Welcome to El Paraiso Botanica!

Most Dominicans participate in the dominant, biomedical healthcare system. However, sometimes while participating in biomedical healthcare, they may continue to use culturally appropriate medicines known as botánicas. Botánicas are traditional medicines from the Dominican Republic. These remedies reflect the history of Hispaniola with elements of African, Taino, and European tradition. Here in Washington Heights, botánicas are still commonly used and an important part of our patient population’s healthcare. El Paraiso Botánica, is a local botánica shop right here in WaHi.

I. Background
As mentioned earlier, herbal remedies are a reflection of the diverse history of the Dominican Republic (34). They function through concepts of humors, and hot cold disease classifications. Here like in many cases of traditional medicine, the line between physical and spiritual ailment is often blurred. The patient is seen as a product of their environment, with personal history, social situation, emotional state, and spiritual balance all taken into account. Balance is one of the core concepts in this complementary medicine, with homeostasis of hot, cold, bitter, sour, salty, and sweet being of the utmost importance. Different combinations of plants are often used to restore this "balance" when patients are sick (34).

Home remedies come in many different shapes and sizes. Many remedies consist of herbs that are boiled and served as tea. Another type of remedy is known as a botella or bottle. It is a small bottle that often has parts of different plants combined with honey and lime to make it easier to take. Lastly, for coughs and respiratory illnesses often times a jarabe or syrup is used (34).

Illnesses that are most commonly treated with alternative medicines include infertility, STDs, and respiratory infections such as the flu, asthma, and bronchitis.

II. Remedies to Know
In a survey study of Dominican patients in an emergency room it was found that 24% of patients use some sort of alternative medicines for their chief complaint and almost half of them use prayer as a part of their healing process. (1). Having 1 in 4 Dominican patients using alternative medicines makes asking about them during the history and physical absolutely imperative to treating them effectively. While most herbal remedies are plant and vegetable mixtures it is important to know exactly what the ingredients are when treating a patient in this community.
Mamajuana. http://hotlollies.com/2012/12/08/a-mamajuana-rum-cocktail-with-a-nod-to-the-old-fashioned/
One of the most common remedies cited in Dominican culture is Mamajuana. This may sound familiar as it is also the name of a chain of Dominican restaurants, one of which is located on Dyckman street. Mamajuana is a mixture of different herbs and alcohol and left to ferment over time, often buried in the ground. This can be drank as an alcoholic beverage or as an herbal remedy for kidney problems, STDs, or most commonly, libido enhancement and erectile dysfunction. This is particularly important to ask about because of the high alcohol content in the remedy (34).

Another important ingredient in many home remedies is honey, particularly for respiratory complaints and sore throats. Honey is often combined with more foul tasting plants in order to make their ingestion more palatable. One precaution that should always be taken is not to give honey to small children due to the fear of contamination with C. botulinum (37).

Here is a quick guide to herbal remedies compiled by the pediatrics department here at CUMC.

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