Tag Archive | natural medicine

The Sahrawi of Morocco: When Medicine is What is Within Your Hands

The Sahrawi  of Morocco: When Medicine is What is Within Your Hands

By Hwaa Irfan

There is nothing unusual about this, accept that in a nation that has removed that power, that self knowledge so that one becomes unaware of one’s own body, one’s own health needs, and one’s true physiological ecology, one becomes reliant on those who have disempowered you. Many of us will not see it like that until one realizes that the very conditions that one lives under is the reason for one’s state of dis-ease, physically, mentally, and spiritually. That may be the direct consequence of imposed lifestyle choices, or it may be the result of one’s reaction to what has become pervasive.

For the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi people, the years of self determination have been replaced by a struggle with the state, a struggle that many are now finding themselves engulfed in as the very props  that have determined our lives fall away. For the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi, the struggle for independence up until a 1991 cease-fire with Morocco resulted in many fleeing to Algeria, to live in Polisaro Front-run refugee camps, Polisario Front being the rebel group that fought for the independence of their people.

Irish-born photographer Andrew McConnell captured many of the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi on film, like Djimi Elghalia Vice president of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH), now aged 48:

Djimi Elghalia

“My family was among many who fled the climate and social conditions in Western Sahara to look for work in Morocco. A lot of Sahrawi/Sahrauoi used to stay at our home, and because of this, my grandmother was arrested in 1984. She was 60. We never saw her again. In 1986, I moved to El Aaiún for work. The next year, I was arrested along with 500 others for trying to organize a demonstration on independence. They interrogated me and used physical and psychological torture. They would put chemicals in my hair, which made me faint. I was electrocuted on the arms and back and was bitten by dogs. I was released in 1991 along with 324 people, some of whom had been held since the invasion.”

Dada Mohammed Kehel:

“I was born in Smara, [a refugee camp] in the occupied territory [of Western Sahara] in 1955. I remember the valleys and little houses. I felt free there; even the wind smelt of freedom. I used to go to school with Spanish children. The Spanish had everything: cars, diggers. They made roads. When they left, they buried the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi. We felt stabbed in the back. When Morocco invaded, I ran with my family. It was a surprise, because nobody had radios. Some fled on foot and others on camels, but many were caught. I spent a lot of time in the camps. I hated it there, I felt like a tourist of Algeria. So after the cease-fire, I moved to the liberated territory. We are free here and I love it, but there are difficulties.”

The Western Sahara desert or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) may receive upto 4.5 cm of rain annually. If one knows how extreme the temperatures in the desert can get, then from 60˚C (150 ° F) to freezing at night does not sound unusual. SADR borders the North Atlantic Ocean between Mauritania and Morocco.

Not estranged from their environment like city dwellers, the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. However, all trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan Government. Added to this insult, one that is familiar to a indigenous peoples, the Moroccan Government signed contracts in 2001 for oil to exploration off the coast of Western Sahara.

The Sahrawi/Sahrauoi are semi-nomadic and Berber. Their Arab inheritance can be traced back to the 15th Century when tribes migrated from Yemen across North Africa and settled in Western Sahara.

In SADR, there are four refugee camps on a desert plateau called Hamada, near the Algerian city of Tindouf. A population of 165,000 Sahrawi/Sahrauoi with 20 years of practice live in what has become well organized refugee camps of canvas tents and mud brick huts.

Democracy is innately a part of their culture in that no single tribe has power over others, and all are represented in an overall governing body. Peaceful solutions are friendly way or by compensation through Islamic law. However, intrinsic to Arabism is racism, so the darker skinned members are not treated the same.

Over the years, they have improved their quality of life by developing an informal economy that includes marketing of many products through trade routes with Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, and Spain. Some of  those products are traditional ethnobiological, which have helped to maintain their medicinal traditions.

Acacia ehrenbergiana of the plant family Fabaceae are used to treat eye infections and conjunctivitis. The leaves are dried, powdered and tAcacia ehrenbergiana riturated for wounds, and the resin known as el elk tamat is used for eye problems.

