Begun last Thursday, this is the second part of a presentation I made on December 10 last year in Lagos at the training of URBAN GROWERS. These are women who are learning to promote the health and well-being of their families the natural way. They were brought together by organic farmers Mrs Sola Sowemimo, of Ope Farms and Mrs Yinka Odukoya, of Dasyooh Farms…

Plantain

Like banana planted around the house, plantain can provide food, gifts for the neighbours and fetch some money for house keeping when the surplus is sold. According to Rev. Father Anslem Adodo in his NATURE POWER, the leaves can be boiled and the extracts in the water drunk for blood sugar challenges. Fr. Adodo’s PAX HERBAL CENTER, well known in catholic churches nationwide,  sells a product named PS for plantain solution. This book speaks of the plantain:

“The leaves are evergreen. The trunk is soft and contains a lot of fluid…The whitish fluid that slows when plantain leaf is cut is effective for treating wounds, especially fresh wounds. The juice stops the flow of blood very quickly. Perhaps the most medicinal part of plantain is the sap. The sap is present in every part of the plant. By piercing any part of the plant, one can collect the sap. Cut the trunk of a plantain into pieces. Pound the pieces in a mortar. Then squeeze out the juice. What you have is a potent herbal juice  that can be used for a variety of illnesses. Mix one bottle of the juice with half bottle of honey. Henceforth, this preparation will be referred to as PS solution (plantain solution). This knowledge is one of the hidden treasures which many of our knowledgeable fathers and mothers keep close to their chest.

“The juice of plantain can be used for the following illnesses. (1) Nervousness. PS offers quick relief for nervousness and even hysteria. It calms the system and promotes sleep. Drink two desert spoons of PS twice daily. (2) Epilepsy. PS offers great hope for those suffering from epilepsy. It effectively hinders electric discharge in the brain, thus hindering epileptic fits.

The dosage is three desert spoons of PS thrice daily. (3) Dysentery.  Drinking two desert spoons of PS thrice daily will bring relief to those suffering from dysentery as well as diarrhoea, constipation and indigestion. (4) Ulcer. For intestinal ulcer, drink two tablespoons of PS twice daily.  For chronic external ulcers, use cotton wool to apply PS to the wound twice daily. (5) Skin infections. Apply PS to the skin in cases of burns, skin rashes and insect bites.”

All parts of plantain are useful. The root can be pulverized to extract its juice in water. Fr. Adodo calls the extract in a formula with honey Plantain Root Juice (PRJ). This is said to be useful for prostatitis, kidney problems, diabetes, gonorrhoea and syphilis,  staphylococus.

We come again to plantain peel which many people still dislike to include in their diet. Of the medicinal values of plantain peel, Fr. Adodo says:

“The peel of both ripe and unripe plantain is cure for stomach ulcer. Dry the peels and grind to ash. Mix one teaspoon of the powder with some honey, then lick. Do this twice daily.”

Many years ago, I reared pigs. While I was collecting plantain peels from a plantain seller for my pigs one day, one passer-by stopped and asked me if I was a herbalist. I was in a hurry and didn’t wish to start a conversation. So, I told her I wasn’t. Nevertheless, she told me that was what her herbalist used to eliminate her uterine fibroids. she cut plantain peels to pieces and burnt them to ash in an earthen-ware pot placed over a stove. she added the ash to water or pap or spread on food. I was later to discover that plantain peel is very rich in potassium, and that potassium deficiency in the body is a cause of growth or tumours, including uterine fibroids. Many Nigerian women suffer from uterine fibroids, they can help themselves by eating plantain peel for a cure or the prevention of this condition.

Balsam pear (Bitter melon)

It took me a few weeks to learn the botanical name of this creeping plant which has refused to stop growing in the flower beds of my house. It is called Mormodica charantia. Eventually, the name stuck whenever I remembered Prince Tony Momoh, my former editor at the Daily Times (now defunct) and former information Minister. Herbal literature speak eloquently about it. So, one day, I did an internet search and was shocked that a Chinese website recognised it as Ejirin the Yoruba name for this plant. The research work of great Nigerian botanists such as Prof. Fafowora and Prof. Olorode of the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) featured prominently on this site.

From many accounts, this plant improves appetite and digestion and relieve gastric disorders and constipation. It has been used, also, for diabetes and uterine fibroids.

