UWI Crest Campus Image: Mona Curve image for menu aesthetics
Coloured Mural
Marketing and Communications Office
Search |

UWI Mona’s FST Collaborate to Develop Jamaican Root Tonics

Researchers in Jamaica, the USA & Italy examine this symbol of Jamaican biocultural heritage

Jamaican root tonics are a powerful informal symbol of Jamaican biocultural heritage but lack official recognition, and little is being done to develop a sustainable industry for the benefit of the local producers and vendors.

In a recent study entitled “Root Tonics and Resilience: Building Strength, Health, and Heritage in Jamaica” published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, researchers with the Faculty of Science and Technology’s Natural Products Institute, The New York Botanical Garden (USA), The University of Gastronomic Sciences (Italy) and five community members from rural Jamaica, examine the oral history and cultural importance of Jamaican root tonics, with the aim of laying down a road map for their development. The research was made possible through a grant from the National Geographic Society awarded to Dr. Ina Vandebroek of The New York Botanical Garden.

Jamaican root tonics are fermented beverages made with the roots, bark, vines (and dried leaves) of local (mostly) wild-harvested plant species.  They are very popular across the island and among the diaspora for their reputed abilities to prevent or cure many illnesses and increase stamina and virility.

In the study, the authors interviewed knowledgeable Jamaicans across five parishes to uncover new insights about the sociocultural importance of root tonics and associated symbolism. They discovered that Jamaican explanations about root tonics are often filled with metaphorical expressions linking the qualities of “nature” and the strength of the human body. They found that reasons for using tonics can be linked with hardships endured historically during slavery as well as to the continued day-to-day struggle of Jamaicans living a largely subsistence lifestyle.

They also found that half of those interviewed considered Rastafari to be the present-day knowledge holders of Jamaican root tonics. Using these and other results the study authors design a road map for the development of a cottage industry to benefit the mostly artisanal producers of root tonics.

The road map is premised on a sustainable development framework consisting of social, cultural, economic, and ecological aspects. The four steps of the road map - growing production, growing alliances, transitioning into the formal economy, and safeguarding ecological sustainability - provide a useful starting point for future research on root tonics, the authors suggest, and for applied projects aimed at promoting the biocultural heritage product.

To learn more about the Natural Products Institute and their research: https://www.mona.uwi.edu/npi/

© The University of the West Indies. All rights reserved. Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Telephone: (876) Fax: (876)
Site best viewed at 800 x 600 resolution or higher.