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