Have you ever used any herbal medication or have you been cured of any sickness by using herbal drugs? I have been a fan of herbal medication and treatment for a very long time. This is mostly because I don’t like swallowing pills. My dislike for pills is so intense that I would rather choose an injection than take a pill, no matter how sweet it is.
Another reason for this preference has to do with my upbringing. I come from a traditional home. My mother would always boil pawpaw leaves, neem leaves, the bark of certain trees, their roots and many other things that I don’t remember
for the family to drink or bath with whenever we were sick, and they always proved effective. After getting medication prescribed at a visit to the hospital, there was sure to be some herbal medication to be taken after completing the hospital medication, and though the herbs always tasted bitter than some of the orthodox drugs, I was more comfortable taking herbs than any other. I am one of those people who will throw pills away or never complete their medications. We used to tease my mother with the sobriquet “Doctor Home” because she always knows which herbs to get for your ailment. The focus of this post is not on Doctor Home, rather it is a story; an experience I lived. It is about how one of such herbal treatment nearly cost my life.
It was a Sunday afternoon. Church service had ended but I had to stay behind. I had a meeting with a few friends (Miki and Ruth) and other members of the church, and when it finally ended, we left the church premises later than most of
the congregation. We were hungry by that time. My friends and I went to my hostel to have lunch together. It was part of our Sunday ritual; we rotated rooms every Sunday, and whoever’s place we were at would treat us to lunch. Sundays are special, the hunger that you feel on Sundays is quite different. It’s the kind of hunger that will make you want to eat and get so full that the only thing you can do is to sit where you had the meal and wait for the food to go down a bit before you can make any movement. To make things faster for us, instead of one person cooking the entire meal, we split the process up into chores: the famous “Economics’ Division of Labor”, Ruth, would peel and cook the yam, I will grind the ingredients for the sauce and Miki would prepare the koobi (salted dry fish). Sharp – sharp, the food was ready: cooked yam with some garden eggs and peanut butter sauce garnished with some eggs, koobi and slices of pear.
After the meal, Ruth somehow mustered up strength to go to the kitchen to do the dishes while Miki and I sat at where we ate and idly chatted. We slept off after Ruth returned, and when we woke up, we went to see Miki off to her hostel. Ruth and I were not in the same hostel but we were always together at my place. Lunch had been a heavier affair than we had expected so we didn’t cook anything until the next day. I was glad that evening. It had been a good day: I had had a good meal and the company was awesome.
Monday morning came, I woke up to a severe stomach pain. I wouldn’t be able to go to work so I called to ask for permission to take the day off. Being a fervent believer of traditional medicine, I boiled some dried pawpaw leaves. I had carried them from Wa to Winneba. I had tried the pawpaw leaves in Winneba before but they didn’t have any bitter taste. It was explained to me that because of the presence of the sea in Winneba, the trees absorbed a lot of water from the humid environment, affecting the concentration of the constituents in the leaves. After my mixture had sat undisturbed for some time, I drained and drank about a liter expecting to get better after a few hours. That was the beginning of my woes. Shortly afterwards, I had the urge to go to toilet, I carried my phone and went to sit comfortably on the toilet seat when Splash! All I heard was the sound of what sounded like water being poured on the water in the toilet! I had had runny stomach in the past but this was different, the stool was very watery. I had heard of watery stool but this was the first time I was experiencing it: it was very unnerving. No one advised me to put the phone away. After about 10 minutes, I felt ok, so I left and went back to bed. It didn’t take up to an hour before I felt another rumble in my stomach and almost at the same time, the urge to use the toilet.
A routine soon developed. From 10am to about 2:30pm, I would re-enact this process more than eight times: rumble – toilet – bed. While this cycle continued, it never occurred to me to go the hospital. I really believed in my pawpaw leaves erh. Ruth asked that we go to the hospital, but I told her I was going to be fine and there was no need to go the hospital. At this point I was so weak, and I was starting to worry, so I took my phone and started sending messages to all my doctor friends. All of them said the same thing, “Go to the hospital”, but I was still stubborn and hopeful that the pawpaw leaves would still work some magic or maybe a miracle. Then one of them said something that really scared me. He said, “Diarrhea kills!” and went on a lengthy explanation about how the loss of fluids in the body could result in death and he advised that I should drink water or other fluids, but I could drink neither water nor any other fluid. Ruth, at this point my nurse/caretaker got a taxi and took me to the hospital. The doctor on duty that evening said after examining me that it was good we arrived at the time we did because my condition would have worsened if we had delayed a bit. He asked what quantity of the herbs I had taken but I had no idea honestly. They gave me three intravenous drips to replace the fluids I had lost and some other drugs. Ruth was the one running up and down from the ward to the Out Patient Division (OPD), to the pharmacy and the reception while I lay on the bed, very weak. I had to spend the night in the hospital and I was discharged the following day, Tuesday morning.
But before I was discharged, the doctor advised that I never take any medication whether herbal or orthodox without first consulting a health person, it could be a doctor, pharmacist, n
urse, anaesthetist or any other. His reason was that though the mixture might be good for the body, I might not be sure what quantity to take at what time., I asked him curiously how my mother knew the right quantity to give to us, and why we never get any complications after taking it. He guessed that I might not have paid attention whenever my mother prepared some for us. Later when I asked my mother, she said she just uses her discretion, but I also used my discretion that day (maybe experience hadn’t tempered my blade of discretion yet, lol).
From that day in 2017, I have never taken pawpaw leaves nor any other herbs again. The mere sight of it makes me sick. I am not against herbal medicine, but don’t be like me, taking it without prescription. At least we have people who are specialized in herbal medicine, who can give the right prescriptions for different ailments.
If you are reading this and you are into herbal medication or you have indigenous knowledge about herbal medicine, it will be good to document and investigate it to prove its effectiveness scientifically. Sometimes, it is not that what the herbal people are prescribing is not right, in fact, they know at what point to harvest which plants, how long each plant should be boiled and what quantity of water they need to be effective. We have seen a lot of herbal health centers around who are doing marvellously well but I think there is still a lot to be explored in that field since herbal drugs are used for treatment and management of both common and isolated human ailments.
That was how I learnt my lesson and stopped abusing drugs! It is rather sad that I had to learn this lesson the bitter way. I was almost getting addicted because at a point, I was taking pawpaw leaves daily, at least once a day. But now, I am free from my addiction, if you have had any experiences with herbal medicines, please share in the comment box, we will be reading your comments. CHEERS!!!