disease malaria; morphia remains perhaps the most effective pain killer; mahuang (Ephedra vulgaris) for treatment of asthma (ephedrine is the active alkaloid component); emetine, the most effective controller of amebic dysentery; rauwolfia used in the treatment of high blood pressure (the alkaloid reserpine being the active principle) introduced the much abused concept of tranquillizers; the heart drug digitalis from the purple foxglove and  curare remains one of the most valuable handmaidens of modern anesthesia, not to mention penicillin.[1]

[1] Thomson M.D. William A. R.  Herbs that Heal . New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1976;12.

This timeless wonder of over a hundred herbs reveals the true secrets of its tropical vegetation to the traditional “Bush Men”, the individuals who make their living off the local plant lore. These secrets have eluded European explorers like Walter Raleigh, the first European to record the existence of curare, a paralytic, plant-derived poison used in fishing and hunting in Guyana. Curare causes death by asphyxiation through the loss of control of muscles essential in respiration and is used in modern medicine as a muscle relaxant for shock treatment of mental illness, and as an adjunct to anaesthesia in heart surgery.


Leaves of Life, Volume1: Single Herbs also brings alive the myriads of medicinal multiple-purpose plants which can be employed in several ways at the same time. Many of the planted trees in Georgetown, the capital city, are utilized for fire and disease prevention purposes. The tropical broadleaf trees lining the streets are useful in preventing fire from spreading from one house to another for they do not ignite unless the heat first dries them. Also, many of the planted trees are important disease prevention agents for they drain pools of stagnant water with their roots; stagnant water is the breeding place for mosquitoes transmitting yellow fever, malaria and edema.

Herb-based Alternative Systems of Medicine


Herbal medicine is now globally accepted as a valid alternative system of therapy.  About eighty percent (80%) of people living in developing countries are almost completely dependent on traditional medical practices for their primary health care needs. Higher plants are known to be the main source of drug therapy in traditional medicine. [1] It is further claimed that sixty four percent (64%) of the total population of the world utilizes plants as drugs, i.e. 3.2 billion people. [2] Approximately, one hundred and nineteen plant based derived chemical compounds of known structure and derived from ninety species of plants are currently used as drugs or as biodynamic agents that affect human health.[3]  Nearly one-third of Americans engage in alternative medicine practices. Twenty-five percent (25%) of all prescriptions dispensed from community pharmacies contained active principles that were extracted from higher plants. In 1980, consumers in the United States paid more than 8 billion dollars for prescriptions containing active principles obtained from higher plants. [4]   Therefore, the potential for interactions with conventional medicine exists.  Health is influenced by religion, society and environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as not only the absence of disease and malnutrition but also the positive wellbeing of the person.   Ra Un Nefer Amen writes “all functions of the body, mind and spirit—and in all departments of nature are composed and regulated by two interdependent and seemingly opposite factors.”[5]  In the West, we call these structures positive and negative currents.  In medical terms, it is known as anabolism (yin) and catabolism (yang). Anabolism corresponds to all the supportive nutrients and structural substances (blood, water, hormones, nutrients, etc.).  Catabolism (yang) corresponds to the forces (electricity, magnetism, etc.) through which activity takes place.  Diseases therefore arise as the result of the underlying malfunctions of the organs or imbalance of the yin and yang of the body, anabolic and catabolic.

[1] A Wiley-Interscience Publication: Ciba Foundation Symposium 154,  Bioactive Compounds from Plants John Wiley & Sons: Great Britian, 1990;  3.

[2] Ibid., 3.

[3] Ibid., 3.

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Amen Ra Un Nefer. Healing is in the Spirit, Brooklyn: Khamit Media Trans Vision, Inc,  2010; 10.

Leaves of Life, Volume1: Single Herbs, cites the enormous importance of the natural world of plants at a time when plant resources are decreasing at a rapid rate. No other time in history have human beings placed such importance on the natural world of plants.

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