Bush Medicine is traditional herbal medicine- the oldest system of healing in the world. Bush medicine started in Africa about 30,000 years ago. In the African-Caribbean culture plants are referred to as “Bush” such as “fever bush” or “toothache bush and are revered for their healing and spiritual properties”. Every culture in world practiced and still practices bush medicine to treat the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual problems of the people. Today 70% of the world’s population still uses traditional herbal medicine (bush medicine) as it’s primary source of health care.
For the past 75 years medical doctors and drug companies have tried to discredit traditional herbal medicine while at the same time sending ethnobotanists all around the world to acquire the knowledge of local plants from bush doctors in order to make new pharmaceutical drugs. Often once a drug company has appropriated local plant knowledge- usually without compensating the locals in any way, they patent the plants and pressure the governments into banning the local population from having access to the plants they have depended on for millennia. Fortunately there is now a worldwide effort underway to protect local plant knowledge from unethical exploitation. People are returning to their traditional herbalists because of the failure of pharmaceutical drugs to treat chronic health problems safely and effectively.
I am from a long-line of African bush doctors. My family has practiced traditional herbal medicine for many generations. My grandmother was a prominent bush doctor in Trinidad, the country of my birth. The African-Caribbean culture is a largely intact culture where we have retained much of the knowledge of our bush doctors. Here are some simple tips for improving your health from me, Christopher Scipio- your friendly neighbourhood bush doctor.
1. Eat less. Unless you are very physically active you are probably eating a third more calories than you need. Excessive caloric intake is one of the biggest factors in reducing life expectancy.
2. Don’t eat alone. People eat too quickly, chew their food less, and tend to consume less nutritional meals when they are eating alone. Having company provides many health benefits and is much better for your mental and emotional well-being.
2A. Pay attention to your eating environment. Loud noises, lack of a comfortable sitting position, too many distractions and a less than peaceful environment can all contribute to digestive problems and may cascade into other health issues. Eating in a relaxed quiet environment with good company is a great habit to get into.
3. Along the theme of eating less- use smaller plates and cutlery and consider using chop sticks or your fingers to eat with. The oversized cutlery just promotes the wolfing down of food. I love using chopsticks for lots of different kinds of meals and there is much sensual pleasure with eating with your fingers the way we Africans do.
4. Reduce your carbs, especially bread and pasta. Obesity and many of the health problems that go with it like diabetes were virtually unknown until we started consuming such large quantities of bread, pasta and baked goods. I recommend not eating bread or pasta more than 3-4 times per week and substituting beans and dishes like hummous as a replacement.
5. Get and use a juicer. The juice you buy in a store is dead. Many juice enzymes die within an hour of extraction. Most juices have been pasteurized to further deplete their nutritional value. Making your own juice is a joy. I like starting the day with a blend of carrot, apple, Hawaiian ginger and beet juice, but there are so many juices to discover. I recommend the book on healing juices by Heinermann.
6, Cook your own food. It is more than worth the time. I know you are busy but you can work cooking into any schedule. Consider getting a slow cooker. Consider cooking large batches on your days off and keeping them ready in the freezer. Cooking your own food is the only way of knowing what actually is put into your food, plus it sends the right message to your body that you care.
6A. Don’t assume restaurant food is healthy. Many restaurants are fond of using iceberg lettuce which is very cheap and is usually grown in high-tech hydroponic factories but has virtually no nutritional value and don’t even ask about the chemicals used to keep lettuce looking “fresh”. Most restaurants don’t use organic ingredients and many restaurants use microwaves to heat their meals. Just take a tour of the kitchen of your favourite restaurants and you may be horrified.
7. Bless your food and remember where it comes from. This modern life is a very disconnected from reality kind of life. Often there is little though given to where food comes from, how it was harvested and processed and by whom? Do you know where you food came from? If not you better bless it and bless it well before you take it and all the vibes that go along with it into your sensitive body.
8. Balance yourself daily with yoga, tai-chi or Qi- gong. 20 minutes a day in your own home of one of these practices and I’ll personally guarantee your health will improve no matter how healthy you were before-hand. You can go to classes as well but what I recommend is that you empower yourself by learning how to do simple routines at home so you are not dependant on a class.
9 Get and give a massage at least once per month. Weekly is even better. Give and receive this vital practice as often as possible. Even a mediocre massage is better than none at all so recruit your partner or a friend if you cannot access a professional and don’t be reluctant to lay your hands on others as well.
10. Love More. Love is the ultimate healing. Love your partner, love children, love your neighbours, love your community, love the environment, love your God, love your life, love yourself.
11. Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is great medicine. Give yourself permission to be silly, don’t be so serious and you’ll have a longer and happy life.
12. Just say no to drugs. Ronald and Nancy Regan were worried about recreational drugs and I agree that recreational drugs are harmful to your health but the drugs that I see devastating the community’s health the most are coffee, alcohol and cigarettes- in that order. Don’t believe the self-serving propaganda from the Starbucks lobby about the possible benefits of drinking coffee. There are no net benefits to drinking coffee and it is particularly devastating to women’s health as is heavy alcohol consumption and cigarettes.
13. Eat like an adult not a child. You a big boy/girl now so eat like one. Don’t be a slave to cravings and food addictions. Eat for nutritional value and not strictly for taste or as an emotional panacea. On my hot list of non-nutritional foods are chocolate, ice cream, sodas, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.
14. Eat soft foods. Eat wet foods. Softer foods are much easier for your body to digest and are much more likely to have a high water content. Wet foods are also easier to digest and help provide the water you need. Your body is mostly water, the earth is mostly water, so try to limit dry, hard, dead foods like crackers, bread, and cereals and embrace soft wet foods like soups, purees (I love hummous and baba ganoush), fruit, steamed vegetables, smoothies, organic plain yoghurt, etc.
The human body is a wondrous miracle of engineering and grace. Treat your body well and it will reward you with many years of health and happiness. Neglect or abuse your body at your own peril.
African Bush Doctor