In www.stylecraze.com the following report appears:

Respiratory disorders. The fresh pods are an excellent remedy for curing respiratory problems like asthma, cold, cough, etc. Also the paste of bitter melon leaves, along with the paste of tulsi leaves when taken with honey in the morning, is a good remedy.

Liver tonic. Drink one glass of bitter melon juice daily to heal liver problems. Keep consuming this continuously for a week to see results.

Immune system. Boil bitter melon seeds or fruit in water and consume it everyday to fight against infections. This also helps to build your immunity.

Acne. Consuming bitter melon can help you get rid of acne, blemishes and deep skin infections. Bitter melon is useful in treating blood disorders like blood boils, scabies, itching, psoriasis, ringworm and other fungal diseases.

Diabetes. Bitter melon juice benefits include helping to overcome Type 2 diabetes. It has been a part of the Chinese and Indian ancient medicine for a longtime, but only recent research has proven that it is no folk lore. Type 2 diabetes is caused partially due to the inability of a cell to absorb the sugar in the blood due to insufficient insulin or due to resistance to insulin. In both cases, the cells are unable to absorb the sugar due to the ineffectiveness of the insulin produced.

‘The absorbtion of sugar occurs due to the activation of ANP…Activated Protein Kinase in the cells. Bitter gourds activates these kinases due to which the absorbtion of sugar increases and, hence, aids in bringing diabetes under control.

Constipation. Bitter melon helps in easy digestion as it contains fiber properties. The food is digested and the waste is thrown out of the body which helps in curing indigestion and constipation problems.

Kidney and bladder. Bitter melon helps to maintain a healthy liver and bladder. It is also useful in curing kidney stones.

Heart disease. Bitter melon is very good for the heart in many ways. It helps reduce the bad cholesterol levels which clog the arterial walls and, thereby, reduces the chances of heart attacks. Also, it is known to lower blood sugar levels that help in maintaining a good heart health.

Cancer. Bitter melon can prevent cancer cells from multiplying.”

Bitter melon is praised, too, for weight loss and, energy enhancement and blood purification. I suggest that you visit this site for the many other benefits of Bitter melon for skin and hair health.

I feel nostalgic writing and speaking about Bitter melon. Years ago, I sold the encapsulated form to which chromium picolinate was added. It was a foreign product for diabetes. I also sold the Nigerian product called KARELA, the name indians call this herb. Karela was powder form of Bitter melon. I suggest today that you grow Bitter melon in your garden and make a powder herb of it. It grows well in my flower garden.

Bitter leaf

The Yorubas call it Igi Agba which translates as tree of the elderly. I do not know about what informed this eulogy. Bitter leaf is a bitter herb as the name suggests. It reminds us that there are five types of taste and that all five should be incorporated into our daily diet to avoid an imbalance which may be calamitous for health. These five tastes are (1) sweet (2) Bitter (3) Sour (4) Bland and (5) Salty. Many people go for only (1) the sweet and salty. And that’s why unsweetened or sour yoghurt, for example, is not popular in Nigeria, although it is the best yoghurt for promoting radiant health. Women in particular hate bitter medicines and herbs. When I prescribe a herb to a woman, I am ready for her next statement, a question: Is it bitter? They have passed this on to children of nowadays, who never wish to have anything bitter touch their tongues. I say nowadays children, as we often say, because, in my time as a child, no child had breakfast without having first put something bitter into his or her stomach. Today I eat bitter leaf and egusi (melon) soup in Igbo restaurants. But the bitter leaf is often overwashed, thereby reducing it’s medicinal effects as most of the bitter principles are lost in the squeezing and washing. At home, I sometimes prefer an evening dinner snack of banana thoroughly masticated with about two leaves of bitter leaf or some leaves of Bitter melon. Many years of tooth-brush cleaning of the teeth and mouth have robbed me of the capacity to chew bitter leaf stick as chewing stick.

I pray that, someday, someone will make a powder of Bitter leaves and the bark and stem for use in a toothpaste. This is available today in india and in the United States. If you make some today from the Bitter leaf in your garden, not only would you serve your family’s oral hygiene needs, you may have something to sell to your neighbour to beat the recession.

Bitter leaf is almost a cure-all from it’s many descriptions in herbal medicine literature. It is reported to be good for headaches, upset stomach, insomnia (sleep disorders), diabetes, memory loss, prostate troubles, weakness, strokes, bacterial and viral infections, hypertension, arthritis, skin infections, liver and kidney cleansing and afflictions.

