Sun | Aug 20, 2017

The healing wonders of herbs

Published:Thursday | April 14, 2016 | 4:00 AMShanique Samuels
PHOTO BY SHANIQUE SAMUELS Residents enquire about the properties of the medicinal plants on display.

Herbal medicines prescribed by 'bush doctors' have been a part of the Jamaican culture for many years. Many rural folk have used bush medicines to cure numerous ailments before the days of hospitals with doctors and manufactured medication became prevalent.

Lately, there has been a buzz surrounding the use of what is now called 'medicinal plants' with a push to educate persons about the possibility to gain economically from such plants.

According to the Executive Director of the Scientific Research Council Dr Cliff Riley, research has shown that of the 196 countries in the world, there are 160 medicinal plants which are proven to have medical properties, 81 of which are endemic to Jamaica.

"That is 51 per cent of all medicinal plants grown worldwide. The most potent cancer drug on the global market is made from the Jamaican periwinkle and the country has not made a penny from it," bemoaned Riley. "That is because we lack business savviness. These are some of the areas we have to take into consideration as we engage in some forms of activities," he said, lamenting that much of the medicinal plants grown in Jamaica, are given away to strangers who develop these plants into medication which are sold to the very person who gave them the 'bush'.

He explained that through partnerships, the country can protect what it has left and earn from it.

"The nutraceutical industry is valued at over $250 billion and over 50 per cent of the plants with proven activity which is used in this industry is found only in Jamaica, but at the same time we're not tapping into this industry."

As a result, the Clarendon Parish Development Committee Benevolent Society (CPDCBS) has begun implementing a project called 'Promoting Biodiversity Conservation through medicinal plant production for knowledge, management and livelihoods' (or the medicinal plants project).

Melbourine McPherson, project assistant at the CPDCBS says the committee has been visiting communities and identifying the medicinal plants and what they do and how to prepare them. "What we want to do is share them with the wider community. We are trying to get each community to be a part of the project, not only through helping us to identify the plants, but to share in and learn from the knowledge that we have gathered. For the roots man and the bush doctors we try to put them on to other agencies such as Scientific Research Council, to ensure they know it's not just about boiling, bottling and selling because more is required of you if you are to benefit from what you are doing. We are here to ensure residents understand what is required of them and what they need to do to ensure they benefit from other markets outside of their communities."

The second of three information seminars was held at the Summerfield community centre last week where the committee sought to educate other residents about the medicinal plants and how they can benefit economically. McPherson said the committee is working at developing a social marketing plan to assist residents to get their products on the market.

A greenhouse is currently in the making for the Pleasant Valley community where medicinal plants will be grown for sale.

rural@gleanerjm.com