NATURE POWER HERBAL MEDICINE IN TROPICAL AFRICA
By Anselm Adodo
Before the colonial age, medicine across the tropics was almost entirely confined to traditional remedies and practices tailored to local cultures and natural resources. Then the arrival of missionaries and colonialists in Asia, Africa and America brought modern scientific techniques and medicines that were used to serve the colonial imperative of promoting Christianity, commerce and “civilization”.
The introduction of modern medicine has certainly been successful on one level. The colonial powers were much more adept at controlling epidemics, deploying mass vaccination programs against smallpox, for example, and removing tumours and cataracts. However, colonial-era medicine has left another legacy — the marginalisation and downgrading of traditional medicine. Colonial powers promoted their values over traditional practices, establishing modern medicine as officially superior. In many African countries for example, herbalists were not forbidden to practice but they were largely considered inferior or ignored.
This marginalisation of traditional medical practices was later reinforced through organised healthcare systems and hospitals built on developed countries’ models, which have continued to dominate the healthcare systems of most nations. Fortunately, in the race to meet the Millennium Development Goals, combat increasing drug resistance and tackle new diseases, traditional medicine is making a comeback! Governments, drug companies, researchers and international aid organisations increasingly recognise the value of traditional medicine and its practitioners.
When Nature Power was first published 12 years ago, the practice of herbal medicine in Nigeria and in most parts of Africa was identified with witchcraft, sorcery, ritualism and all sorts of fetish practices. Because herbal medicine was associated with paganism, many African Christians secretly patronize traditional healers, and the educated elite and religious figures did not want to be associated in any way with traditional African Medicine. Nature Power, like a lonely voice in a wilderness, was written to correct the misconception that African Herbal medicine is synonymous with paganism, ritualism and fetishism.
Since its publication, Nature Power has been reprinted and revised more than eight times. It has contributed immensely in changing the attitudes of both the Government and Christians towards the practice of herbal medicine. Nature Power has also helped to show that health is more than an absence of disease. Health is wholeness of mind, soul and body. Much of the information in this book are age-old secrets, which herbalists keep close to their chests. I have made them available here so that humanity may profit from them.
It is said that knowledge is power. True enough. But knowledge is power only when it is relevant and makes a difference in the lives of people. Nature Power has indeed made a big difference in the lives of the people!
When God made men and women, he gave them all they needed to be happy, to be whole, and to be healthy. He gave water, air, the earth and us sunshine. Out of greed and selfishness, we began to exploit the earth, abuse it, destroy it, and treat it with disrespect. The result is crisis: economic crisis, mental crisis, social crisis, political crisis and climatic crisis. The world is in crisis because it is populated by over 6 billion greedy individuals: you and I.
We who are adults know that we have lost our childhood innocence, and we know that somehow, our happiness depends on regaining it. Somehow, we know that we have lost touch with nature, and somewhere deep in our hearts we know that we need to get in touch with nature. We human beings are the youngest occupants of this planet. Before we came, the plants were here; before we came, the animals were here; before we came, the oceans, the forests, and the mountains were here. To survive, we must learn from her. In addition, to learn from her, we must respect her.
Nature Power is inviting the world to come down to the earth to regain our health. We are people of the earth. The earth is the primary source of our creativity, intelligence and human-ness. Before we set out to calculate, to create, to invent, to fabricate, the earth already was. Science does not and cannot create. Science only tries to explain nature, to interpret it, manage it, mimic it, control it, exploit it and do all kinds of things with it. People go to school to learn about nature, to understand it, to explain it. They acquire degrees, become experts, professionals and professors in various fields of human Knowledge: medicine, physics, chemistry, pharmacy, botany, biology, astronomy, geography, psychology, engineering, architecture, etc. Call it what you wish, describe it as you like, explain it as you want, mystify it as you please, it still boils down to the same thing: NATURE.
We must remain close to the earth, so that we do not lose contact with our roots, our origin. Today, faced with globalization, high-technology and a fast-paced modern lifestyle, we are often tempted to forget our link with the earth, and therefore become DIS-EASED. One distinctive feature of nature is that it is generous; it is an open book, open for everyone to read and understand. In addition, the more we learn about nature, the more our knowledge grows, and the wiser we become. Moreover, the wiser we become, the more our need to know more increases.
In the past, we used to hear about physicians who provide health care to the sick. Physicians who genuinely care for the sick. Today, it seems what we have are more of health specialists or professionals, who help us fix our bodies when broken down so that we can keep on moving. Yes, they may have cured us, but do they really care? Is health care in the modern world becoming more of a business venture rather than a care profession? And what about the botanist and taxonomist who, while gaining a technical knowledge of trees and plants, have lost knowledge of the forest? Or the astronaut who, while becoming an expert in the study of the moon and the stars, has lost knowledge of the sky? Before our very eyes, we observe experts and professionals taking over our lives, controlling it, and forming a powerful clique with a claim to a monopoly of knowledge, and restricting our access to the open book, which is nature.
I invite all men and women of goodwill to show some concern about the quality of advice given to government by our so-called experts and ask some vital questions. Is government getting the right advice concerning health care and how to improve it? Has importation of sophisticated machines into our hospitals in Africa translated into more efficient health care and treatment? Does bigger spending really translate into better health services? In villages where there are no roads, no electricity, no hospitals, what form of health care should government put in place? Since the current health system in operation in Nigeria and many African countries has not fully met the health needs of the people, what alternative do we have? Is government ready and willing to explore and embrace the alternative? Do we honestly believe that the health care model of the developed and industrialised countries of Europe and America is suitable to, or is practicable in Africa?
Our health, our life, our future, depends on the quality of the earth: soil, water, sunshine, forests and air. The rich, the poor, the sick, the healthy, black people, white people, we all breathe the same air. There is no separate air for different categories of people. At the end of the day, what we put into the earth will come back to us, either to purify us or poison us. The air we breathe is the same air inhaled by Jesus Christ, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Mohammed, and by the great scientists, philosophers and saints of the past. Their utterances, thoughts and breath are still present in the air molecules in which we are immersed. So long as we all breathe the same air, and live on the same planet earth, we will all remain bonded together, both the living and the dead. Viewed from this perspective, one can now see how scientific our African ancestors were when they asserted that only a thin line separates the spiritual from the physical, spirit from matter, life from death. The wisdom of the ancients is there in the molecules of the air around us, waiting to be tapped when we are open enough to perceive it.
The idea of the stranger, the unknown, is an illusion. We are all linked together in a symbiotic cosmos. What affects one, affects all. Nobody is destined to be poor, or to be sick. We cannot sit down and watch politicians dictate the tempo of our lives and tell us what they want us to hear. People all over the world are challenging capitalism itself, a system that is based on intense greed, selfishness and competition. Privileged elite numbering a few thousands possess and have acquired over 80% of world’s wealth and leave the remaining 5.6 billion people to scramble for the remaining 20%.
Millions of men and women from all parts of the world are coming together to remind us that it is our human greed and selfishness, rather than nuclear bombs, that constitute the greatest threat to human survival, to human health and to human peace. Humanity is sick and needs to be administered the medicine of justice, fairness, concern for others and respect for our symbiotic cosmos. Over the past few years, there have been intense calls from readers to make the Nature Power available to the global reading public, as its message is as relevant today as it was 21 years ago. This new, expanded edition of Nature power is in response to this request. I hope it will be as profitable for you as it has been for millions of readers over the past decade.