By Christopher Scipio
Homeopath/Herbalist & African Bush Doctor.
Bush Medicine is traditional herbal medicine- the oldest system of healing in the world. Bush medicine started in Africa more than 80,000 years ago and in the diaspora specifically in 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. Many indigenous cultures in the world practice and still practice bush medicine to treat the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual problems of the people, it’s a primary source of health care.
For the past 75 years, the campaign to discredit traditional herbal medicine has been relentless, all the while large corporations have been sending ethnobotanists all around the world to acquire the knowledge of indigenous bush doctors about their native plants 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 neighborhood 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 a 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 chopsticks 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 in 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 hummus 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.
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 doesn’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 favorite restaurants and you may be horrified.
7. Bless your food and remember where it comes from. This modern life is very disconnected from reality kind of life. Often there is little thought given to where food comes from, how it was harvested and processed, and by whom? Do you know where your 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. I can personally testify your health will improve your state of mind. 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 dependent on a class.
9 Get a massage at least once per month. Weekly is even better. Give and receive this vital practice as often as possible. Even a nonprofessional massage from a partner or friend is better than none at all so recruit someone 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 neighbors, love your community, love nature, love the Creator, love your life, and love yourself.
11. Don’t forget to laugh. Laughter is great medicine. Give yourself permission to be silly, don’t be so serious and youíll have a long and happy life.
12. Just say no to drugs. I see drugs having devastating effects on many of our community’s health; the most obvious are recreational drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes – in that order.
13. Eat like an adult, not a child. 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 to be avoided are chocolate, ice cream, sodas, white bread, white rice, and white pasta. These are manufactured food that does not metabolize very well with people of African descent.
14. Eat soft foods. Eat wet foods. Softer foods are much easier for your body to digest and are much more likely to have 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 hummus and baba ganoush), fruit, steamed vegetables, smoothies, organic plain plant-based yogurt, etc.
The human body is a wondrous miracle of engineering and grace. Neglect or abuse your body at your own peril. Treat your body well and it will reward you with many years of health and happiness.