In 2010, Dr Jackson undertook an expedition to Malawi.
Upon arrival in the capital city of Lilongwe, he was met by Chris Dohse from Treecrops, a local company aiming to promote the health and nutritional benefits of indigenous plant crops. Despite 20 years of research on Kigelia, it was not until this expedition that Dr Jackson had the privilege of seeing the tree in its native habitat - which just happened to be in the back garden of the Treecrops office!
Dr Jackson then travelled to the Nidi-Moyo Centre in Salima. Set up by Lucy and Tony Finch, the centre provides palliative care for patients with HIV and cancer using natural products alongside Western medicine. It also runs workshops for medical professionals on the benefits of using natural products to treat serious illnesses.
His final visit was to Anamed, a German NGO working to provide primary healthcare using natural products to communities who are unable to afford Western medication (the main areas of treatment are HIV and malarial infections). Anamed have an amazing programme growing Artemisia as a source of artemisin, which can help control malaria symptoms.
While Dr Jackson was in Malawi, he also secured the supply chain for the Baobab extracts and Kigelia used in Dr Jackson’s products.
Dr Jackson takes the local water taxi with the fishermen over to Muvunguti village in search of the Kigelia tree.
At dusk each day, the fishermen bring in their catch to sell on the waterfront, a buzzing meeting place for all the locals.
The fishing village was full of magical sounds, sights and smells.
It was in Malawi that Dr Jackson first caught sight of the Kigelia fruit in its native habitat.
In the markets of Lilongwe you can find piles of Baobab fruit for sale.
Once cut the Kigelia is a pale yellow colour, notice the brighter yellow colour in the outer layer of the fruit, this quickly turns brown as it oxidises.
Dr Jackson got his first taste of living in a primary rainforest (and loved it!) back in 1992, as part of his undergraduate degree.
With several of his fellow students and lecturers, he undertook an expedition to Sumba to study the rainforest architecture and speciation of rainforest plants. It was working alongside the International Council for Bird Preservation, now known as Birdlife International, on an expedition to study the Sumbanese green pigeon that Dr Jackson first encountered the use of plants as medicines in traditional cultures. The expedition won a BP nature award for the set up of one of the world’s first nature reserves in a primary rainforest.
While in Indonesia, Dr Jackson also had the privilege of visiting the Herbarium at Bogor, where he met Professor Kostermans, a truly amazing character. Together with his staff, the professor was responsible for the collection of over 2 million different plant species, found in five thousand forests spread out over 3000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago. Dr Jackson spent a particularly memorable afternoon in Professor Kostermans’s study, hearing about his fascinating life story. As with many Dutchmen of his generation, the professor was taken prisoner in the second world war and sent to Thailand to work on the infamous Burma railway. Among the experiences and illnesses he recounted were distilling bones to make illegal alcohol and overcoming deadly gangrene using medicinal plants found alongside the railroad. With this, Kostermans’s love of nature was born, and he devoted the rest of his life to studying medicinal plants.
Professor Kostermans has since passed away, but he had a profound impact on Dr Jackson, inspiring him to study the medicinal effects of plants before it was too late.
The rainforest extends as far as the eye can see.
A young Dr Jackson.
A small clip from the Daily Express - the University team was one of the first conservation programmes to visit the area.
Here are the local women in Waingapu the capital of Sumba, they sell Betel nut a tanin rich seed that turns the teeth black and makes the salivary glands excrete huge amounts of saliva and turns it bright red (A sign of beauty over here, but also a slight narcotic).
Sumba is famous for growing the indigo plant. Its intense, dark blue dye is used to create the ikats worn by locals.
In 1995, Dr Jackson took part in the Pharmacy from the Rainforest conference , organised by the American Botanic Council. This was his first overseas lecturing experience - and also the first time he had given a presentation using chalk and blackboards by gaslight!
The conference was based at the Amazon Centre for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, a laboratory and research station based in the heart of the Amazon basin. It was in this incredible place that Dr Jackson got to meet some of his ethnopharmacology heroes, Tip Tyler, James Duke and Mark Blumenthal to name a few.
