Henry Lowe's boyhood fascination came full circle last Thursday when his 'ball moss product' and other nutraceuticals became available on the shelves of local pharmacies.
Dr Lowe, a leading scientist and entrepreneur, had confessed in several interviews published in this column over the last 10 years or so that from tramcar days, he had a fascination with the ball moss, a weed commonly seen in Jamaican gardens and on electric power lines. The fascination grew into a man's dream to extract the active ingredient in the weed and put it to good use.
A few years ago, Lowe disclosed that he had been working for nearly 10 years with University of Maryland's scientist, Dr Joseph Bryant, to extract and test ball moss' (Tillandsia recurvata) bioactive ingredients. The original goal was to produce a pharmaceutical product but, at that time, Lowe explained that extended legal wranglings over intellectual property and lack of funding forced him to go the nutraceutical route.
Ball Moss is now medicinal
"I am happy to announce that, based on our research, ball moss has now been added to the recognised major indigenous medicinal plants of the world and is now the 85th such major medicinal plant for Jamaica," said Lowe at the unveiling function at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
"Not only has ball moss and its isolates demonstrated significant anti-cancer activity in vitro and in vivo, but recent work presented by me at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting has clearly demonstrated that the ball moss has demonstrated its potential as, not only a major new potential chemo-therapeutic agent, but also a new chemo-preventative agent against prostate cancer," Lowe continued
The flagship product on show last Thursday was AlphaProstate Formula 1 made from ball moss. It is branded under 'Eden Gardens Nutraceuticals' as a dietary supplement that supports and enhances prostate health. Six other nutraceuticals were also unveiled - Men's Complete Formula, Women's Complete Formula, Anti-Stress B&C with Adrenal Formula, Joint Flex Formula, Jamaican Guinea Hen Weed Supplement (traditionally used for the management of cancers, arthritis, rheumatism and diabetes) and Aloe Complex Formula (a mild laxative that reduces inflammation and enhances colon health).
Certificate of free sale
Lowe said that he has already obtained the relevant "certificate of free sale" to market the products in the United States and other countries. A line of medicinal herbal tea blends, also using indigenous Jamaican plants, was launched at the same function.
These products were developed from indigenous Jamaican medicinal plants through the Bio-Tech R&D Institute, Lowe's local research company that has been transforming Jamaica's medicinal plants into commercially available nutraceuticals and, perhaps in the future, pharmaceuticals. Jamaica possesses 85 of the 160 globally recognised medicinal plants.
"I would like to strongly emphasise that it is our steadfast commitment to produce products that are proven to be scientifically safe for consumption and effective for the ailments they are designed to ameliorate. As such, extensive toxicological studies were carried out on the products, especially AlphaProstate Formula 1, which showed no adverse, health-related effects," he said.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a message delivered by guest speaker, Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, said that Jamaica's Government welcomes the contribution that Bio-Tech R&D Institute will make to increasing production and job creation. Simpson Miller urged Lowe to forge ahead with his work with the country's indigenous plants as, in so doing, he will be supporting Jamaica's economy. The international nutraceutical industry, the prime minister pointed out, is worth in excess of $86 billion.
Eulalee Thompson is health editor and a professional counsellor; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.