Vincent Gono, Features Editor
WHEN Mncedisi Moyo*, sixteen, of Matetsi, Hwange District, was bitten by a snake at dawn while driving oxen, he was not taken to hospital.
His father rushed him to Ndlovu Farm to seek medical assistance.
Ndlovu is an elderly person – an old gray-haired villager – a sage who over the years has acquired knowledge of traditional medicine that cures many ailments.
Wasting no time, Ndlovu took his small hoe which he often uses for such errands and disappeared into the forest where he took almost forever to bring back some small roots and another that looked like a small sweet potato. Panting, looking tired, he complained that what was once abundant and easily accessible grass was now in short supply that he had traveled some distance to get it. Kneeling, he rubbed the sweet potato like an object on the marks he called “the teeth” and they became more visible.
He told Mncedisi’s father not to worry about taking him to the hospital.
“He went into great detail about what the poison does to the body and explained how the strong concoction he had prepared was going to deal with the venom. And for sure I was right at the end of the day even though mum was a little worried and wanted me to be rushed to the hospital, an idea that was rejected by dad, ”said the young man.
Ndlovu’s help to the young man lends credence to revelations from the World Health Organization (WHO) that around 80% of the population in developing countries depend on traditional medicines, mainly herbal medicines, for their primary health care needs.
Research has shown that the demand for medicinal plants is increasing in both developing and developed countries and surprisingly most of the material in trade still comes from wild sources harvested from forest lands and only a very small number of species are cultivated.
The expansion of the medicinal plant trade, however, has serious implications for the survival of several plant species, many of which are seriously threatened with extinction.
The famous director and herbalist of the Musimboti Institute of Traditional Science and Technology, Mr. Morgan Zimunya, said that it is true that people in developing and developed countries depend on traditional medicine. He said even powers such as India and China are known for their unwavering policy that encourages traditional medicine.
Mr Zimunya said that through traditional medicine, like Ndlovu from Matetsi, he can cure snakebites, diabetes, intestinal disorders, headaches, high blood pressure, kidneys, cancer and many sexually transmitted diseases, genital warts, skin diseases and erectile dysfunction.
He however stated that he does not believe in traditional medicine to enlarge manhood as some claim.
Mr Zimunya said it was absurd for anyone to suggest that traditional medicine does not work as it was used before the advent of modern medicine.
He, however, stressed the need for a deliberate policy as was the case in communities to protect the medicine harvest to protect the medicinal tree species that are normally native and wild.
“I grow some of the herbs although I harvest some of the medicine from wild trees. The idea is to know which tree heals what and the method of harvesting. You will find that our elders knew how to protect the trees and prescribed that the bark of the tree should be obtained from the east and the west just to make sure the tree was not banded as it would kill the tree. It was a conservation strategy and it ensured the protection of medicinal tree species,” Mr Zimunya said.
Also, communities knew where to go for traditional medicine and those who were into the art of traditional medicine knew about herbs and trees and knew how to protect them from extinction.
“These traditional medicines were not produced and sold on a commercial basis, but now it is necessary to grow some of the trees as we are now in mass production, even exporting some to other countries. some of my trees and medicinal herbs on plots, farms and even growing.I then package them into capsules, eye drops, cough syrups, tea leaves and ointments on an industrial level and pharmaceutically appropriate,” he said.
He said there was a need to raise public awareness of medicinal plants as an important forest resource to ensure that medicinal plants are properly included in forest conservation and use programs.
Ecologist and forest ecologist, Mr Barnabas Mawire, said medicinal plants connect the physical environments of local communities and their use of plants to promote and maintain their health.
He said, however, that the prospects for future supply of medicinal plants have an impact on the long-term viability of traditional health systems if no deliberate steps are taken to promote the sustainable use of plants which are generally not woody. .
Mr. Mawire emphasized the training of practitioners.
He urged the government to work with all stakeholders, including traditional leaders, to ensure the protection of medicinal plants as a means of forest conservation and as a climate change mitigation and adaptation measure.