Nove Over Aloe,

sunburn-in-aloeThere’s A New Kid In Town

By Hugh G. O’Neill, Hugh G. O’Neill & Co.

Times of the Islands readers will be familiar with previous articles on “bush” medicine practiced in the Islands over the decades. The Turks & Caicos boast a rich oral history and tradition personified in the tales of such Islanders as Leon Godet in Grand Turk, James Rigby in Five Cays and Henry Williams in Blue Hills. Listen carefully, don’t interrupt and you will hear a treasure of stories about the night of the big wind when so many men were lost at sea in a hurricane or of children treading quietly in North Creek in Grand Turk in 1910 to tie the tails of two sleeping nurse sharks with a piece of burlap and watch the sport when the sharks awake and try to escape one another.

Hidden in these tales are the quiet whispers of the kindly healers in Grand Turk or the old women in the far bush Northside with their foul smelling teas and ointments and the overnight cures of maladies which still defy the most modern antibiotic. Sadly, the advent of “prosperity” and the emergence of the television generation are quickly destroying the oral tradition and the availability of modern drugs has all but put an end to the rich history of natural herbal medicine.

It was with some skepticism therefore, that I listened to the claims being made about the remarkable powers of a new oil product called “BurnGone” (now renamed “Sunburn FastRelief”). Though not strictly old-school bush medicine, the oil is the natural extract of specific plants which is subjected to a series of very precise physics applications, which retain the oil’s original chemical formula while giving it significantly different healing properties.

The demonstration I was shown was, to say the least, an eye opener. The scientist who discovered the process (whose name will not be revealed lest he be committed for his commitment), gave me a demonstration CD. Under the supervision of a medical doctor, he heated an electric soldering iron to a temperature of 650 degrees F. (think of smoke coming out of the oven) and deliberately burned the back of his hand — not once but twice — in the same spot just behind the forefinger. I cringed, but he definitely had my attention. The rest of the CD recorded the events of the following 24 hours with great emphasis on the correct method of applying the oil and the remarkable recovery of the burned area.

Were we interested in such a product? Well maybe not “Interested,” but certainly curious enough to try it out. We received some samples of BurnGone and then came the question of what to do with it. A law office is not exactly a hotbed for burn victims and it seemed unfair to deliberately spill coffee on the staff just to prove a point.

Where do people get burned we wondered? In restaurants we surmised. Off we went to Fairways Bar & Grille at Provo Golf Club where chef and co-owner Stuart agreed to try out the oil if he or a member of his staff got a burn. Our next stop was Pizza Pizza, where Bob kindly volunteered the potentially seared flesh of his dear wife Simone should the opportunity arise. A week went by and then another and not even one minor burn was suffered. Weeks three and four passed and still not a single victim. Week five was just as fallow.

We were in the middle of writing to the Vatican, advising them that we had found a new miracle which prevented burns from occurring, when the call came. Stuart had finally obliged and burned his hand in the kitchen. “How did it go?” I asked. “I put on the oil, let it soak in and 15 minutes later put it on again,” Stuart replied. “Did you reapply it after an hour and again six hours later and the following morning like the instructions said?” I queried. “No,” he said. “I put it on once and the pain went away. When the pain came back I put it on again and the pain went away for good. It didn’t even blister.”

Was this success? Maybe. Then the burns started to come hot and heavy. Stuart again. Ouch! Then Simone at Pizza Pizza! Then it was my partner Dale, who managed to spill half a cup of boiling water on his hand while straining spaghetti. In each case, the result seemed the same. Dale applied the oil and moments later the pain went away. About 15 minutes later as the pain returned, a second application. Then nothing. No pain, no blister, no apparent evidence at all of a burn the following morning. By this time we were thinking maybe we should keep some of this stuff handy at home for ourselves.

Dale became a zealot. “I tried the oil on a canker in my mouth and it really worked,” he said. “Read the label,” I admonished, “it’s for external use only!” Next, he took the oil with him on a short trip to the Dominican Republic. One of the guests at the wedding he was attending, an oil worker from just below the Arctic Circle with pasty white skin to match, spent two hours playing beach volleyball, shirtless in the Caribbean sun. (The things we do when there are bikini-clad females in the vicinity!) The result was inevitable. Shortly after sunset the volleyball player glowed like a nightlight and stiffness and immobility were setting in. By bedtime, agony had arrived. So did Dale with the BurnGone.

Dale, of course, had been extolling the virtues of the oil and here was a victim. The suffering man’s mother looked at Dale. “Oven burns, scalds, cankers and now sunburn?” she said. “You sound like the Windex guy.” (You have to see “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”) His smug smile was complete when 24 hours later there was no evidence of his friend’s adventure but a nicely browning tan.

