Bush Tea Medicine Woman Pours Tea in the Bahamas

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“I have just brewed some soursop and lemongrass tea,” says Lillie Maye Rolle, a local bush tea medicine woman on Great Exuma in Rolle Town. “The soursop is good for hypertension and cancer, and the lemongrass enhances the flavor.”

Lillie’s property features a garden of pomegranate, life leaf, lemongrass, sugar apples and other plants whose leaves provide healing for the ill. While locals with serious diseases would typically go to a hospital for treatment, they come to her for healing, for example, to aid them through chemo or if they have a fever. That being said, Lillie confides that those in the bush tea world have stumbled upon something spectacular.


“There is proof soursop works as a cure for cancer,” she says excitedly. “It’s still being worked on and tested further, but we’ve seen it work.”

Her expansive property is full of fruit and herb trails, and she explains how each can be brewed into a tea to help cure certain ailments.

“My grandmother was an herbal medicine woman,” she says. “When I was younger she would drag me outside to teach me about plants. I found it annoying at the time, but now I’m grateful to be able to help people.”

While Cerasse is used for cancer, diabetes, cold and fever, cotton helps with cough and cold. Five fingers works great to help backaches and strains.

“And if you’re feeling gas or flu symptoms Gumbay is great,” she says. “Just boil the gumbay leaves and drink and you’ll be better right away.”


I spot some aloe in her garden. “Isn’t aloe good for asthma?”

Lillie pauses. “Well, yes and no. If you drink too much aloe your blood will thin. Tamarind and life leaves work much better.”

It’s amazing to me how generous the Earth is to its inhabitants, and how much most people take it for granted. Visiting Lillie Maye Rolle’s home and seeing how she has been able to reap the benefits of nature and help others is truly inspiring.

I’m further inspired when she brings up a plate of sugar apple. The inside of the bumpy green fruit displays a sweet yet sour inside. Chunks of soft, goopy white meat house dark black seeds that allow you to suck the sugary fruit off. I can’t believe something that’s as satisfying as a desert can have curative properties.

Nature really is quite generous.


Do It Yourself

Lillie offers organized tours of her property with commentary for groups of 10 people of more. The tour includes walking around the grounds and learning about the fruits and plants, sampling teas, expert commentary and some cold “switcher,” the Bahamian version of lemonade that played an important part in daily life for past generations of Bahamians. Tours are $10 per person.

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