News

Jamaican develops 'miracle' drug from Annatto plant

By Carl Gilchrist Observer staff reporter

Sunday, April 03, 2005    

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Just weeks after the inaugural Annatto Festival in Annotto Bay, St Mary, comes the news that a parishioner has used the plant to develop a drug that initially served as a cure for sores but is now being used for other remedies, such as for arthritis and as an aphrodisiac.

Leonard Lewis, a Jamaican living in Ohio, USA, and who last year brought the Cumsee Ointment to the attention of the public, has revealed that the product is in fact a derivative from annatto.

Lewis is originally from a little known district called Cumsee in St Mary, from which the ointment got its name.

He studied for four years at West Indies College, now Northern Caribbean University, before going to Michigan University for graduate studies. Having introduced the lotion as Cumsee Ointment last year, Lewis has now added Oil of Annatto to the label.

Lewis, however, is interested in marketing his product as a skin care lotion, which was the initial plan.

Since introducing the lotion to residents in St Ann last year and seeing miraculous results, word of the lotion has spread to several other parishes.

Persons with sores that were deemed untreatable are reportedly journeying from St Mary, Portland, Trelawny, St Elizabeth, Kingston and other parishes for treatment.

At least one medical practitioner has endorsed the product, saying he has seen results of its use on patients with sores ten years old.

District medical officer for St Ann, Dr Arthur Green, told the Sunday Observer that he first learned of the product last year and recommended it for use to two persons. The results had been phenomenal.

"I have seen at least two persons, female, who have had chronic leg ulcers, large ulcers on the legs for well over five to ten years, that means they have been through the mill - clinic, doctors, everywhere getting treatment with limited response, meaning that up to the point when I saw them the ulcers were still unhealed," Dr Green explained.

"Having beeng exposed to this product and since it is an external product, I recommended it to two of these patients and personally I have seen marked improvement in less than six weeks. In other words, we saw that there was reduction in the size of the ulcer, there was increase in the granulation - the reforming of the skin and, in one lady in particular, hers completely healed over. That is what we see," Green testified.

One of the first persons to be treated by Lewis is 62 year-old Fred Walker of Ocho Rios who said that after just one week's use, he started seeing improvement.

"It's a miracle man!" Walker exclaimed joyfully. I used to drag on my bottom, I couldn't even stand," he said in explaining the severity of his wound. "And the pain, the pain was up to mi knee, but now no pain," he said and slapped his left knee repeatedly to prove his point.

Walker was well known on the hotel circuit in Ocho Rios, where he had been singing since the 1980s. But in 1997 he had to stop performing because of the wounded leg. On visiting the hospital for treatment and finding the sore getting worse each year, Walker became disheartened and just did not know what to do.

He said in May 2003 he was told by a doctor at the St Ann's Bay hospital that there was no alternative, but to amputate his leg. Setting a May 30 appointment date, Walker made up his mind to have the surgery done. But on May 19 something happened to alter that course.

"I was in my room one day reading the paper, cause I love reading, when I hear boom boom on the door," Walker recalled. It was Lewis.

"He told me a friend sent him down. Then he told me about my foot, gave me some dressing and some medicine and told me what to do. Believe me man, I say it - every day I say it - God bless Mr Lewis," Walker said, clapping his hands.

He now walks with the aid of a stick and is in a better position to help himself.

Walker's recovery didn't go unnoticed and several persons started making enquiries as to what might have helped him. One such person was a woman who gave her name only Miss Rose, also from Ocho Rios.

"I don't (just) believe it works, I know it works!" she exclaimed when asked if the ointment works for her. "It is good, very good," Miss Rose said. She actually started using Cumsee Ointment before she met Lewis as her daughter had obtained some of the lotion from Walker.

"The doctor said I had an ulcer but I call it sore.

It was deep but the ointment bring it up, now it almost level with the rest ah mi foot," Miss Rose explained. This result occurred over a two-month period and totally won her over.

"It even good fi pain. My husband had a knee problem and him use it and the pain gone," she claimed.

But what are the ingredients of this potion that a Jamaican has developed that has been working wonders for persons with chronic sores?

"Some of the ingredients are local and could be made here but the major ingredients can be found anywhere," Lewis said.

Dr Green has an explaination as to why the lotion works on sores or ulcers - caused by such common reasons as sickle cell disease, trauma, leukaemia and diabetes - when everything else failed.

"In many cases you have troublesome ulcers which for one reason or another are very hard to heal, especially in people who have impaired circulation, such as heavy chronic smokers who have vascular damage.

Whatever the ointment consists of, obviously it might have flavo-noids which are certain chemicals that have not only enzyme-like properties but antioxidants, meaning that quite likely it would mop up free radicals and so minimise cell damage to the area.

"Quite likely it would also increase circulation, bringing more blood and hence more oxygen to the area. These factors, and of course giving the patient dietary counselling and so on, would serve to promote healing," Dr Green said.

The annatto grows wildly in most parishes in Jamaica and is used by persons in several countries in the Caribbean and Central America for a variety of purposes.

The parts of the annatto generally used are the seeds, leaves, bark, roots and shoots. The plant is reputed to have several qualities including astringent, antioxidant, emollient, antibacterial, nutritive and expectorant.

The annatto is used in many countries for a variety of remedies including heartburn, stomach ache, aphrodisiac, fever, insect repellant, fainting, headache, epilepsy, diabetes, fever and several other ailments. In Jamaica, it is primarily used as food colouring.

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