The potential of medicinal herbs and spices in the Caribbean


Can you imagine a plant-borne cancer suppressant made, produced and exported from the Caribbean region?

Research that matters

Dr. David Picking of the Natural Products Institute based at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in Jamaica, presented some truly stunning research that he and his team are undertaking.

They focus on medicinal plants that are endemic to the region, which means that they can only be grown here. These plants are common to us as seasoning, which gives us the renowned Caribbean flavour or for nutritional and medicinal purposes.

Did you know that Chadon Beni or cilantro which is used to season many local dishes also acts as an epilepsy deterrent?

Large portions of the Caribbean population use these plants on a day-to-day basis. He acknowledged that as a result of this use, a level of research has already been done, as specific plants remedy specific illnesses.

Therefore, part of his research take things a step further as he tries to identify what would be the result of interactions between natural remedies and man-made drugs in order to ascertain any threat to human health. Dr. Picking explains more of his research in an interview.

Research v/s commercialisation

With emphasis and resources being placed on researching the benefits of these plants, resources for the commercialisation of said plants are forgotten. Or are they?

“You cannot separate research and commercialisation. They go hand in hand. There is a large demand for these products on the international market, and since many developing countries already use these plants we should capitalise on researching then commercialising viable products.” – Dr. David Picking, UWI Mona

Dr. Picking explained that it is only through research that commercialisation can truly reach its full potential. Understanding exactly how to utilise and manipulate natural remedies is simply part of the process – one that is actively going in the right direction.

Immediately after research is complete, final products are to be patented. Some of which are already in the process – an important step in setting up stable business activity.

With the predominance of herb and spice products available and doing well internationally for cooking of all sorts, the region, through this research is poised to achieve market share for herbal remedies and medicinal items. We look forward to it!

Photo credit: Carole Cholai

Blogpost by Keron Bascombe, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015. 

Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.