Value in our own local medicines

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Long before western medicine became available on these shores, our forebears had their own cure for all sorts of sicknesses and ailments. And it was mostly sourced from plants and resources locally found and accessible to everyone. 

Indeed once upon a time, just about every plant in the garden on front lawn or the plantation had a use, either for medicine or food. And even weeds growing out the back were useful. 

How can we forget the healing power of the humble fuesina? 

There was a lot more of course.

But times have changed.

Dramatically.

Fast forward to today, most people are more inclined to look for panadol and other forms of painkillers at the slightest hint of pain. Suggest the idea of spewing the juice of the fuesina into an injury to the young people of today and they will likely give you a funny look. 

That’s because most of our natural medicinal plants and some of our very own locally cultivated cures have been forgotten and largely ignored for more modern medicine. Apart from a small sector of the community who still resort to it now and then, people have moved on.

Which is understandable. 

This is a different era; one defined by outside influences where our mentality has largely shifted to believing that if it’s not prescribed by doctors and bought from the pharmacy, it is not medicine. 

Don’t get us wrong, they have a point and we don’t want people to be confused.

But should we be ignorant of our own medicines that work for our own people? Should we completely turn our backs on the goodness of our natural resources and their healing power? 

We don’t think so. 

There are people who will argue that some of our medicines and cures need to be scientifically proven. Fair enough. 

But remember this folks, a long time ago before Samoa became modernised, our people were happily using those medicines. In fact we dare say our population was a lot healthier too. That is not the case anymore. 

And could it be attributed to the influx of all these medicines? 

It’s a tough and controversial question. But it’s worth thinking about.

Now at the beginning of this relatively new year, the biggest health challenge in Samoa is dengue fever. It has already killed five people with hundreds having being diagnosed and hundred more continuing to suffer from it. 

Apart from the usual panadol and rest recommended by doctors, there is no real cure. And that is a big issue. Do we have a natural and locally available remedy? 

Yes we do, according The Managing Director of Soil Health Pacific and Agricultural Specialist, Edwin Tamasese, who says Samoans don’t have to look far. All you have to do is find a papaya tree and you are away. 

“Take a papaya leaf that is what I call a teenage leaf,” he explains. 

“It is not the very young pale green papaya leaf but the next full size leaf from those ones. I take the whole leaf, wash it, cut it up fine and blend it in a blender with half a cup of water.” 

 “Once this is done I take the solution and strain it through cheese cloth or mull cloth. From this solution I measure 5 mls into a medicine cup and give it to the person once in the morning and once in the evening.”

 “This is very bitter extract and for children I generally advise using a good quality grape or other juice to be taken straight after to wash down the bitter taste.”

Does it work?

Well according to Mr. Tamasese, it does.

“Personally for friends and family that I have made and provided it for the cure rate has been 100% typically clearing within three days,” he said. “This aligns with the findings of medical research. There are variations in methods of making a papaya leaf extract but the one that I use has proven very effective for me so I use it.”

That said, Mr. Tamasese accepts that there will be reservations. 

Look that’s life, you are always going to get people who disagree but that’s okay. What’s important is that according to Mr. Tamasese, there is research to prove the point that it works.

 “The answer on whether it works is a definitive yes. Studies have been conducted in Malaysia, Pakistan, and India etc with some health services being bold enough to include a papaya leaf protocol as part of their formal medical approach.”

Well there you have it. If you are struggling with dengue fever – as we know hundreds of people are – this alternative and locally available remedy could be worth a try. And do share your experience with us – if it works or not. 

Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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