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Natural Medicines

The REAP Natural Medicines programme grew out of the Stewardship programme as we became aware that many useful medicinal plants were already available but their usefulness was not known by most farmers. We began by teaching the medicinal uses of plants already locally available such as pawpaw and aloe. When we were introduced to anamed we were able to expand our teaching and add new plants of proven medicinal value, and slowly developed our own Natural Medicines programme.

We define Natural Medicine as being the combination of the advantages of traditional herbal medicine with the advantages of modern, western medicine. The advantages of traditional herbal medicine include being readily available, being affordable and being easy to prepare and use at home. The advantages of modern western medicine include the scientific basis, which includes knowing the active ingredients, good hygiene, clear dosages, good packaging and targeting specific problems. Natural Medicines that we teach are not a second best option in our opinion but are high quality effective medicine that can be made readily available in the local community.

Since many churches discourage traditional medicine for spiritual reasons, we include in our teaching relevant materials to help churches understand the value of natural medicines as a strategy for the poor with no spiritual threat.

At the start of our Natural Medicine programme in 2006, REAP held a couple of workshops with representatives of churches that we have been working with in western Kenya and from these we have developed teaching materials that churches can use to pass on the ideas. See our publication “Working Through the Local Church” for more information. As with the other programmes we have at the same time been developing practical teaching on the cultivation and use of natural medicines so that we can encourage their use in the local communities.

The focus of our teaching is on what rural families can have available at home and learn to use safely in their families. The strategy is to introduce ideas of first aid, using natural medicines for specific well-researched uses, while still encouraging the use of professional medical resources for other more complex problems. Our teaching through the women’s programme (e.g. how to distinguish pneumonia from a cold) already emphasises the need to be able to identify when professional help is needed.

Since we have been partnering with anamed, we have been actively encouraging the growth and use of Artemisia annua. An infusion of the dried leaves is a very effective treatment for malaria and has a very positive effect generally on the immune system. See our leaflet on artemisia.

Other plants that we have been actively encouraging farmers to plant include Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Moringa, Neem and the Ringworm Bush (Cassia alata). As well as encouraging the planting of new crops for natural medicines, we teach on the use of existing known plants such as Pawpaw, Guava, Ginger, Garlic, Lemon Grass, Chilli pepper, Rosemary, Mango, Passion fruit and Avocado. All of these have been well researched and are already used and we just teach extra uses of value to the rural communities.

Both Dr Roger Sharland and Mrs Rosalia Oyweka are approved anamed trainers, and conduct training in Natural Medicines based upon anamed materials, supplemented by REAP’s own experience.

The women at right are making Chilli Ointment at a recent workshop.