Economic Botany

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 177–189 | Cite as

Lime for Chest Congestion, Bitter Orange for Diabetes: Foods as Medicines in the Dominican Community in New York City


Lime for Chest Congestion, Bitter Orange for Diabetes: Foods as Medicines in the Dominican Community in New York City. Several plants serve a dual purpose as foods and medicines in the Dominican immigrant community in New York City. Data show that foods used for self–medication by this community are plants that are well known and readily available in an urban environment, such as lime, bitter orange, garlic, cinnamon, onion and shallot, coconut, watercress, ginger, soursop, and radish. These plants are significant for Dominicans in New York City for treatment of non–communicable diseases, colloquially called “lifestyle diseases” (such as diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and asthma/chest congestion), self–limiting diseases (including common cold, flu, cough, acute bronchitis), and female reproductive health (such as vaginal infections and infertility). Our findings emphasize the contemporary role of traditional medicine as an alternative and parallel healthcare system that dynamically adapts to current urban epidemiological trends. The double use of foods as medicines has important implications for urban outreach projects, such as Green Carts and community gardens, that play a role in disease prevention of vulnerable populations, especially those living in areas identified as food deserts.

Key Words

Traditional medicine urban ethnobotany migrants non–communicable diseases self–limiting diseases female reproductive health food deserts Green Carts community gardens botánicas medical education cultural competency training Dominican Republic 

El Limón para Pecho Apretado, la Naranja Agria para Diabetes: Plantas Alimenticias como medicinas en la Comunidad Dominicana en Nueva York. Varias plantas tienen un doble propósito como alimentos y medicinas en la Comunidad inmigrante Dominicana en la ciudad de Nueva York. Los datos demuestran que estas plantas Alimenticias utilizadas para automedicarse por esta Comunidad son plantas que son bien conocidas y fácilmente disponibles en el entorno urbano, como Limón, Naranja Agria, ajo, canela, cebolla y cebollín, coco, berro, jengibre, guanábana y rábano. Estas plantas son importantes para la Comunidad Dominicana en Nueva York para el tratamiento de las enfermedades no transmisibles, coloquialmente llamadas “enfermedades de estilo de vida” (como Diabetes, sobrepeso, colesterol alto, hipertensión y asma/Pecho Apretado), enfermedades auto–limitadas (incluyendo resfriado, gripe, tos, bronquitis aguda) y la salud reproductiva de la mujer (como infecciones vaginales e infertilidad). Estos resultados enfatizan el papel contemporáneo de la medicina tradicional como un sistema alternativo y paralelo de salud que se adapta dinámicamente a las tendencias actuales de la epidemiología urbana. El doble uso de las plantas Alimenticias como medicinas tiene implicaciones importantes para proyectos de extensión urbana, tales como los Carritos Verdes (“Green Carts”) y los jardines comunitarios, que desempeñan un papel en la prevención de las enfermedades en poblaciones vulnerables, especialmente las comunidades que viven en áreas identificadas como desiertos alimentarios (“food deserts”).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Economic BotanyThe New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA

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