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Jamaica's plant heritage

The plants Sloane collected are part of Jamaica's rich natural heritage. He collected them from all over the island.

Sloane found plants growing freely on mountainsides and on seashores, along roads and in fields.

Others were grown by local people for their own food and medicines, or as crops in huge plantations. Many of these were not native to the island, but had been brought in, like sugar and coffee, to make money.

Traditional knowledge

Sloane was particularly interested in how local people used plants as medicines. He learned from the ‘Indians' (descendants of the original inhabitants, or others from the region), from the enslaved and free Africans and many others. So his Natural History journal is also an important cultural record.

This traditional knowledge of plants has been passed down through generations and recorded, and Caribbean people have brought their knowledge with them to Britain.

Food is medicine, medicine is food...

The cashew nut, a tasty food and soothing for ulcers!

As Sloane described, and as our Jamaican contributors told us, many medicinal plants are eaten as vegetables or drunk in ‘bush teas' – made by brewing up one or more plants in hot water, as a regular part of their diet, not just when they get ill. Just as we now know it's important to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and knowing that spinach and red meat give you iron.

Do you have any favourite recipes to tell us about?

Or medicines you hated taking? Why not add a story?
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