Anastatica hierochuntica of the Brassicaceae plant family is used in the treatment of vitiligo/white spots on the skin, mycotic skin infections, particularly the hands and nails. The aerial parts are dried, triturated, and boiled in water, and it is used as a topical application. When cooled and dried, the plant material is triturated and mixed with water to form a plaster for the treatment.

Argania spinosa of the Sapotaceae plant family is used to strengthen the hair and against aging.  The bulez oil is extracted from the seeds and applied as a cream.

Balanites aegyptiaca  of the Balanitaceae plant family is used as a mouth wash for the treatment of mouth and skin infections -mycosis, and spots. The fruit is roasted and peeled for its oil which is applied to the skin. The ashes from the burnt fruit are mixed with the oil and applied topically as a mouth wash, with the infusion of the peel and leaves.

Beta patellaris of the Chenopodiaceae plant family is used to treat otitis/ear infection in children by extracting the oil from the seeds.

Caylusea hexagyna of the Resedaceae plant family is used to perfume the hair, to treat lice, and as a dressing which stays on the hair for 24 hours to treat hair loss and to stimulate hair growth.  Fresh aerial parts are pounded, to extract the juice, which is then mixed with oil/fat.

Commiphora africana of the Burseraceae plant family is used to clean the teeth, as an antiseptic for wounds and skin infections, and as a smudge for protection against the evil eye.  The stems and resin are used triturated.

Mesembryanthemum cryptanthum of the Aizoaceae plant family is used as soap.  The  green aerial parts are pounded and then mixed with water.

Pergularia tomentosa of the Asclepiadaceae plant family is used in the treatment of  snakebites, scorpion stings, and boils. The leaves are dried, triturated and mixed with water and applied topically. The resin is used to get rid of warts.

Red hematite/ochre  is applied topically to reduce solar radiation into eyes, for cataract, conjunctivitis, abscesses, bone fractures and wounds.

These are but a few of the natural remedies the Sahrawi/Sahrauoi use.  What do you have in your kitchen cupboard that is not irradiated, processed or modified genetically that has a medicinal function?


Macdonald, K. “A Light on the People of Western Sahara.” lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/a-light-on-the-people-of-western-sahara/

Volpato, G., Kourková, P., Zelený, V., “Healing war wounds and perfuming exile: the use of vegetal, animal, and mineral products for perfumes, cosmetics, and skin healing among Sahrawi refugees of Western Sahara.” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2012, 8:49 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-8-49

Related Topics:

Allah’s Medicine Chest

It Makes Good Scents

Behind the Masks of the Feminine

Quinoa: The Health Fad that is Starving the Cultivators

The Yanomami and the Yew Tree That Fights Cancer


Tuberculosis: An old Disease on the Rise Again!

Tuberculosis: An old Disease on the Rise Again!

By Hwaa Irfan

The period of separating the mind, and soul of a person from their illness has not yet come to a close in modern allopathic symptom-based) medicine as evidence by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA continuance of approving drugs often untested/unproven).

Despite the accumulative evidence that reveal how diseases develop a resistance to modern treatment, as with antibiotics, which then makes the disease more difficult to treat – hence causing further harm to the human ecology making profits more important than health.

As of December 31, 2012, the FDA has approved yet another drug, the first in 40 years for a disease that will not seem to go away! Sirturo is the new drug in combination with other treatments for tuberculosis. Produced by Johnson & Johnson, Sirturo’s designated role is to combat a disease that has become multi-drug-resistant. Rather than re-thinking the nature of disease pharmaceutical companies continue in the same direction that their very existence, and profits depend upon, as there are always willing consumers looking for that magic pill that requires one swallow with no further concern.

Truth mixed with conflicting data, according to the global governance body the World Health Organization, WHO, TB kills more young people and adults than any other infectious disease in the world including AIDS and Malaria combined.

World Region Number Thousands % Of Global Total TB Mortality Per 100,000 of Population
Africa 2,529 29% 74.0
The Americas 352 4% 5.5
Eastern Mediterranean 565 6% 21.0
Europe 445 5% 7.4
South East Asia 2,993 34% 31.0
Western Pacific 1,927 22% 17.0
Global 8,811 100% 24.0

By country, other statistics demonstrate that Swaziland has the highest infection rate, and India has the highest infection rate!

