Cultural Perspective on Plant Based Medicine

Picture yourself early afternoon on a lush green slope, looking out over a broad valley in southwestern Uganda. All the preparation has been done. The beans are cooking, the matooke has been peeled and is being steamed, the rice and vegetables are prepared and you have the big bags of bright red plastic cups and plates for your guests. The cow was butchered early that morning, and now there are several huge cauldrons boiling. One with the meat and one with the entrails. The mere smell from the latter turns your stomach and you look away as a child fishes a chunk of braided intestine from the brew and happily chews away at it. Gross, you think to yourself, as you ponder the protein needs of the people.

Slowly, your guests begin to arrive. Many helping one another, they weakly make their way to the party. There is a one room clinic at your camp located on this hillside, and people line up, looking for relief from the aches and pains that long hours of digging, poor nutrition and poor health have provided. Eventually its time for the party to start. Several hundred people, mainly women and children, gather around as the lead Ugandan prays in Runyankole rukiga, then explains the procedure for getting food.

You look on contentedly as each guest is politely served by the crew who works with your organization, some being big guys who are accustomed to heavy work now kindly and gently serving these community members. After the food is eaten, there is a free-for-all clothing distribution of about 500 pounds of items which you have purchased from merchants in the large town where you do your shopping. Then huge piles of notes books, pens, pencils, lead and coloured are distributed to your friends. During the whole party, people have been approaching you and, looking into your eyes, shaking your hand and giving words of thanks. You understand a few words but most escape your limited understanding. The message is clear. Your connection to these several hundred people living with HIV is solidified, part of your heart will never, ever forget this day, nor the eyes of those with whom you have conversed. 22 million people in sub Saharan Africa with HIV is no longer a statistic but real people, with real lives, real families, real dreams, real hopes and fears. No longer can you relax when talk of shortages of antiretrovirals or other medicine are communicated.

Your mind goes back to the day you drank tea with the parents of Newton and Juliette. These aging folks have never been to town. You asked Newton what they do when they get sick. He says they know what plants to use. You remember the visit to the pineapple growing village with a friend. You made your way there on the back of a boda boda, a 50 cc motorcycle, kind of a souped up weedeater with wheels. There you met a family who are suffering malaria to whom you give a bag of artemisia leaves and explain how to use it. Several weeks later you get great news that they are all fine. And you scatch your head as the medicine was enough for 2 people and there were 6. You remember an arduous climb to look at a water source for a potential water project. As you switch back and forth on this steep slope, trudging through banana plantations and wooded areas, you see your associate hacking away at a tree root with his machete. You ask what he is doing. He explains it is for medicine. The men with whom you work are the best from their communities and knowledgeable in village life. You think of all the people who bought a dose of artemisia annua leaves from you and happily reported being cured of malaria. You have heard of the work of anamed in Tanzania where 100 HIV positive people were on a regime of artemisia annua tea and moringa leaf powder. They chose to try this approach due to bad reactions to the pills or having no other treatment options. You have read how they were much better after only two weeks of this, how 5 of these people had their HIV status reversed and how many were able to return to their families and be productive members of their community. Your mind is now jubilant with the possibility as these experiences coalesce into a vision for PLWHA. No longer need there be a shortage of treatment, now there is enough. As a Christian, you see Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider in the whole tapestry of experiences.

Let me address some issues/questions people have.

  1. Is it safe? There are 3 levels at which drug effect/effectiveness can be measured. Dosage for clinical effect is the amount required to defeat the disease. Side effect dosage is the amount required to get a negative physical response. LD50 dosage is the amount which kills 50% of the (usually) rodents used in the study. With the plant based medicine that I am recommending, the dosage difference between theses 3 markers is multiples of 10. Suffice to say the chance for negative effects is very low, even when, not if, the patient thinks that if they are to take x dosage for 3 days they could get better in 1 day by taking xtimes3 in a single day.
  2. How do patients get the right dosage when you can’t measure what is in the plant? Getting the correct dosage is a struggle for medical personnel the world over, even in our measurement/prescription model. In the plant based model the patient is taking responsibility for this, bearing in mind that the chances of overdosing are very slight. Due to the complex interaction between the chemicals found in plants, resistance is not an issue. The Chinese have used plant based artemisinin for over 2,000 years and never reported a case of resistance.
  3. Won’t the medical establishment in these countries try to stop you? Yes they will. There needs to be some education on building wealth. Sick people do not work and do not produce income, so there are no winners. When public health is improved, people will buy many products with their new found wealth so people who are making their money now through the sale of pills, can own other types of businesses and make money. Eventually they can even make money sucking unwanted fat from peoples bodies!!, rather then trying to get money from people as they face death or extreme discomfort from malaria, HIV or dysentery. Even the relatives of high officials in these countries get sick and can benefit from plant based medicine. So these people can become advocates. There is no need to have a scarcity mentality.
  4. Plants have a single drug and the recommendation now is to use combination therapy. Plants have many chemicals we know about and some we may not know. We do not understand all the interactions between those chemicals, suffice to say they do exist. It is a fact that one can treat malaria with the plant material which is left after the extraction of artemisinin (the main line drug used to treat malaria).
  5. Is it snake oil? No. There are 4 main plants used, including artemisia annua, moringa, neem and papaya. Artemisia annua is the source of the worlds artemisinin – the mainline drug used to treat malaria. Millions of people take billions of doses of this chemical annually. Moringa is a globally loved food source. There are too many videos and books to count which praise its benefits. Neem has been part of ayurvedic medicine (from India) for over 4,000 years. Would a culture keep a poor product for that long? Neem is not suitable for couples wishing to have a child.. Again, too much research exists to begin siting studies. Papaya is very effective and perhaps the least studied of these plants. I had an LD50 done at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda which indicated that you need to consume tea from 7-8 leaves to get a minor side effect while a piece the size of your palm will treat malaria.
  6. Where is the research? If you have internet access you have access to the results of numerous studies. My heart has been broken too many times by what I have seen for me to not take the hours it takes to satisfy myself that this approach is legitimate. There are over 22 million people in sub Saharan Africa with HIV and over 30 million world wide who could benefit. Do you have the time for them – most of whom have no internet or computer access? These 4 plants can be used to effectively treat the 4 big killers – malaria, HIV, dysentery and TB.
  7. Can you make any money from this? Artmesia annua gives 400,000 to 800,000 daily doses per hectare and moringa over 2 million. At a very affordable rate to the clients, the health of whole populations can be changed.

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You can join this initiative in health care by contacting me, or emailing me at Action for Natural Medicine has a website at .

Let’s form a team, because Together Each Achieves More!!

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