 

Air Plant

The Air plant is also known as longevity leaf or Resurrection plant or everlasting plant. It is thick and hairy and grows about anywhere. If you keep it between two leaves of a book, it would begin to grow within a few days. It grows when kept on a table and, fastest, when thrown on the ground.

It is alkaline-forming and, therefore, good for all those health troubles caused by acidosis. Some people use it for asthma, some for hypertension. For hypertension, it is so potent that it is not advisable to chew more than two leaves a day. In eastern Nigeria and perhaps elsewhere, it is used to calm and cure earache in children and conditions associated with septic cord. I have observed one case in which an adult woman over 50years of age employed it to resolve a brewing case of umbilical hernia.

To be used medicinally, the leaf is placed over a dormant heat source such as the cover of a pot of food being cooked on a stove. The heat softens up the leaf to easily release it’s medicinal fluid content when it is pressed or crushed. The fluid or juice is eased into an aching ear or rubbed over the abdomen and the cord area if there is a problem in that area. The juice may also be pressed into a glass of water, stirred and drunk.

Chanka Piedra

This is an evergreen plant which the yorubas call ehinbisowo or ehin olube. The ehin refers to the back of the plant where it parades it’s seeds. In Yoruba mythology, these seeds are seen as money symbols, and it is thought the plant helps to attract sales to a business premises sprinkled with water extracts from the herb at the beginning of the business day.

In herbal Medicine, it enjoys the reputation of being used for male sexual virility,  as an hypotensive, to lower blood pressure, as a diuretic, as an anti microbial, especially in the treatment of such conditions caused by staphylococus aureus and E. Coli, urinary tract infections and, above all, for the breaking of kidney and gall bladder stones. It is in this stone crushing activity that Chanka piedra got it’s name. Chanka piedra are Asian words which mean “Stone Crusher”. The botanical name of this plant is Phyllantus. There are many species of it. But the most commonly used medicinally are Phyllantus amarus and Phyllantus nuriri.

This plant grows everywhere. If it is not in your garden, you may pick it up from somewhere else and shred the seeds in you garden.

Aloe vera

I didn’t feel urged to write about Aloe vera because, like Moringa, almost every-one has heard about it. Besides, it takes about five years from when you plant it to when you can expect medicinal values from it.

Professor Oyeku Akibu Oyelami, who incorporates herbs into his practice, wrote a pamphlet on Aloe Vera in which he says:

“Aloe vera gel is made up of the following; water, 20 minerals, 12 vitamins,  18-20 amino acids, 200 active plant compounds, phytonutrients which include enzymes, triterpenes (a phytonutrient that lowers blood sugar), glyconutrients and glycoproteins, polysaccharides, including Acemanam, Mannose-6-phosphate and polymanns; phenolic glycosides, including dehydrocouarins.

“This can be described in more details; Minerals, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Chromium and Iron are all found in the Aloe plant.

There is no doubt that Aleo vera is a powerhouse of nutrients and medicines.

Prof. Oyelami offers personal experiences in his practice. With the assistance of his wife and a dermatologist, he treated five scabies patients successfully with Aloe vera instead of Benzoylbenzoate “and the result was outstanding”, he says. He adds:

“After the initial success, we then went to do a comparative study in which we recruited 30 patients. These included 12 male adult with scabies from the Nigerian prisons, Ilesa, and 18 patients from the children’s welfare unit of the Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesa, who had clinically proven cases of scabies because of their crowded nature. Secondly the inmates were undernourished and which invariably led them to weakened immune system. A healthy immune system is known to interfere with the reproductive cycle of scabietic mites as weak immune systems provide a more suitable breeding ground for the mites.

“The 30 patients recruited (both from the prison and from the hospital) were randomised for treatment with either Aloe Vera gel or Benzoylbenzoate lotion.

Among the 14 patients allocated to Benzoylbenzoate lotion, two were lost to follow-up and three were still itching at the conclusion of the study and, so, nine out of 12 patients (75.0percent) were successfully treated with Benzoylbenzoate. All the 16 patients who were treated with Aloe vera competed the treatment and only two of them were still itching at the conclusion of the story.  This preliminary result suggests that Aloe vera with a success rate of 87.5percent was more effective than Benzoylbenzoate in the treatment of scabies”.

The pamphlet explains how Aloe vera cures scabies. It addresses, also, how aloe vera cured other ailments in his practice. I recommend this pamphlet to all health lovers.

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