A slow moving dis-ease, TB is a bacteria that does not show symptoms until it reaches the lungs, which can take years after the initial exposure.  There are different types of TB. When it reaches the lungs it becomes pulmonary tuberculosis.  Symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis include:

  • A persistent cough that brings up thick mucus that can be bloody,
  • breathlessness: symptoms from mild to gradually getting worse
  • weight loss
  • lack of appetite
  • fever: a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
  • fatigue
  • A general sense of feeling unwell.

Other types include:

  • Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) – newer TB strains
  • Miliary tuberculosis resulting in multiple abscesses in various body parts
  • TB associated with pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Genitourinary TB
  • Cutaneous TB
  • Skeletal TB

TB spreads by air through an infected human out-breath. Infected cows through their milk can also carry the disease. Usually the lungs are affected, but the bacteria can also spread to the brains, kidneys or bones when immunity is weak, but when strong our connective tissue surrounds the bacteria and destroys it. The standard allopathic drugs used to fight the disease were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, which has resulted in the new strains. Those are the mechanical limits of modern allopathic symptom-based) medicine.

The Body-Mind Relationship

In what has been referred to as alternative medicine, more specifically those that work with the human energy field, the entire person is brought into the wider picture, including the mind – the aspect that serves the basis of propaganda, PSYOPS, and mind control; except for those that work with the human energy field in a positive way, as the human energy field serves as a medium to rebalance, and thus realign the mind, body spirit retain back t its true healthy picture. This can only be successfully done with the person, not against and with the person afflicted taking the reins. When it is done for the person, it is no better than modern allopathic symptom-based) medicine.

In homeopathy, when one looks at persons afflicted with TB at some stage, there are symptoms that do not qualify as symptoms at the mechanical modern medicine level. These symptoms affect the mind, and/or physical-behavioural level.

Expression of the Times

For many of us, TB belongs to a period of history, not the present. We know of it as a widespread disease of the 19th century – Romanticism. It was reflected by those who escaped the world around them through the arts: romantic music, paintings filled with nymphs and books filled with romantic, feeble and longing characters. Those artistes found their inspiration in exotic regions and far off lands. If we look at the countries/regions where TB as a disease is the highest, depending on which data we are referring to, what comes up is India, China, and Africa at the top of the list.

Those afflicted with TB at a body-mind level tend to be dreamers always wanting that ‘something’ that unfulfilled dream.  They search for that dream at some level, but it always seems to escape them, like the desire to breathe because they want it now. Like those dreams, their good heath as escaped them – it is a longing for what is not there in their environment. They want to try everything because “life is too short”, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and they can became malicious, compulsive and non-committal with it.

With the above in mind they are extremely changeable and restless. This may express itself through a desire for “something different” whether it be food, retains, travel, and/or profession.  They can be sweet and kind one moment, and inconsistent and temperamental the next. Because of that desire to “breathe” their bronchial tubes are affected. Unable to inhale that aspect of the life force, as many city dwellers will experience, their immunity becomes affected.

There are more symptoms of course, but the above just conveys a general picture, a picture that might sound familiar. These are not necessarily precursors to pathological TB, but those affected by the ‘energy’ of TB.

Without finding that expression recurring heath issues arise pertaining to the connective tissue, rheumatic, Upper respiratory complaints keep arising, each time debilitating the health of the person further.

Oppression vs the desire to change pretty much sums up a lot of experiences right now!

Related Topics:


Herbal Remedies the New Antibiotics

Behind the Masks of the Feminine IX: Sulphur

To Ride with the Wind

Letter to the Self # 27: Destination or the Journey!

Letter to the Self # 26: Change

The Importance of Self-Compassion

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Honey

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Honey

By Hwaa Irfan

The bee, its product, and the lessons one can learn are appreciated so much in the Qur’an that a whole chapter (An-Nahl) is dedicated to the work of the honeybee. Just think, such a small creature contributes to the global food supply through pollination and a gain through its supply of honey as a food, and as a medicine.

We may react with fear in the presence of a bee like so many aspects of our diverse world without appreciating the good along with the sting, which is only active in the presence of danger.  No fun for those with those with sting allergies, but maybe we appreciate the bee more with reports that the global bee population is on a decline. As fruits are only pollinated by the honeybee that does not farewell for our global food supply as well as the 300 tons of honey for commercial use annually.

