Barbados’s rich history of medicinal plants traces its roots to the 1627 arrival of enslaved Africans. Imported to toil in the island’s unforgiving sugarcane fields, their indigenous knowledge kept the island’s population healthy despite adversity.

Today, western medicine is the island standard, but medicinal plant medicine lives on.

A great example is bush tea. The widely consumed drink is made of wild herbs, branches and leaves. Barbadians of all stripes swear by it to maintain their health and cure illness.

Nature’s wisdom has also attracted the island’s academic community. Dr. Damian Cohall, a Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill is an expert in medicinal plants.

He scours Barbados for its known and yet-to-be discovered medicinal plants and their effects. The globe-trotting researcher and academic works tirelessly to document and preserve this history while he searches for a better understanding of medicinal plants and their potential cures.

Dr. Cohall’s feature is one of many I’ve done for Nature. Interested in seeing more of my awesome work for them? Check out this story about Morexa Martin-Gardener, the island’s groundbreaking sugar-cane researcher or Barbados’s sea turtle savior Carla Daniels.

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