My turn eventually came. After a particularly long day on the links, we repaired to the 19th hole for a post-mortem and to prove the age-old scientific adage — balance is only achieved when as many minutes are spent discussing a round over a few beers as were actually spent on the course itself.

After almost five hours on the course, it took only milliseconds upon eventual return home to lie down and drift into a sound sleep. Not such a hot idea with a Marlboro wedged between index and middle finger. By morning, the pain between my fingers was barely tolerable and there were two blisters, a doozey and a baby, rubbing against one another right at the first knuckle. “What the hell, where’s that oil?” I put some directly on the blisters and watched it soak in, then kept applying it until a thin film of oil remained on the surface. The pain really went away. I didn’t notice when the blisters broke but I put one more drop of oil on the broken skin just in case. And that was that. My God, this stuff really works.

Shortly afterwards, I was in New York with Mary having a Sunday stroll in Central Park and, in my wife’s words, “just a quick look at the shops.” The temperature was 16 degrees F. and there was snow everywhere. Needless to say, my dress shoes, which had never even seen rain on island, were singularly unsuited to the conditions. The slight irritation on Sunday evening had turned to a full-blown blister on Monday morning. There was still a full day’s work to be done and walking barefoot or wearing sandals was out of the question. With every appointment “just two blocks away,” by day’s end my right heel was a bloodied mess. Tuesday saw us back to the island for some much welcomed heat and a desperate need to elevate my right foot.

To hell with the instructions not to use the oil on broken or infected skin, this hurt too much. So I applied some of my meager supply of BurnGone to my heel and sighed in relief as the pain went away. Again before bedtime a quick application and on Wednesday morning, though still looking a little raw, I was able to don my shoes pain-free and go about my life. If not a zealot like Dale, I was definitely a convert.

We decided we should really get this to market. The biggest market in the region is obviously the U.S. and we set about tackling it. All we needed was FDA approval. For the uninitiated, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is a kindly government body whose job is to assist inventors and discoverers of new miracle cures to get them to a needy public. (NOT.)

On the contrary, it is a bureaucratic behemoth with more heads than a Hydra, each spouting a different set of rules and regulations. Granted, the FDA has a very important function — nobody wants a repeat of the Thalidomide fiasco — but you need to be a drug company with an army of reps talking simultaneously to all the departments and communicating telepathically to keep up with the conflicting requirements of the diverse divisions just to agree to the terms of a clinical trial.

“But this is an entirely natural herbal extract,” we pleaded. “So is cocaine,” they said, “and the U.S. said JUST SAY NO to that.” “If you can show that a monograph (don’t ask!) exists for your plant with claims made for the purposes to be used and it has not been proscribed and it has been listed since before 1972 and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah . . .” they said.

In fairness to the FDA, it’s the system that’s the nightmare, not the personnel. In fact, the department heads have been most helpful and positive and BurnGone is approved in the U.S. for cosmetic use as a natural product. Drug approval or claims of pain relief will take some time to prove and be approved in the U.S.

Let’s try Canada we thought, at least litigation lawyers don’t own the whole country yet (something to do with studying practice, procedure and tort instead of French). And we did. Despite our puerile French we got a fast and fair hearing in Ottawa. It turned out that the Canadian equivalent of the monograph mentioned above exists and Health Canada has confirmed the safety of the ingredients for cosmetic and drug use.

So production began. “You need a UCC code.” “What has University College Cork got to do with this?” I asked. UCC stands for “Uniform Commercial Code,” I learned, a bar code that has to be registered. “Are we registered with ECCC?” “We’re not selling in Europe yet and it’s the EU nowadays,” I replied. “No dummy, ECCC is Electronic Commerce Council of Canada.”

Decisions were made on bottles — glass or metal? Then the tops — droppers or spray tops? The labels and instructions had to be agreed upon, approved and printed. Packaging and logos had to be considered, submitted and cleared. The name “BurnGone,” it turned out, was not available in all markets and “Sunburn FastRelief” was born.

On April 28, 2004, the first samples arrived in Provo for distribution to our original victims and supporters. The following day Pharmasave, the second largest chain of pharmacies in Canada, rolled out Sunburn FastRelief as its “Pharmacist Recommended” product of the month.

It’s still a work-in-progress and the learning curve is steep but what a ride it’s been so far! By the time you read this, Megapol Inc., a company incorporated right here in the Turks & Caicos Islands, will be the worldwide exclusive distributor of Sunburn FastRelief. If you can’t buy it at a store near you, just order it from the net at

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Gary James at Provo Pictures ( used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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