There are in fact 4 species of honey bees:

  • Little Honeybee, Apis florae  – native to southeast Asia
  • Eastern Honeybee, Apis cerana – native to eastern Asia as far north as Korea and Japan
  • Giant Honeybee, Apis dorsata – native to southeast Asia
  •  ‘Western Honeybee’ Apis mellifera – native to Africa, Europe, and western Asia

Taking care of all the continents, unlike other bees, refines the nectar it extracts from flowers to make the honey we all love. Known as ‘asal abyad (Arabic), miel blanc (French), honig (German), they make enough honey to provide for their food supply throughout the winter when they are still busy while most of nature is taking time out.

These very social creatures that know the true meaning of structured teamwork are brightly coloured to warn off honey thieves along with an egg laying tube that holds venom and is used when their domain, is threatened. Male honeybees do not have stingers.

The hexagonal honeycomb made of beeswax is produced by the worker bees when they are only 12 – 15 days old. The population uses it as a nursery for the young as well as a warehouse for their honey and pollen. Totally practical, the honeycomb is made up of two-sided precision made cells where the Queen bee lays her eggs.

Commercial Honey

Because of the different sources of nectar, the colour, and flavor of honey varies.

Known as purified honey, it is prepared by melting honey at a moderate temperature, skimming off any impurities, and diluting with water.

Unfortunately, one really needs to know one’s honey and not trust the brand name as fake/heavily diluted honey is not uncommon. The honey one could be buying could be a mixture of sugar water, malt sweeteners, or corn/rice syrup. In the U.S. 75% of honey is heavily diluted/processed, and contain little or no medicinal/nutritional properties at all! The Food Safety News reports:

  • 76 percent of honey samples bought at  grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter,  etc.) were absent of pollen
  • 77 percent of the honey from big box stores (like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent of pollen
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drug stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were absent of pollen

In other words, it is not honey!

Chemical Properties

We are told in the Qur’an:

“And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: “Take you habitations in the mountains and in the trees and in what they erect.” Then, eat of all fruits, and follow the ways of your Lord made easy (for you).” There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colour wherein is healing for men. Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think.” (An-Nahl 16:68-69)

Mildly acidic, due to the various sources of nectar that honeybees process into honey, the phytochemical composition can vary. Honey contains over 181 different phytochemicals, and they include:

  • Abaecin
  • Apidaecins
  • Butanoic formic  acid
  • Caffeic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Gluconic acid
  • Lactic acid
  •  Malic acid
  • Methyl caffeate
  • Phenylethyl caffeate
  • Phenylethyl dimethylcaffeate
  • Pinostrobin
  • Pyroglutamic acid     
  • Royalisin
  • Quercetin

Antibacterial – this is well documented in traditional, folk, and modern medicine. Honey contains Abaecin and Apidaecins, which are antibacterial along with royalisin. However, much is lost in commercial honey that has been subject to prolonged exposure to heat, and sunlight. The honey with strong antibacterial properties includes Honeydew honey, which is from the nectar of the conifers of mountainous regions of central Europe, as well as Manuka honey or Leptospermum scoparium from New Zealand.

Manuka honey has been found to be affective against bacterium:

  • Staphylococcus aureus and epidermis
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Enterobacteriaceae

The commercially available Manuka honey is the only commercially available honey that contains antibacterial properties. It is the product of bees that extract nectar from the flowers of the Manuka bush indigenous to New Zealand.

In New Zealand, chronic, and acutely infected wounds have been treated successfully with honey where conventional treatments failed accept where the arteries were compromised. Research carried out at the Waikato University varicose ulcers healed with 3 months without the use of systemic antibiotics. They found honey has a cleansing and deodorizing affect on malignant wounds, and is affective within 24 hours. Honey proved to be more effective than the drug phenytoin in cases of chronic leg ulcers, and more effective than povidone-iodine with 70% ethanol washes for postoperative wound infections. The honey used was Manuka honey!


Caffeic acid methyl caffeate, phenylethyl caffeate, and phenylethyl dimethylcaffeate has been found to prevent colon cancer, but these properties are lost in commercial honey, i.e. honey subject to prolonged heat.

