Buckston Harrison, founder and operator of Harrison’s Herbal Products and Sheffield Herbs and Spices in Jamaica, died on March 22, 2010. He was 52 years old.
An ordinary man with extraordinary talents in the field of herbs and herbal supplements, Buckston was born on August 24, 1958, the son of Elvira Lucille Genus and Winston Harrison. He trained as an agriculturist and taught this science to primary schools in Hanover, Jamaica for a brief period.
I met Buckston early in 1980, when I had just established Jamaican Style Herbal Garden in Stony Hill as an attraction for local and international interest, packaging teas and spices for the tourist market. In his early teens, Buckston had suffered an accident that left part of his face severely scarred, and he was interested in trying an application of comfrey (Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae) leaves to reduce the scarring. He obtained comfrey from my garden to propagate and use, and he kept me abreast of the results of the comfrey application. Within 2 years, the scars had cleared to reveal smooth skin. This was the beginning of his journey into the kingdom of herbs and of our relationship.
Buckston started his herbal business in 1984, packaging and selling dried comfrey leaves and selling the books Jamaican Herbs and Jethro Kloss’ classic Back to Eden, which educated readers about the value of herbs. He started producing spices in containers, and he dried Jamaican herbs from a little farm that he established.
He met many visitors and persons of interest in his work. He was energetic, positive, and passionate about herbs, always sharing the delightful discoveries he made with stakeholders and friends in the industry. His products were in demand as he entered many farm shows and festivals island-wide, marketing and sharing his passion with the public.
Buckston assisted in setting up a Gaia Research Farm in the late 1980s. “I remember Buckston as an affable, thoughtful, and knowledgeable ‘bush herbalist’ who was very interested in building a cooperative network of small medicinal herb growers and wildcrafters in Western Jamaica so that proceeds from a biologically diverse and sustainable supply chain would, in turn, support school construction in some of Jamaica’s small mountain villages,” said Greg Cumberford, vice president of strategic initiatives at Gaia Herbs, Inc. (e-mail to
C. Cavaliere, April 29, 2010). “I will always remember his warmth, his intelligence, and his smile. His untimely death is a real loss for Jamaica’s medicinal herbal community.”
Buckston practiced as an indigenous healer, using herbs synergistically with the astrological signs of his clients, and he concocted his herbs as root tonics, spices, and skin and hair creams. Three years ago, he was asked to become a contributor/writer for the Observer newspaper, based in Kingston, Jamaica. His knowledge was often sought by his readers, both locally and internationally. “There was so much knowledge in this one man …no matter what the topic was he had a contribution to make,” remarked Observer editor Patricia Roxborough Wright.
Buckston was a member of the Wholistic Herbal Association, formed in 1993, which campaigned to have herbs, supplements, and herbal over-the-counter medicines included in the Food and Drug Act of 1964 so that they could be imported into Jamaica. (Prior to 2004, such products were denied entry into the island unless they were classified as “drugs.”) The herbal communities of Jamaica have expressed their shock at Buckston’s death. (He died of stab wounds, apparently by an intruder into his home.) As president of the Caribbean Herbal Business Association Jamaica Chapter, I am so proud of Buckston’s labor in the field of ethnomedicine. His charm placed him on the road to success, and he cared for people of all walks of life. He was widely loved.
“I first met Buckston Harrison in 2001 when I began work on the formation of the Caribbean Herbal Business Association,” said Denzil Phillips, medicinal and aromatic plant agronomist (e-mail to C. Cavaliere, May 4, 2010). “I visited his home, clinic, and rambling garden several times outside Negril. Buckston was highly knowledgeable about his local herbs, but above all he was a man of great charm and integrity. He was gentle, and his patients always had huge respect. Jamaica and the region have lost a great herbalist.”
Last year, Buckston and I attended an Herb Fest held at Montego Gardens in association with the Rasta Indigenous Village, during which I introduced him to the visiting keynote speaker, American Botanical Council (ABC) Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal.
“I appreciated his strong passion for herbs and medicinal plants,” said Blumenthal, upon learning of Buckston’s death. “This news is so sad. It doesn’t seem fair that a man who dedicated his life to helping others live more naturally and more gently on this Earth would have his own life taken from him in such a brutal manner. The people of Jamaica have lost a truly natural and national treasure.”
Buckston is survived by his 2 sons Kenroy and Buxton Jnr, his 2 daughters Renee’ and Simone, his father, his sisters Nadine and Dawn Harrison, and his brothers Andrew, Delroy, Donnovan, and Danny Harrison. Peace profound, my friend and protégé—may your soul rest in peace.
—Diane Robertson, RPh President, Caribbean Herbal Business Assn., Jamaica Chapter, Kingston, Jamaica