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Jumbie Beans

In Nevis and much of the Caribbean, most red seeds are referred to as "Jumbie Beads," as they are used to ward off "jumbies," or evil spirits. The "real" Jumbie Beads are red with a black eye, or red and partially black, and come in a few variations:


Large Jumbie Beads are much less common in Nevis, but we found a tree on our hike up Mt. Liamuiga in St. Kitt’s. The seeds are large and half red/half black. They come from a tall rainforest tree.

Small Jumbie Beads are the most widely known in Nevis and are Abrus precatorius. The seeds are highly toxic when ingested due to the fact that they contain proteins called lec- tins, which can cause red blood cells to clump together. In the movie "Blue Lagoon," Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins supposedly ate the seeds in order to commit suicide. These seeds grow prolifically on a small vine that is tangled in trees, fences, power lines, and just about anywhere it can get a grip. The leaves can be used medicinally. In the Caribbean and South America it has many names, including Rosary Bean -- as it was commonly used to make rosaries -- John Crow Bead and Peony Seed. In Lukumi (Santeria) folklore, the seed represents human's indecision with self -- their dual nature -- as the seed itself can't decide if it is red or black.

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