Jungle Plants- Medicine from Costa Rica

SAM_1091In December 2012 I was blessed to be able to take a trip to Costa Rica. My goal was to get an introduction to Central American plant medicine. Robert Beatham, of The Paradise Tropical Garden in Rio Claro, offered just such an opportunity! I loved Robert from the moment I saw him, as he walked energetically out of his home with a pack of barking, wagging dogs at his heels. Robert is a genuine sort of person, with strong opinions tempered by a good sense of humor.

SAM_1184Robert was born and raised on a farm in Bangor, Maine. He attended the Maine Maritime Academy, and upon graduation went to look for a job. He took an opening on a banana boat heading for Central America… and 3 trips later met the love of his life- his wife Carmen. They eventually married in November 1964, and purchased the beautiful land I visited in December. Robert and Carmen (Mami, he called her) shared their lives together until April 2003, when Mami transitioned from this Earth. Robert buried her on her beloved land.

SAM_1279The farm has been used in many ways by Robert over the years, but is now planted with hundreds of tropical plants and trees. Robert offers guided tours of the gardens, and is bursting with a vast amount of knowledge about his plants, trees, fruits and their uses. He and I spoke of the power of plant medicine, eating fresh unprocessed foods, and the rise in our modern culture of autoimmune disease, cancer, stress, and the modern way of life that separates us from the Earth and each other. We compared medicinal uses for some of the plants I recognized. We spoke of treating common diseases and conditions with plant medicine and natural foods. Robert feels strongly that people should live simply and only do things that make them happy, and I love his outlook.  I was in heaven on Robert’s farm, and would have stayed for days had it not been for my travel companions. After several hours of wandering the farm and sharing a lovely lunch of tamales wrapped in banana leaves, I hugged Robert goodbye.

Robert has offered to have me back to his farm to work and learn. I hope to be able to join him there one day for an extended visit. Until then, I would like to share with you some of the photos I took in this verdant, colorful place. First, a few of the plants and their uses as employed locally as medicine for common health issues. Please remember that I have not tried any of these remedies and that each of us should take responsibility for our health choices. Pregnant/lactating women and people with serious health issues should always work with a health care provider, like a physician or a trained herbalist, prior to taking any herb, medication or supplement~

red plume gingerThe bracts of Red Plume Ginger (alpinia purpurata) are plucked off and stuffed into an 8 oz bottle- when full it is covered with rubbing alcohol to cover completely. After a minimum of 5 days (as an herbalist I would recommend 2-4 weeks, myself) the plant material can be strained out and the resulting liniment is rubbed into the back to treat a slipped disk. Local folklore says this remedy can have good result within several days.


avocado leavesAvocado leaves (persea americana) ~ 3 leaves are boiled in 3.5 cups of water for 3-5 minutes, left to cool, strained and refrigerated. One cup of the decoction is taken 3x daily to lower blood pressure. Locals also say it lowers cholesterol and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.



annatto treeAnnatto tree (bixa orellana) leaves are used as a remedy for gout. 10 leaves are boiled in a litre of water and allowed to cool. The liquid is strained out, refrigerated, and 1 cup is taken 4 times daily. Relief from the pain of gout is often felt after the first day. The seeds from the bright red pods are used as well- for relief from stomach ulcer. The seeds are removed, dried and ground up. 3 ground seeds are sprinkled of food in the morning and another 3 in the evening. Locals say this often completely cures the ulcer.

SAM_1190Scarlet Bush (hamelia patens) is used as a remedy for enlarged prostate. 2 ounces of fresh leaves and flowers are boiled in 3.5 cups of water for 5 minutes and left to cool. One half cupful of the strained and refrigerated decoction is drunk 3x daily. Local rumor says that this treatment will result in scheduled surgeries being cancelled!



Here I simply wish to share some of the wonders of this magnificent garden with you. Please enjoy these photos. If you ever visit Costa Rica, look up Robert Beatham and call him at 2789-8746 to schedule a tour. His website is also full of fantastic images and information. You can also email Robert and request free information- ask for his REMEDIES booklet and his CANCER DIET booklet. He will gladly send it to you. Please tell him hello for me when you email! Visit Robert and his website and tell Robert I said hello! http://paradise-garden.tripod.com/


9 thoughts on “Jungle Plants- Medicine from Costa Rica”

  1. Kristen, Thank you for sharing your story and this information. with your permission I would love to put a link on my website back to this page… love the info. Thank you.

  2. My sister has dry eyes, i.e. she has no tear drops. She is 57 and I would love to know a solution for her. I live in CR and have 2,000m of land with Papaya trees and avacados

  3. Great photos and remedies, but instead if isopropyl alcohol, which is toxic, I would recommend using 151 rum or other high % naturally distilled spirits.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I am passing on the information as it is used locally. This recipe is for external use only as a liniment. For any internal use, I recommend using grain alcohol (190 proof) when extracting medicine from fresh plant material. The result is then called a tincture, which is used internally as well as externally. Never take tinctures internally without the guidance of a trained herbalist. Thanks!!

  4. I loved reading your piece. I am Robert’s sister and still live in Maine. He is a remarkable person. I had the opportunity to visit with him, and learned a lot from him.

  5. Nancy, not sure you will remember me. I was @ MMA @ the same time as Bobby – 2 years ahead of him . Grew up in So Orrington. I was closer in age to your brother Dick. Fascinating life Bob has led . The stories in You Tube are fascinating. Bill Sawyer – Scarborough.

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