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Medicinal Plants of Haiti With Wilnise

Watch the video here or read the transcript below!

In today's Video Wilnise Francois will be sharing some of her favorite Haitian Traditional Plants. Wilnise Francois is a Haitian-American Licensed Nurse and Herbalist that has worked in the allopathic modality of healing for over a decade. Her role as an herbalist expanded with the personal need and integration of herbal medicines from her coveted traditional Haitian practices and studies in Western herbalism. As a community herbalist, she is working to revolutionize the cultural affinity of our plant friends through our relationships with the earth and stars. Her aim is to integrate the very love our herbs show us and implement that essence into our daily lives; creating a lifestyle of health and wellness.

Time Stamps:

0:00 Introduction

3:51 Influences on Haitian Herbalism

8:23 Favorite Way to Use Plants Daily

8:30 Molokhia, Egyptian Spinach, Jew's Mallow

11:42 Vana Tulsi Basil

14:16 Djon Djon Mushroom

17:20 Castor oil and Castor Plant

21:43 Lemongrass

KhadiYah: Hello everybody. So I'm here joined with Wilnise Francois, I hope I pronounced your name right. So I'll give her a little bit of time to introduce herself and then we'll get into today's chat.

Wilnise: Hi. Good afternoon everyone. My name is Wilnise Francois, and, yes, you did

pronounce that correctly. I am a herbalist and private chef that infuses the plants

and love of the earth into my daily lifestyle, specifically those that are indigenous

to the spaces that I inhabit, and of course, Haiti. So I';m excited to share with you

guys today and I also want to thank KhadiYah for allowing me into her space to

share about some of the beautiful plant friends that are indigenous to Haiti, and

we'll go ahead and get started.

KhadiYah: Okay. Thank you so much. I appreciate you as well. All right, so our first question was what was your experience with the plant as a child?

Wilnise: I tend to say that plants have been in my life probably before conception,

obviously. Being from the diaspora, the African diaspora specifically, my parents

come from Haiti and a lot of our culture is highly medicinal with the plants. And

so I think plants have been in my life from the time of my mother's postpartum

care to growing up, having to need certain oils and herbal teas to stay well, to

planting gardens with my father during the summer and spring in New York, and

just always being fascinated by the plant kingdom.

KhadiYah: What part of New York was that?

Wilnise: I grew up in Brooklyn and we lived a little bit in Queens too, so I spent a lot of

my childhood between Brooklyn and Queens and yeah, during those months,

specifically the spring and summer and fall as well; like, those were my favorite

seasons because it was the time for us to be in the garden.

KhadiYah: Okay, because I actually was born in Brooklyn and when we were two, my mom moved us to Queens so I actually lived there until I was 14 and then we moved.

Like a lot of people did that. Their grandparents moved to the north, we moved

back to the south, so now I'm in Tennessee. So it's good meeting another New

Yorker. So you actually begin your own personal journey then with the plants?

Wilnise: My personal journey began - like a committed personal journey to plants began - I want to say teenage years, right. I think during those moments as a woman and we're starting to menstruate and do certain things, with our bodies started

changing, I think my need to learn how to take care of my body a little bit better

helped me dive a little bit deeper into plant medicine. And that's how it started off

for me but I feel like even as a child, I always had a really intimate relationship

with the plants, specifically the flowers. Like those were the things I love to plant

in the garden and just be with and pick and really curious about. But actually

implementing into my daily habits definitely started in my later adolescence,

early, early adulthood. Yeah.

KhadiYah: Okay. Awesome. So what are some of the historical influence then on the culture

of Haiti? You can talk about just the culture, the cuisine or herbalism. What are

the influences that you can talk about?

Wilnise: Okay. Well, like many of the African Diaspora countries here in the west, Haiti is deeply rich and entrenched in just like its relationship to the earth, culturally. Like

a lot of what we eat, a lot of what we do is always tied right back to the earth,

much like most African cultures.

And what I like to coin Haiti as being little Africa, and because of the reasons why is we have a lot of indigenous plants that are indigenous to the island or to the continent of Africa that you find in Haiti because of course our ancestors brought those things with them, right. Carried a lot of the medicines with them, and we still implement them to this day.

A lot of the foods that we eat is richly African. One of my favorites, we're going to dive into a little bit later, which is Lalo, but it is a plant that's found in western Africa

as well as in the northern regions, indigenous to those space and it is a delicacy in

Haiti. Like we enjoy that meal so deeply and it's again, one of those plants that

draws us right back to our traditions in Africa. So I always say everything that we

do in Haiti is the indigenous and African imprint that's just like screaming out of

us and all of the plants that we use in every aspect of our lives is again, ties us

right back to the continent.

KhadiYah: All right. And do you also think getting the independence so early as well, you all were able to keep a little bit more of the culture as well?

Wilnise: Oh, definitely. I think our intelligence with the earth, and that's obviously coined from the indigenous peoples of the island of Haiti, that were there, that already had just like this vast knowledge of the landscape of Haiti helped in a lot of the rebel fighting during that revolutionary war that happened on the island. So there was a lot of plant ecology and biology and alchemizing that happened with the

plants to help us defeat some of those folks that came to terrorize the island and

the people.

KhadiYah: Yes. Okay. Those folks. I love that. So what are some of your favorite ways that you're using plants daily?

Wilnise: I think every way, like there's plants implemented in every aspect of my life, from what I'm putting on top of my skin, to what I'm using to help nourish my hair, and of course what I'm ingesting in food. One of my favorite ways, I think the most

favorite way of implementing specifically herbal medicine is through the kitchen,

for me. I love adding plant medicine into my food in every way; breakfast, lunch,

and dinner, whether it be powder form, tinctures or just like using the live fresh

plant medicines into any form, cakes and oils and stews, soups, whatever it is. I

think I intentionally implement plants medicine specifically into everything of my

life. So it's an embodied lifestyle and I think that's what helps to keep me well and

balanced and then also grounded in my work as well as the work for my clients.

KhadiYah: Okay. I think one of the titles you have, because you have so many, I think one, I've seen that you also are like a chef.

Wilnise: Mm-Hmm. Yes.

KhadiYah: That love of cooking. Is that from your mom or?

Wilnise: Oh, definitely. I think, yeah, we grew up in the kitchen, and me and my mother still to this day are in the kitchen. A lot of our bonding happened over the stove, and since a child, I was just always so curious and fascinated with the way she

nourished us and nurtured us. Like I was blessed enough to have that relationship

with her where she really took the time to cook us a home cooked meal every

single day, and still does to this day, you know, especially when we're home.

But yeah, a lot of my love for being in the kitchen and just nourishing and nurturing

others comes from that demonstration that I saw growing up. And so she does a

really beautiful job at teaching how to be in the kitchen, and she also has this

really mad, beautiful flare about her that I guess I wanted to emulate and I've

embodied that just to, I think every respect and I love being in the kitchen just as

much as she does.