Healing plants of Africa

Earth Day presentations by noted ethnobiologist

by Kari Gray
r. Anthony Kweku Andoh doesn't just "Plan it for the Planet," he plants it for the planet.
As an ethnobotanist, Andoh studies the healing properties of native plants, the interrelationships of different cultures and the way peoples use the plants that grow around them.
Dr. Andoh claims that the world already contains the cures for many ills, including drug addiction, heart disease and asthma. But these plants and their healing properties are continuously threatened by increasing global development and overpopulation. As the lush belt of rain forests that sprawl across West Africa face extinction, we risk losing centuries of knowledge of life-preserving plants and herbs that has been passed down by shamans and traditional healers. One example is a substance derived from the shrub Tabernanthe iboga, widely cultivated in Gabon and used in ceremonial rituals. It may contain the only substance known to remove addictions and reduce withdrawal symptoms. It is currently over-exploited and now threatened with extinction in several districts of Gabon.
Andoh has been collecting rainforest plants and their medicinal secrets since he was a boy in Ghana where his botanist father took him on expeditions to gather plants. When he was about eleven, the juju men - the witch doctors in his native village of Elmina - began sharing their knowledge of the healing powers of plants. He later received formal training as a botanist at Oxford and the Royal Botanical gardens of Kew in England. Andoh works to preserve traditional medicines and ceremonies by identifying and classifying plants and herbs, and unifying traditional herbalists, healers and medical practitioners in his home country. Plant lore from shamans and the traditional healers and herbalists in 32 nations flows into his nursery office in San Francisco.
As Chairman of the North American branch of the All African Healing Arts Society, an international group of health care providers and environmentalists, he is instrumental in bringing the knowledge of Africa's hidden healing resources to the attention of scientists and lay persons. In Africa, illness is thought to begin in the spiritual body and must be cured from the spiritual body, so treatments often draw from many fields, Andoh explains. He is amazed at the potent healing properties of plants and substances in Africa's forests that haven't always been accepted by conventional Western medicine. In 1987, after eleven years of research, Andoh completed the first definitive book on the traditional healing power of plants and herbs, The Science and Romance of Selected Herbs Used in Medicine and Religious Ceremony.
Learn what one man can do to save the planet when Andoh discusses the magical, mystical plants of the African Rain Forest, herbal remedies and traditional healing with a slide show and lecture on Friday, April 19 at 7pm in Room 102 of the Casa del Prado in Balboa Park. He will also speak at an Earth Day lecture and tour of the Botanical gardens of Balboa Park at 1pm on Saturday, April 20, and will appear at the Multicultural Earth Day celebration next to the World Beat center at the EarthFair in Balboa Park on Sunday, April 21. For more information, call 230-1190 or 296-9334.