The ACEER Foundation’s mission is to promote the conservation of the Amazon by fostering awareness, understanding, action and transformation. It aims to achieve this by initiating environmental education programmes, supporting basic and applied research, and protecting unique tracts of land. ACEER has been a dynamic force for rainforest conservation for over 20 years.
The Shamans are the local medicine men in the villages of the Amazon. They provide the primary healthcare for most, if not all, the inhabitants of the villages.
One of the most beautiful sights was to see Toucans free and flying through the rainforest canopies, I'd never seen a real live Toucan before, only in that well known irish drink adverts, but they were actually tiny, a lot smaller than I had imagined.
A native Amazonian plant that flowers in shards of sunlight.
Amazonian frog species contain a poison called curare, which is commonly used as a muscle relaxant.
Solanum mammosum or ‘Cow’s Udder’ fruit comes from the same family as tomatoes and is traditionally used to treat eczema and psoriasis.
One of my favourite plants is the Victoria Amazonica, named after Queen Victoria, the species has very large leaves up to 3m in diameter, one interesting fact is that the flowers are white the first night that they open and become pink the second night, and are pollinated by beetles.
A pharmacy exhibition in Iquitos. Tinctures are widely used as remedies in the Amazon, and are often made using sugar cane rum.
We had a special trip into the Jungle to witness the Ayahuasca ceremony being undertaken by the village shaman, over 15 different plants are used in the preperation, of this psychoactive infusion, it is used for divinatory and healing purposes by the shamans in the napa region.
Dr Jackson travelled to the river Zambezi to work with NGO organisations and help set up supply chains for future products.
He visited KAITE, an initiative founded to promote sustainable human development. KAITE aims to contribute to the comprehensive development of individuals, society and the environment. It has a holistic approach that encompasses integrated economic, social and cultural development forms.
Dr Jackson spent some time with KAITE founder Dominikus Collenberg, working on a project that certifies its partner farmers to cultivate and process organic essential oil crops, as well as herbs and spices, using locally engineered solar dryers. KAITE also links its partner farmers to international fair trade markets so that they can directly benefit from the sale of their produce at favourable world prices.
Another organisation that Dr Jackson visited was Speciality Foods of Africa, whose Tulimara brand works to sustainably commercialise indigenous natural resources. This provides alternative incomes for rural producers while encouraging the conservation of natural resources. Their vision is to be the leading producer and supplier of fairly traded, natural food products from Africa. The Tulimara branded products are manufactured entirely from natural and indigenous ingredients. All raw products are purchased from rural community groups or small-scale rural farmers from around Africa.
SFA’s products are marked as:
- Natural - produced without the use of chemicals and artificial substances
- Healthy - their nutritional composition means they are full of health benefits
- Fairly traded - everyone along the production line is fairly remunerated for their contribution to the finished product
These attributes give SFA products the potential to tap niche markets both locally and overseas.
Most of the rural homesteads are farmed by women, the alternative to cash crops are normally not deemed fit for the local manfolk, so the women grow them, that is until they are seen as cash crops
Centella asiatica madecassoside is an alternative cash crop used in cosmetics for its anti-inflammatory properties.
One of the Non for profits sets up a mobile steam distillation unit to extract the essential oils from the wild harvested crops.
Sunrise by the river Zambezi.
The road to Makoni, where we source our natural ingredients.
Pineapple sage is grown in rural homesteads, not for the essential oils in its leaves, but for its petals, which are used as a red stain in herbal teas.
Expedition Mana Pools
It was in UNESCO World Heritage Site Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, that Dr Jackson found a whole colony of Kigelia trees living by the edge of the Zambezi river. Dr Jackson set up a foundation called the Natural Product Community, a conservation programme through which Dr Jackson and his colleagues will map and log the trees to study their ecology and help conserve this area for future generations. It is hoped that the information gathered here can support the sustainable farming of this key indigenous species and others elsewhere in Africa.
On the road into Mana Pools is the valley of the Baobab trees. Here is a striking example right in the middle of the road.
Most of trees are scarred by Elephant tusks, as the fibre in the bark can be a source of water in droughts.
The Kigelia just coming into flower.
The first of the season’s flowers blossom.
A huge specimen of the Kigelia fruit.
Such an amazing animal.
Here is us fishing by the side of the Zambezi, probably not the safest of places with crocodiles swimming close by.