Dr Henry Lowe, Contributor
The Jamaican bissy, also known as cola nut (cola acuminata), which is well known as a Jamaican remedy for the management of poisoning, may have yet another very important use.
Recent research data have revealed the significant anti-cancer activity of an extract from the Jamaican bissy. This research-and-development activity grew out of the anti-cancer work being spearheaded by Dr Henry Lowe, founder and executive chairman of the Bio-Tech Research and Development Institute. The main focus of the institute is the development of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products from Jamaica's indigenous medicinal plant resources.
In November 2011, Lowe and Dr Charah Watson, technical director of the Bio-Tech Research and Development Institute, took the plant extract to the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where Lowe's major research work is being done. There, they teamed up with Dr Joseph Bryant and Dr Ngeh Toyang and investigated the possible anti-cancer activity of the bissy-plant extracts against four cancer cell lines: two prostate (PC-3 and DU-145), one breast cancer (BC), and one melanoma (B16).
Additional work is ongoing to separate and purify these potential significant bioactive principles in bissy. Full details on their preliminary findings on the anti-cancer potential of bissy was published in a major peer-reviewed journal, Applied Cell Biology (H.I.C. Lowe, et al, 'Cytotoxic effect of Jamaican Bissy Nut extracts on various cancer cell lines', October 2012). The paper concludes that bissy could be a major potential anti-cancer agent for treating certain types of cancers.
WEST AFRICAN ROOTS
Bissy is related to cocoa and is a native plant of West Africa that was introduced to Jamaica during the 18th century. In Africa, the nut is chewed to promote digestion and is considered to be a tonic, a stimulant, and is also used for treating dysentery.
Bissy is used as a flavouring agent and the source of caffeine in the well-known Coca-Cola soda. The nut contains about 2.0 per cent to 3.5 per cent caffeine, which can act as a stimulant.
Locally, the nuts are grated and prepared like ground coffee or soaked in rum and taken as a stimulant and used for medicinal purposes.
Prior to the discovery of its anti-cancer potential, Lowe and Watson developed a medicinal herbal tea, under the Eden Gardens Nutraceutical brand. This particular tea is in high demand not only in Jamaica, but in the Caribbean and North America. It may be brewed as a hot beverage and used as a hot tea, or it may be cooled and used as an iced tea, which may or may not require sweetening. This product, under the Eden Gardens brand, may be obtained from many leading supermarkets and pharmacies.