Skip to page content

Roots and Herbs of Jamaica

17 August 2007

Does the belly ache bush cause one, or cure one? How can you get lipstick from a tree?

You can find the answers or help answer them yourself, in the new Roots and Herbs website from the Natural History Museum.

With the help of the Caribbean community in London and the vast historical collections of the Museum, many weird and wonderful uses of Jamaican plants are brought together in Roots and Herbs.

Did you know the unripe custard apple was boiled with ginger to cure vertigo, or that the ripe fruit was used as a laxative more than 300 years ago in Jamaica?

Well, these descriptions were recorded by Sir Hans Sloane, an English doctor, working in Jamaica between 1687 and 1689. Sloane collected about 800 Jamaican plants and these are a unique and valuable collection looked after by the Museum.

Old and new

Roots and Herbs captures this information from Sloane's time along with the facts we know about the plants today. The custard apple, for example, has many current uses. Apart from being a tasty dessert when fully ripe, it also has some nasty side affects. Its seeds are toxic if chewed and the seeds, leaves and young fruits are used in insecticides and to kill lice!

Leave your own comments

If you know of a use for one of the plants, you can add your own comments to the website. Maybe you know of a grandparent who had a medicinal, cosmetic or food use for a dasheen? Or you may know of some objects made from the coconut palm? See what interesting uses others have added already or add your own.

Further Information