St. Johnian Victor Hall has held numerous positions throughout his lifefrom hotel security to gas station attendantbut his most impressive work revolves around curing ailments with local plants. Hall is now known as the bush tea man, but there was a time when even he didnt believe in the healing power of local plants.
I was the biggest pessimist there was about plants curing anything, because if it wasnt in a book, I didnt believe it, said Hall. My great aunt, Lillian Hartman Cheng, tried to show me, but I didnt want to learn.
Hall used to tend his great aunts garden, and she would warn him about not cutting down everything.
She would tell me to weed her garden, but not all of it, because some of the plants were good for her back or good for her aches, said Hall.
A friend who cured numerous people of fish poisoning was the first person who got Hall interested in the healing power of plants.
When North Shore Road was being paved in the early 1980s, a number of the paving companys workers and executives ate barracuda at a party, and all contracted fish poisoning, the bush tea man explained.
My friend, Anthony Snoopy Toussaint, and I went to the Backyard one day, and all the men from the paving company stood up and cheered him they told the bartender to give us whatever we wanted, said Hall. This went on all afternoon, and when were strolling out, Snoopy told me that he had cured them of fish poisoning.
Although Hall didnt believe that a cure for fish poisoning existed, he couldnt deny that all the men were cured.
So, Snoopy and I would be hiking or fishing and Id ask him to show me a plant, and he would show me a plant that I always thought was poisonous, Hall said. I was testing him, but he would say the same thing time and again.
Curing a toothache is what finally got the young Hall to become a believer in the healing power of plants.
I had an abscessed tooth with my jaw swollen up, and it was a three-day holiday weekend, so my dentist was off-island, and none of my friends had any pain pills, said Hall. So I said, What the heck, and I drank a cup of bush tea. Within an hour I was eating a steak with the same tooth.
Hall owned The Kite, a well known establishment, The Kite, at Peter Bay, before the area was developed. The bar and local hangout burned down in the late 1980s.
I got second- and third-degree burns on my arms, said Hall. I drank a bush tea and had new skin and hair in 13 days. I started thinking that maybe this tea would even be good for people with AIDS.
After an article about Hall and his herbal teas was printed in the St. John Tradewinds in the early 1990s, he was contacted by people who had AIDS.
A resident had friends with AIDS in the states, so we sent them the tea, and in one month their T-cell counts doubled, said the bush tea man.
All T-cell counts increased, particularly CD4, which is an indicator of healthy cells that doctors look for, Hall added. However, the treatment stopped working after about a month.
Because of the Tradewinds article, I started getting letters from doctors, patients, hospices and magazines, and one important paper that I got had a theory that if you could cure the flu, you could cure AIDS, said Hall.
The local bush tea man then dedicated himself to researching cures for the flu.
So I set about learning flu cures, and 12 years later, with a combination of flu cures and close to 80 clinical blood tests, I submitted all of the data to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and they were impressed, Hall said.
The NIH funded a research program on Halls teas at the University of Puerto Ricos medical center.
Although the results from the research showed that the tea didnt stimulate the production of T cells in vitro, it was deemed safe for clinical trial based on the data that I submitted, said Hall.
The bush tea man then returned to his normal life and focused on music.
I simply walked away from the studies because my life had been on hold during all of the years that I was doing research, Hall said. All of my time and money went into the bush teas, and I was ready to get back into my music.
Although Hall no longer researches herbal cures full time, he still treats numerous people for anything from spider bites to the common cold.
The teas work for everything, really, he said. I even treated someone who had hepatitis C and was given only a year to live. After the treatment, he is doing much better.
Hall is now trying to revive interest in his bush teas and start nonclinical trial research.
I am appealing to clinics, hospices and doctors to contact the University of Puerto Ricos medical center, said Hall. After seven years, I am ready to get back to work.
Hall has improved his herbal cures since the last studies were conducted.
Ive found more-effective plants since the last studies, he said. The teas have no side effects and work really quickly.
Anyone interested in continuing research into the herbal tea remedies should contact the director of the University of Puerto Ricos medical center, Dr. Mikhail Antoun, Hall added. The bush tea man himself can be found at the Coral Bay Domino gas station after 4 p.m. on weekdays, and on weekend afternoons.