Antiseptic – this is well documented in traditional, folk, and modern medicine.

Ulcers – this is well documented in traditional, folk, and modern medicine. From 1984 – 2001 25 modern scientific papers document and confirm honey as an effective topical treatment of ulcers, wounds, and skin graft preservation.

Nutritional Content

Depending on the type of honey, nutritional properties includes :

  • Betaine
  • Calcium
  • Choline
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Niacin
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Riboflavin
  • Selenium
  • Thiamin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)
  • Vitamin K
  • Zinc

Choline is similar to the B-vitamins, a small percentage of which is produced by the human body. Choline supports the cell membranes, the neural transmitter acetylcholine connected to the muscles, prevents build up of homocysteine, reduces chronic inflammations, and helps to maintain a healthy liver.

Vitamin A is full of beta carotene, which supports the lungs and the eyes by maintaining healthy mucous membranes.

Vitamin K promotes bone formation and prevents nerve damage in the brain.

Zinc plays an important role, synthesizing certain processes in the body like that of carbohydrates, and proteins for instance. Zinc also metabolizes certain micronutrients, and stabilizes certain structures of cells.

Pure unfiltered honey has the ability to:

  • Prevent tooth decay
  • Promote friendly gut bacteria
  • Balances homocysteine levels (high levels lead to cardiovascular  disease and osteoporosis)
  • Calm allergies
  • Calm coughs

Pure unfiltered honey has:

  • Amino acids
  • Antioxidants
  • Enzymes
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

Pure unfiltered honey is:

  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-viral
  • Good for the skin
  • Good for the heart


Honey contaminated with Clostridium botulinum the cause botulism is not suitable for infants. Clostridium botulinum comes from the soil in which the plant grows. Honey that is from the nectar of poisonous plants like mountain laurel, jimson weed, azalea, and rhododendron should be avoided.


In New Zealand, honey is used as a standard treatment for leg ulcers by community nurses.

In the Niger Delta, Nigeria, honey mixed with onion juice has been used for upper respiratory infections, problems of the liver, and stomach ulcers; used as a carminative when mixed with Benin pepper, and mixed with the powder of black/white pepper to treat dyspepsia, debility, diarrhoea, cholera, piles and urinary tract problems.

Chew the honeycomb or propolis (the plant resin) as an antihistamine, and as immune system booster.

In balance He gave us everything we needed, but as for what we want!


“Honey.” http://www.drugs.com/npp/honey.html

Molan, P.C., and Betts, J.C.  “Clinical usage of honey as a wound dressing: an update.” Journal of Wound Care Vol 13, No 9, October 2004


Allah’s Medicine Chest: Lemons

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Garlic

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Oranges

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Almonds

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Shea Butter

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Strawberries (Fragaria vesca)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Dates (Phoenix dactylifera)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Figs (Ficus Carica)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Pomegranate (Punica Granatum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Acai Berries (Euterpe oleracea)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Beetroot (Beta vulgaris)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Tomatoes

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Fava Beans (Vicia faba)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Avocado (Persea Americana)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Aubergines (Solanum melongena esculentum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Blueberries (Vaccinium corybosum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Barley (Hordeum Vulgare)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Coconut (Cocos nucifera L)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Kale (Brassica oleracea)

Reclaiming Nature’s Knowledge Base

Reclaiming Nature’s Knowledge Base

By Hwaa Irfan

I grew up in a mixed environment of both traditional and modern (orthodox medicine). It always amazed me how readily my parent’s generation so readily took to the General Practitioner as god of their health, ignoring all the signs and symptoms that they were more familiar with than the doctor. It also caused me great alarm to see how members amongst my own generation suffered as a result of stereotypes arm-in-arm with the S.U.S laws of the U.K. detrimentally at the hands of medications that they did not need leading to long term mental ill-health.

Today, equally with alarm, given the challenges that modern medicine has faced in terms of its proclaimed right over human health, and how people in the West have been discovering and reclaiming their own health that the West in terms of trade and governance still impose on first world/developing countries the notion that modern medicine is the god of health, is the only way, and how far too many peoples of the first world/developing countries accept that while the raw materials that they produce contribute greatly to the development of modern and alternative medicines in the West. It is the cloud with the silver lining that has made modern medicine too expensive for certain sections of the peoples of first world/developing countries, which has made them reliant on what they already have i.e. traditional/natural medicine. And like in most places of the world there is a need to tackle those who exploit that need via their poor knowledge base for profit jeopardizing the status of traditional/natural medicine in their respective countries.

