Hartley Neita, Contributor
In 2001, Professor Manley West, a former Titchfield student from Portland and head of the Pharmacology Department of the University of the West Indies, and Dr. Alfred Lockhart introduced a cannabis-derived medication called Cantimol to treat the potentially debilitating condition of glaucoma. It was the world's first combination of an alpha agonist and a bet blocker (two types of drugs) in one bottle for the treatment of this disease.
They had previously found another cannabis-derived drug, Canasol in 1987.
The animal trials of Cantimol were carried out in Jamaica and independent clinical trials were carried out by Dr. Hugh Vaughan and Annette Alexis.
In 1967, Drs. Sam Street, Vernon Spence. G.H. Sidrock and Manley West had also identified anti-growth cancer properties in a Jamaican plant, later revealed to be cerasee. West also revealed he had identified anti-tumour properties of hypoglycin, isolated from the ackee seed.
Many years before, a brash young scientist, Thomas Lecky, also from Portland, carried out experiments at the Department of Agriculture in Hope, St. Andrew, which led to his doctoral dissertation at the University of Edinburgh 'Genetic Improvement in Dairy Cattle in the Tropics'. Following his return from Scotland, he put his thesis into action and produced the Jamaica Brahman, the Jamaica Hope, the Jamaica Black and Jamaica Red, the first breed of tropically adapted dairy cattle.
This week, another Jamaican scientist, Henry Lowe, a biochemist, and his American research partner Joseph Bryant, announced they had conducted tests with two endemic Jamaican plants on cancer tumor cells in test tubes and then transgenic mice, whose DNA had been modified to incorporate human genes. As a result they have found a drug which can help to cure five cancers. The cancers are B-16 melanoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, keposi cancer and a B-cell lymphona.
Cancer among Jamaicans
What is very interesting is that two of these cancers, prostate cancer and breast cancer, are very prevalent among Jamaicans.
Studies have been taking place at the University of the West Indies on the medical possibilities of Jamaican plants. But long before the university was established, households used first aid "bush medicines" to cure ailments. Among the most common were cerasee, bissy, mint, fever grass and castor oil. The best of the best was said to be aloe with its tradition of use in the Bible and used internally as a laxative and a tonic and externally to cure bruises and burns.
The red water grass, shame-me-lady and stop 'n' go have and are used, also, as a tea to reduce the growth of the prostate.
The search for solutions to medicinal problems is a long and slow process. But I would like to encourage our young scientists to use the skills they have learned to search for cures for diabetes, Alzheimer's, HIV/Aids, and sickle cell as a priority for us in Jamaica.
And if you need spiritual help in your search, just listen to the voices of your great, great grandmothers.