Shampoos, moisturising creams and other products based on rain forest plants used by indigenous people in Polynesia are helping to conserve tropical forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In this article, Michele Lian describes how botanist Paul Alan Cox spent 30 years researching these and other products, with the aim of bringing them to global markets and ensuring that profits are shared with their originators.
Since moving to Western Samoa in 1973, Cox has been studying the islanders' knowledge and use of the plants around them. He hopes that as well as yielding cosmetic products his research will also identify potential cures for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
One product derived from a Samoan tree is showing promise as an HIV/AIDS drug. Thanks to a royalty agreement between scientist and the government of Samoa, if the drug is successful, the people of Samoa will get half of the profits from its sale (see Samoa to profit from indigenous knowledge deal).