Traditional/natural medicine not only provides an affordable means of reclaiming one’s health, but it also provides control over ones health as an individual. At the same time, it provides nations of the first/developing world the opportunity to recognize the wealth of what they do have instead of reaching out for what they think they do not have, and for those countries to recognize the level of biopiracy which reaps the benefits, while those countries feel compelled to subject themselves to an unaffordable system of health.

The World Health Organization, W.H.O, despite its misdemeanors over the H1N1 pseudo-pandemic (accused by 11 European countries for being complicit with drug companies to promote the use of untested drugs by populations), has begun to recognize the virtue of traditional/natural medicines and have called for international and national policy makers to establish a working partnership between modern and traditional/natural medicine for the progress and development of a comprehensive global public health.

Good Practice in Progress

Patenting has become a serious issue from food – medicine via the attempts of dominant nations to apply TRIPS which fundamentally excludes the right of ownership over indigenous knowledge and resources while promoting the application and trade thereof in Genetically Modified foods, and the western pharmaceutical and agricultural industry. In order to find some common base, some countries have taken a step towards a workable partnership between the indigenous knowledge base and modern/allopathic medicine by qualifying the indigenous knowledge base as “prior art” in the public domain through Western patent offices. India is a country that has battled long and hard with the U.S. specifically when it comes to TRIPS over the products of its soil, and as a result has developed a sophisticated system, the Traditional Digital Library, TKDL in response to biopiracy to protect its indigenous knowledge base, and at the same time to apply safety measures over the application of its traditional knowledge base by its own practitioners. The Neem Tree is just one of India’s “fruits” that cost them millions of dollars and years to make the European Patent Office revoke a patent on the “Neem Tree”, a mosquito repellent, on the basis of prior use. In South Africa, where there has been much biopiracy, the Pan-African Natural Products Library (p-ANPL), a consortium of scientists across the continent, are aiming to set up their own database which will involve the awesome task of physically collecting all the plant types, and the knowledge base to go with it. In Cusco, Peru, steps have been taken to outlaw biopiracy, including the patenting of genes, and China, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Thailand are taking steps to protect their biodiversity by establishing a database.

Another step that has been taken is ABS, the system of access and benefit sharing, which allows for access to traditional knowledge with an expectation to share in any modified use of their indigenous knowledge base. An example of this is amongst the Kani peoples of Kerala in India, who receive funds from an Indian pharmaceutical (ayurvedic) company which seeks to commercialize the anti-stress drug known in India as Jeevani. The main ingredient of Jeevani is the arogyappacha plant, which grows wild on the Agasthyar Hills of Kerala. Jeevani is a combination of four herbs, which was developed over a period of years by the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI), and following successful drug trials has been firmly established to strengthen and speed up the recovery time physically and mentally being an adaptogen that possesses anti-stress, and an anti-fatigue qualities – a much needed aid in these turbulent times.

In Peru like elsewhere the oppressive attitude of modern medical practitioners ensues preventing needed medical benefits from the indigenous source from reaching those in need. In the case of vertical birthing (which though was available in the U.K., I personally had to fight for up until giving birth). Vertical birthing involves squatting or kneeling, which allows for the birthing process to take place in alignment with gravity, and not against it. Considered outdated by modern medical practitioners, vertical birthing provides a greater rate of survival for the newborn in indigenous communities (cut infant mortality by half from 2004 – 2009), and no back pain for the birthing mother. Six health ministries (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) have formed the Intercultural Andean Health Plan in Latin America as a result of a treaty known as the Andean Health Organization-Hipólito Unanue Convention aimed at promoting and targeting indigenous health care on aspects that include vertical birthing (which includes allowing the father to be present), and cultural illnesses such as “susto”, a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome where a person’s soul thought to be lost can be recovered using certain rituals.

