10 famous home remedies in The Gambia

My Magazine 2022/03
2 min
Author: Maitri Sivaraman
In The Gambia, Traditional medicines or home remedies are preferred by many as the first step before going to a doctor for treatment. No doubt that allopathy medicines are needed to cure major diseases, but small home remedies for minor ailments using herbs and plants available around us is the first recourse. Usually, these remedies are passed down through older generations to the younger ones by grandparents or herbalists or Marabous to those of them who cannot have access to hospitals or clinics.

The Gambia has official legislative/regulatory texts governing the practice of traditional medicine. There is a licensing process for traditional health practitioners, and some traditional medicine practitioners are involved in Gambia's primary health care program.

Many use the wisdom of herdsmen or noblemen, or Marabous in the villages. These men were believed to know how to mix the correct concoction or prescribe the right blend of medicinal herbs to cure a particular ailment. Many Gambians travel a long way looking for the most popular ones to help them relieve their pain due to diseases. Some of them, with their experience, can diagnose a problem correctly and help those who cannot afford access to hospitals. Some travel to Senegal or neighbouring West African countries to find the right person to help them. Mboro Boro are men who sell herbs for different ailments in the market.

Ten items used in the Gambia to cure common ailments using traditional medicine are: 

1. Moringa (Nebedai in Wolof, Jamboo in Mandinka and Binebeddai in Jola) is the magic plant widely available across the country. Its leaves are rich in iron, and a moringa soup is believed to cure malaria, the most prominent disease that affects many during the rainy season. Moringa soup is made by boiling the leaves in hot water with some pepper or salt. It is drunk with the belief that it can cure fever, headache, cold, malaria and tiredness in general. Moringa leaves are also added to the cuisine of Gambia. Women make a dish called Mboom, where they use moringa leaves to make a tasty sauce with meat. Moringa leaves, when boiled with water, is drunk with honey (they believe honey from the mangroves are healthier) for a persistent cough or irritation in the chest due to an infection.

2. Ngerr (Wolof) Mamakunkoyo (Mandinka) Geloki Gehlod (Pular) is a common tree found everywhere, especially in the bushes. Ngerr leaves are also collected, dried and used to cure a common cold, fever, headache, and other respiratory problems. Ngerr branches are cut and even used by many to brush their teeth. Because of its medicinal value it is believed to strengthen the gums and teeth, and it is also an excellent environment-friendly practice substituting plastic toothbrushes.

3. Ginger is used in many dishes in the Gambia. The ginger available in The Gambia is completely organic and healthy. Ginger juice is drunk by all and is available in supermarkets and restaurants. Medicinally, it is also boiled in water or soaked overnight so one can drink it first thing in the morning.

4. Lemon - The juice of the lemon is drunk first thing in the morning to bring relief for stomach ailments, common fresh cold or sore throat. Because of its rich Vitamin C content, lemon mixed with ginger and honey is used to form a smoothening drink to relieve tonsillitis or throat irritation. Some prefer to drink lemon with raw garlic in the morning to get some relief from gastric issues as well.

5. Cassava leaves are used in the cuisine of Gambia when making supakanja, a healthy sauce with okra, which is eaten with rice. Some chew it when they have stomach indigestion and believe it can alleviate stomach pain.

6. Solom Solom and soursop – These fruits are consumed to bring the blood pressure levels down, keep them in control, and have additional benefits of improving immunity.

7. Dengidek (Wolof) Barkele (Pular) Owo (Mandinka) – It is believed to be used for the treatment of enteritis, dysentery, diarrhoea, guinea worm, urethritis; cough, fever, colds, scaring; toothache, snake bite and sickle cell anaemia. 

8. Herbal tea is used as a temporary relief for nasal blocks. It also gives a feel-good relief for common colds. Jambakatang and kinkiliba leaves are used to make this herbal tea which is also called bush tea. Many men are seen drinking attaya outside. They use mint leaves or nana, as they call it here, to make it flavorful.

9. Some herbalists sell the following plants in the market.

Plant Used to treat
Kalkato roots with Jambakatango Chest infection
Seno and Wonko tree bark Skin rashes
Seno tree bark powder Pruritus vulvae
Seno tree leaves with Seno root powder Abdominal pain
Kunjunboro tree bark Polio
Bitter Kola nut Male sexual dysfunction

10. Hobi (Wolof), Kassala (Mandinka), Tiga (Pular) is used to treat a range of conditions such as abscesses, bruises, cataracts, constipation, eye infections, menstrual disorders, ringworm, worms, and general weakness.

Note: The above-mentioned remedies were obtained from the resources given below. Click on these links for more information: 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maitri Sivaraman
National Program Coordinator of ASSP, Pioneer certified Program Leader in SBEC
Ms. Maitri Sivaraman is a renowned academician in the development sector. She is currently, the National Program Coordinator for a research project in Effective Intervention’s After-School Support Program (ASSP) in partnership with LSHTM (London school of hygiene and tropical Medicine).
She has co-authored a research article published in the Journal of development economics titled; How much can we remedy very low learning levels in rural parts of low-income countries? She is also the Pioneer certified Program Leader, offering the Professional Development Qualifications (PDQ) in SBEC International school on behalf of the University of Cambridge, UK, training international schoolteachers. She works with the focus to further strengthen and support efforts to address the quality of learning, by training teachers on pedagogy and works with key development partners of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in The Gambia. Ms. Maitri has been living in The Gambia for almost two decades and has been working with schools in Rural and Urban Gambia by training more than 800+ teachers.
Her love for Gambia has only increased over the years due to her extensive travel and work in almost 300+ villages in the North Bank, Lower River, Central River regions of The Gambia.
On the personal front, she is an ardent advocate for environment friendly initiatives, minimalistic and mindful living.
She likes to play golf, loves to walk in the beach, does yoga, meditation and participates in community-based activities.

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