Abstract Detail


Peter, Sonia [1].

Resilience in the African Diaspora - Pre 1834 Ethnomedicine in Barbados.

Barbados, of area 430 km2, lies most easterly in the Caribbean archipelago at coordinates 13°10′N 59°32′W.   The island was once inhabited by indigenous West Indians, Arawaks and Caribs, who were supplanted by Europeans and enslaved Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  Records show that during the period 1627 – 1807 close to 400,000 Africans were shipped to the island against their will in conditions that surely compromised their health status.  The harsh working and living conditions led to significant loss of life and chronic health issues, many associated with physical trauma.  A plant based system of health care emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries with residual local flora reportedly applied in West African based ethnomedicine  traditions, often involving spiritual components.  Though the island was cleared of close to 90% of its virgin plant life to accommodate a sugar cane driven economy, many families of plants were explored for therapeutic modalities. Documentation of ‘Slave medicine’ in Barbados identified sixty plants as important to the tradition with approximately 47 % being of the herb habitat.  Five families were prominent in the early pharmacopoeia with Euphorbiaceae being the family with the largest number of species used in the treatment of physical trauma including fresh wounds, healing wounds and swellings.  Then classified as a separate genus, Chamaeysce had the highest frequency for species cited with applications for venereal disease, wound healing and purging toxins from the blood.  Chamaesyce is now considered as a subgenus of Euphorbia and phytochemical analysis supports the healing properties of latex from Euphorbia species.   The sub-genus Chamaeysce is comprised of approximately 350 species with a global distribution.  This citation frequency may therefore be due to the distribution in the Caribbean or a recognition by the enslaved Africans of species related to their practiced West African tradition.     

1 - Barbados Community College, Natural Sciences, Eyrie Campus, Howells Road, Bridgetown, St. Michael, Barbados

African Diaspora
Natural Products.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Abstract ID:62
Candidate for Awards:None