Nature vs. Industry

Traditional medicine in general looks at the person from a whole perspective which has been developed over thousands of years, modern/allopathic medicine has been developed over a period of 400+ years, and is still struggling with its perspective the human being from a mechanical symptomatic perspective, and in doing so has led to new diseases that are drug related. The antagonistic attitude towards traditional/natural medicine is a false one rooted in the insecurities of modern medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry ignoring that nature or biodiversity has been the source of all medicines including modern medicine. Modern drugs were initially 90% plant based. In the U.S. alone, between 1959 – 1973 25% all prescriptive drugs contained one or more ingredient which was plant-based. Analysis of the top 150 drugs used in the U.S. in 1993 found that 57% of those drugs had bases that derived from biodiversity. In 1997, 11 of the best-selling drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies were derived from natural products, which reaped US$ 17.5 billion. The drug Taxol alone reaped US$ 2.3 billion in 2000. Taxol was derived from the plant Taxus baccata , a conifer more commonly known as the Yew Tree, native to central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia.

On the therapeutic scale, the global spa industry benefited to the tune of US$255 billion in 2007, when the source of that is indigenous to India and China. Doing so well, should not the companies show their appreciation in the form of giving back to the communities from which they draw from, so that those communities can benefit, and continue to provide the world its natural wealth? Surely this is a win-win situation.

Home to over 400 traditional cultures, the indigenous of Latin America have struggled long for recognition of their identity amidst the dominant cultures. Rich in a biodiversity that has contributed much to the well-being of others globally, they argue for a collective recognition of their natural wealth and its knowledge base which can be of mutual benefit to the communities concerned, researchers, and those who profit.

Director of the Indian Institute of Ayurvedic and Integrative Medicine, Bhushan Patwardhan calls for scientists to be ethically and legally binding in gaining consent from the “custodians of traditional knowledge which regulates the commercial usage of plant derived drugs in their application. Patwardhan gives the example of the Indian long pepper which has been employed in Ayurvedic medicine for 100s of years. From the Indian long pepper, the active ingredient piperine has been extracted in order to reduce the dosage and thus the negative impact of the drug rifampicin in the treatment of tuberculosis. The contraindications applied in Ayurvedic medicine are remiss in the modern treatment of tuberculosis whereby the treatment is much longer than the Ayurvedic ruling that the plant should not be used for 40 consecutive days. One can then imagine the scenario of FDA warning that eventually bans the use of the plant thus leading to further defamation of traditional/natural/indigenous knowledge base! This would definitely contribute greatly towards a sustainable infrastructure medicinally speaking, which in reality would be challenged, and undermined greatly by the Western pharmaceutical and agricultural industries.

Meanwhile, those who see the harmony of what can be achieved wait for no legislation. Complementray medicine is slowing gaining ground. Chinese hospitals that provide herbal therapy alongside conventional medicine to Ecuadorian clinics where modern general practitioners work alongside traditional ‘yachaks’ (shamans), and the National Health Service in the U.K., has been slowing integrating alternative practices such as homeopathy, acupuncture, yoga, and osteopathy into the mainstream practice of health care in Britain.


Chibale, K. “Discovering Africa’s Drug Potential”. http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/discovering-africa-s-drug-potential.html

Lewis, S. and Dickson, D. The Imperatives for Traditional Medicine

NHS. NHS Evidence – Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://www.library.nhs.uk/cam/Page.aspx?pagename=INTRO

Salaverry, O. “Modernizing Traditional Medicine Must Work for Locals” http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/modernising-traditional-medicine-must-work-for-locals.html

Shetty, P. Integrating Modern and Traditional Medicie: Facts and Figures. http://www.scidev.net/en/features/integrating-modern-and-traditional-medicine-facts-and-figures.html

Patwardhan, B. et al. Ending Medical Dominance Over the Developing World http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/ending-medical-dominance-over-the-developing-world.html

Patwardhan, B. Drug Discovery and Development: Traditional Medicine and Ethnopharmacology Perspectives. http://www.scitopics.com/Drug_Discovery_and_Development_Traditional_Medicine_and_Ethnopharmacology_Perspectives.html

The New Wonder Drug. http://www.jeevani.com/

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Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

Allah’s Medicine Chest: Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)

By Hwaa Irfan

This is a spice that not many people in the west use though it is widely available. Considered more as a food coloring (yellow), turmeric is used widely in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Known as “haldi” in India, and “curcum” in Arabic, turmeric begins life as a flowering plant, the roots are used to make the powder we refer to as turmeric in the west. Native to Asia, turmeric is a cultivated plant so it does not grow in the wild.

