Traditional Medicine Day has not yet reached ubiquitous levels as say, Labor Day, but it is a huge day for the women and men participating in TICAH’s Healthy Seeds program. As families affected and infected by HIV, traditional medicine brings reassuring choices and options to families who are struggling with managing their health.
I arrived at the National Museum to help photograph the event. As I sat with the TICAH staff, George, the curator of the Medicine Shield Garden of medicinal plants at the museum, noticed that I was scratching my foot. “What’s happening there?” he asked me pointing to my foot.
“Oh it’s nothing,” I said. “A mosquito had a meal on my foot last night.” We laughed. George jumped up and disappeared. Moments later he was sitting next to me again, but this time he was carrying two small fruits pulled from a plant in the garden. Later I learned they were from the sodom apple plant. He pierced one with a pen; clear liquid came out. He turned to me and handed me the fruit.
“Put this liquid on the bites,” he said. “It will relieve the itching and calm the inflammation.” He nodded and held the fruit closer to me. I took it and squeezed some of the liquid onto the bites. It tingled a bit but in a good, soothing way. Within a few minutes the redness and irritation had reduced and within a few more minutes I had forgotten I had mosquito bites at all.
This is what Traditional Medicine Day is all about. It’s about those natural remedies we all grow up with but may not place a high value on anymore. It’s the peppermint tea that your grandmother gave you when you were little and your belly ached after eating too much. It’s looking for the aloe to put on a burn. It starts with these simple remedies that all families have.
Traditional Medicine Day brings plant medicine and nutritional knowledge back into our lives to recognise the connection between what we put into our bodies and our health. For the men and women of the Healthy Seeds program, who are living positively, it means finding natural ways to complement the use of ARVs to manage their health and reduce the side effects of the drugs. For the families and communities of Kenya, it means revamping the value placed on food and plant medicine for healthy families.
It was a special day for reinvigorating the value placed on our grandmother and grandfather’s natural remedies and for the traditional, nutritious meals we were raised on. It was also a special day to understand that these remedies are not outdated or dead, but that this knowledge is evolving and available to everyone who can see it’s value and seek out to learn more about it.
For more TICAH pictures, follow this link.