SANBio Fostering Regional Collaboration in Ethnomedicine and Product Formulation

Seychelles training

The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences supported by the BioFISA II Programme recently held a Principles of Phytomedicine, Ethnomedicine, Science and Product Formulation course in Seychelles in collaboration with Seychelles Bureau of Standards (SBS), National Institute for Science, Technology and Innovation (NSTI) and the Guy Morel Institute along with the University of Seychelles.

Designed and conducted by University of Pretoria, Professor Namrita Lall and PhD student Bianca Fibrich - the two day course provided students with a comprehensive introduction on how bio-entrepreneurs could generate ongoing collaboration and partnerships in the field of ethnomedicine and science.

“One of the key valuable information the course taught us was the awareness on ethical practices when harvesting plants for their intended uses. I believe that the practical sessions allowed us to try the various methods of extraction and chromatographic separation of different compounds in the laboratory. We were also able to compare the tyrosinase inhibitory activity of extracts measured visually and the preparation of pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical formulations preparation of a gel lotion, exfoliating face wash and lip balm,”  FemBioBiz Season 2 Seychelles regional winner and founder of Belliche, Ingrid Saurer explained.

A first of its kind in Seychelles, the course attracted at least thirty participants with varying backgrounds from different sectors of the economy all of whom shared an avid interest in plants and their uses and effects on our well-being and health. Participants included Environmental Science students from the University of Seychelles, the cosmetic industry, environmentalists, herbalists, naturopaths, conservationists, teachers, and the Seychelles Agricultural Agency and many other plant enthusiasts.

During the course there were weighty discussions on the literature available about the flora biodiversity in Seychelles. It was noted that there are relatively few books available on the endemic and indigenous plants of the country. Professor Lall commented that she was enthusiastic to deliver this course in Seychelles because there is not a lot of background material available, and yet the environment is so rich and there is much yet to be discovered, researched and catalogued. 

“Although I have not had the opportunity of looking at endemic plants yet, I think that to get to there we would need to have a fairly specific target and I think that a big breakthrough will not come easily and there will be a lot of hard work involved and perhaps also a lot of luck,” said Lall.

Speaking with Seychelles very own botanist who has a plant named after him called Baton Monseigneur (Angiopteris chong-sengiana) - Lindsay Chong Seng said although Seychelles have 124 endemic plants that are recorded, only 4 of them (Bois Doux, Bois Coulleuvre, Toxocarpus Scahimperianus (secamone) and Prune Marron Ludia Madagascariensis Seychellensis) seem to be very popular on the market and hopes that over time, more plants could get the same exposure and raise to prominence.

“The course was business orientated but considering the limited time given; there was a lot of synergy in the room which is not a bad thing at all. It was very good for capacity building and it is good for the locals to rub shoulders with international researchers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Seychelles Bureau of Standards, Andy Ally who also added that while the use of medicinal plant products might have gained importance and interest, training in this field is of considerable importance.

“It is recommended that such training should be carried out on a longer period instead of 2 days. This will help the participants to acquire the most important theoretical and practical basic skills necessary for the discovery of new natural products from indigenous plants that can be used in the health, food, agriculture and cosmetic sectors,” said Ally.

The Principles of Phytomedicine, Ethnomedicine, Science and Product Formulation course was a SANBio / BioFISA II Programme funded Capacity Building initiative which is aimed at supporting a dynamic regional research network that will enhance human capacity and infrastructure, as well as developing commercialising innovative products in health and nutrition in the SADC region.

*Article written by Ingrid Saurer