The medicinal properties of turmeric are still being discovered, but so far it has been found to contain:

• Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), its main bioactive (yellow) ingredient

  • • Protein
  • • Fat
  • • Minerals
  • • Carbohydrates
  • • Essential oil
  • • Sabinene
  • • Cineol
  • • Borneol
  • Polyphenol (curcumin)
  • • Zingiberene
  • • Sesquiterpines

Curcumin has been found to have the following actions:

• Anti-inflammatory – joints

• Antioxidant – prevents oxidation avoiding cell damage, and speeding up of the ageing process.

• Anti carcinogenic – under research

• Antimutagenic

• Anticoagulant – prevents cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels, and blood clots

• Antifertility – in Ayurvedic medicine

• Antibacterial – applied on wounds helps fast healing

• Antiviral

Medicinal Benefits

The curcumin in turmeric is 5 times stronger than vitamin E, and vitamin C. It has the ability to increase mucus activity in the stomach, therefore improving digestion, to increase the flow of bile and stomach acids, which in turn breaks down fats. Curcumin reduces intestinal gas formation. As an antioxidant, turmeric supports the functioning of the memory function, helps to maintain a healthy heart, and boosts the immune system.

As an adaptogen, turmeric helps to support reaction to changing circumstances when it comes to stress. In Ayurvedic medicine turmeric is known to help maintain a health nervous system, the absorption of needed vitamins and minerals, and to eliminate waste from the body.

Turmeric also reduces inflammation in cases of rheumatoid arthritis, and maintains blood sugar (lipase, sucrase and maltase) balance in the intestines.

Research by UCLA, has found that tumeric and curcumin are pwoerful anti-cancerous agents – they block cancer growth. Curcumin has been foudn to afffective by 81%.

Research by the Department of Pharmacology, Government Medical College, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India, looked at patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). The objective of the trial was to compare the efficacy and safety of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in 60 patients diagnosed with MDD. They concluded:

“We observed that curcumin was well tolerated by all the patients. The proportion of responders as measured by the HAM-D17 scale was higher in the combination group (77.8%) than in the fluoxetine [Prozac] (64.7%) and the curcumin (62.5%) groups; however, these data were not statistically significant (P = 0.58). Interestingly, the mean change in HAM-D17 score at the end of six weeks was comparable in all three groups (P = 0.77). This study provides first clinical evidence that curcumin may be used as an effective and safe modality for treatment in patients with MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders.”

In Ayurvedic medicine, the roots of the plant from which turmeric comes from is pounded down, then pressed to extract a juice, which when mixed with water is used to ease earaches, and clear sinuses.

Health Tips

Spices in general are thermogenic that is they boost metabolism therefore burn calories, this includes turmeric. Turmeric cleanses the skin, maintains elasticity, and balances the skin flora. The curcumnoid in turmeric supports normal blood and live functions, and in doing so, helps to maintain a healthy digestive system, supports healthy bones and joints, and helps to maintain a balanced level of cholesterol.

A teaspoon of turmeric powder in a cup of warm milk used three times daily has long been considered an effective Ayurvedic treatment for colds and influenza.

In South India, turmeric with oil is used as bath routine on a Friday by women to beautify their skin.

Caution: The Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland advises that turmeric should not be used in pregnancy and with patients with gallstones or bile duct obstructions unless under advisement from their doctors.

If you are buying turmeric for its medicinal qualities, it is best to buy organic, as any artificial processing will undermine the medicinal value. Also to buy organic, avoids buying what may very well be a substitute!


Chattopadhyay, I. et al. Turmeric and Curcumin: Biological Actions and Medicinal Applications

Turmeric: Anti-inflammatory and Other Medicinal Properties of Turmeric http://autoimmunedisease.suite101.com/article.cfm/turmeric#ixzz0rhw70djL
University of Maryland. Turmeric http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/turmeric-000277.htm

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