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Herbal medicine is our brightright.

Cine Evans helps us embrace the deep medicine of African ancestors.

I grew up in the 1950s and 60s in a small town in Lexington, Mississippi. The majority of people in my community, including me, were African Americans. My ancestry is enriched by a long line of midwives and healers including my grandmother who taught us the best way to take care of one's body was to eat garden fresh foods and to use herbal medicine. When we became sick, my grandmother would go out into the woods, gather some herbs and prepare a tea or salve or whatever was the best medicine for the illness. I have come to realize it is important to start talking to the elders in communities about their knowledge of herbal medicine. My experience during the past several years of my research in the Sweet Auburn community in Atlanta, Georgia and my community in Franklin, Mississippi indicates that in the African American communities, there is usually Someone in every family that passes this herbal information on to the next generation.

African Views of Illness "

Traditional Africans believe that everything is imbued with a life force. This spirit of power is the essence of every living creature, deceased ancestor, inanimate object, and natural event (such as a thunderstorm). The preservation and restoration of health cannot be pursued without involving these life forces, all of which have their own personality and cosmic place. A healer's power is not determined by the number of medicinal tree barks he or she knows, but by his or her ability to apply their: understanding of the intricate relationship between all things for the good of the patient and the whole community, The traditional African healer looks for the cause of the patient's misfortune in the relationship between the patient and his social/physical environment.

African healing is an intricate part of the African religion. When this framework is understood, it no longer is an incoherent collection of rational and irrational acts, but rather a condensed expressions of base beliefs concerning life, good and evil, and etiology of illness.

Sub-Saharan Africa carries 21% of the global burden of disease and only spends 0.7 % of the total health care budget of the world. (1) More than half of this burden is due to communicable diseases such as malaria. Almost one third is directly related to malnutrition. Eighty percent of all births in Africa are attended by midwives or traditional birth, attended. (1) The majority of midwives are elderly women who are respected for their skills. Their procedures are not very different from practices elsewhere in the world, and many do more the just deliver babies. These midwives share a cultural heritage With the women and their families, and they know which food and local herbs are needed before; during, and after delivery. Traditional healers constitute the professional form of health care service for the large majority of Africans, particularly those living in in rural areas.

Today, it is often believed that all major Western medicine comes from a chemical laboratory, and that it is, therefore, old-fashioned to study natural remedies. This is quite a misconception. Half of today's best-selling drugs are directly or indirectly based on naturally occurring substances. Traditional African plants make an important contribution, For example, healers in Ghana use an aqueous root extract to treat symptoms that occur in diabetics. A study of human patients with type 2 diabetes (non- insulin dependent) has confirmed that the aqueous root extract lowers blood glucose levels. (1) Laboratory testing has identified the alkaloid cryptolepine as the major anti-diabetic constituent. (1)

When our ancestors were brought to the Americas from Africa as slaves, they brought their medicines with them. Women working in the fields would plant their special herbs between the rows of corn so that they would be close to their heritage and the medicines from their homeland. They did not forget the powerful healing knowledge of their ancestors, and the seeds of this wisdom are still alive in the elders of our community. It is time to reclaim our birthright. Start a garden in your backyard or on your patio. Plant herbs in small pots in your window for cooking and tea. Eat locally grown organic food from your region's farmers. Educate yourself about local herbs and their beneficial uses for your health. Connect with elders in your community and learn what they may know about local plants and their remedies.

Reference: (1) "Heavenly Herbs and Earthly Ailments: Africa as Ethnopharmacological Treasury," HerbalGram. 1999;47:52-62, American Botanical Council

Cine is the owner of Pure Cine' Natural Hair & Skin Care Products. More details are available at Call 800-656-2773 or
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Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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