The traditional medicine in Tanzania has many faces
They are all fascinating and there are several reasons why people decide to turn to it. First of all it’s cheaper than the official one and secondly it’s not so easy to reach the city hospitals from internal villages, but we don’t have to forget that the principles of this practice have been part of the Tanzanian culture for thousands of years and have passed through lots of generations.
The person who keeps the secrets of this ancient local customs is called mganga and is a sort of native doctor.
The mganga knows every plant, every herb, every root and their properties as well as which must be used for every symptom.
As I am not accustomed with this subject, Moody takes an appointment with a Maasai mganga in order to let me understand a bit more.
He works at the general market in Arusha called Soko Kuu, where the activities of selling, mainly poultry, fish, seeds and household items, start at 6.30 in the morning and end at 6.30 in the evening.
Moody and I enter from the main entrance and we venture into the maze of internal paths until we arrive at destination.
The mganga receives us warmly: he is ready to unveil his recipes to us and I am eager to start, but we hit a little snag: he doesn’t speak English. It doesn’t matter: I am going to pass through Moody’s translation.
The place in which this singular man sells his powders is very small, basically a few shelves filled with plastic containers.
I can feel his pride as he starts to list the essences one by one.
I hang from his lips while he speaks. I understand there are many diseases that can be treated: cough, infections of different kinds, pressure, stomach ache, headache, diabetes, food poisoning and my nightmare, malaria.
The powders come from trees trunks and roots: there is sokonoi trunk for respiration problems and malaria, kitalasua trunk for headache, mukutani trunk for worms and urinary infections and many others.
But there’s more. Oriniti wooden sticks are used to clean teeth, kill mouth bacteria and cure bad breath and mlonge seeds for pressure and diabetes: they must be peeled and taken like pills three times a day while endemelwa root taken with water or in the soup can help to get rid of water retention. The fruits of omangwai are useful as sponges for washing.
This incredible man is not always available, that’s why it is necessary to take an appointment: he moved to town for his business, but he always goes back to his village to collect materials.
He is also in possession of a special license to sell his products because the Government, while approving the traditional medicine, wants to be sure that only competent sellers deal with this trade.
I appreciate a lot this experience. It has been different from any other I had.
I have had the possibility of coming into contact with an ancient practice and with the ancient beliefs of Tanzanian people. Very stimulating.
Today’s curiosity: the Maasai people take a mixture of all these substances every day for prevention and it’s an indisputable truth that they are very healthy. ;);)