Our Plants, Our Health
Herbal and Nutritional Guide
In the resource scarce environments of HIV/AIDS affected communities there is a clear need to identify alternative, affordable and accessible health care and nutrition options for families that fit within their financial and human resource realities. Families living with HIV/AIDS are under extreme stress as they struggle to meet their health and nutritional needs, particularly if they have limited financial means. There are few attempts to cost out the interventions in practical ways that enable families to make informed diet, care and health management decisions. We have found that it neednít cost more to eat well, and it often saves money to prevent illness or treat it early rather than waiting until the services of a physician or healer are necessary.
There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of traditional science that recognizes the potential of food and herbal medicine in contributing to good health. However, there is little work that has been done to gather, document and disseminate this information to the people who could most benefit from it. TICAH worked with Kenyan communities to identify locally affordable and accessible nutrition and herbs with which to manage common health complaints. The result of this process is our publication Using Our Traditions: A Herbal and Nutritional Guide for Kenyan Families.
The book was compiled over a period of two years during which time we worked with groups of HIV+ individuals and their families and care providers in different regions of Kenya to find out what health challenges they and their children are facing and what locally available resources they are using to manage them. From this process we identified the most common conditions occurring in HIV-affected families and then collected herbal recipes they were using to help in the treatment and management of those conditions. A carefully selected team of herbalists, nutritionists, ethno-botanists and a range of other experts reviewed our findings and identified the most safe, effective and available remedies for the listed illnesses.
Through this process we came to realize that the same illnesses affect children and adults irrespective of their sero-status, so we extended our attention beyond HIV to include practical advice that all Kenyan families can use. The result is a 194-page book structured so that readers with low literacy levels are able to use if with ease.
Illnesses are categorized by the part of the body that they affect. For instance, headaches, eye and ear problems are all in the section relating to the head and the pages are color coded accordingly. Information for each illness is presented in two categories. The first offers information about the illness, its symptoms and any other important information including when to seek professional help. The second offers a selection of herbal, nutritional and general life style remedies and treatments. These are coded with symbols for the plants used in preparations, for how to prepare the teas, poultices or infusions, and who can take the herbs or foods. Plant names are indexed in Kiswahili, English, Luo, Luhya, Maasai, Kikuyu, Giriama, Kipsigis and Kamba. There are also chapters on nutrition, which includes recipes for low-cost nutritious meals, and children, which includes information on dealing with HIV-affected children.
This initial publication has become the cornerstone for our training program and is now available in an interactive version on this website.