The other day I sat and flicked through a delightful book called ‘Africa’s Wild Glory’ written by W Phillip Keller in the 1950s. This book is a homage to the Masailand in East Africa. Keller loves this land and asserts that this is ‘a gem in disguise, a jewel of rare worth.’ (Of course) my eyes were drawn to a chapter called ‘Home Remedies’.
Extensive quotes from this chapter below:
‘Sooner or later, anyone who lives in Africa and engages African help, or even just lives out in the native reserves, will find himself the medical high priest to whom the natives instinctively gravitate with all their aches, pains, and wounds.’
‘Incredible as it may sound, though the homes and villages of these people are literally built on and amid a dung heap, seldom do their numerous wounds become sceptic. Rather they appear to heal with remarkable speed. Often I have wondered if this is not because the manure itself teems with many of the antibodies such as streptomycin, Terramycin, etc., which contribute to their rapid recovery. Though only just discovered by our scientists in recent years, primitive people instinctively have made use of these things in a crude form from time immemorial.’
They will plaster fresh cow dung over severe burns
‘One of the most amazing examples of this is the manner in which they will plater fresh cow dung over severe burns from which white men would probably succumb, owing to shock alone. Their tiny children frequently Fall into the hot embers of the fires that burn in the centre of their low, windowless huts. The first reaction was to bring the child to us. Vaseline, tangle – all of the usual remedies we advocated – seemed only to aggravate the terrible torment. The child would be brought for several days; then suddenly, when they saw we were beginning to despair, no more would be seen of them. Our arrival at the village of the child’s parents a week or so later would, on occasion, be greeted by the mother coming out to meet us, all smiles, holding up the child’s arm or leg completely healed over with beautiful clear scar tissue. ‘What did you put on it?’ We would ask, scarcely believing our eyes. ‘Oh, nothing – just cow manure!’
What did you put on it? ….. Oh nothing, just cow manure
‘All of this has puzzled me immensely, since, in the care of our troops, such elaborate precautions were taken to inoculate them against tetanus.’
I find these stories fascinating for several reasons:
1. I don’t know much about the Masai people other than what I have read in Weston Price’s ‘Nutrition and Physical Degredation’. Although I love this book I am still at the stage of wanting to test the authenticity of the research and the conclusions drawn by Dr Price. So I was keen to learn more.
Africa’s Wild Glory is a snapshot of life 15-20 years after Weston Price visited this territory. It is notable that although Keller does not seem to have a particular interest in nutrition, he too notices that contact with new foods is having a damaging impact upon the health of the Masai.
‘Because of the deterioration in both their land, range, and stock, the Masai do not now enjoy the same high level of diet to which they were accustomed in former times. It used to be that milk, meat, and blood constituted by far the greatest part o their food. Now, however, they are supplementing their diet more and more with such things as corn meal (posho), sugar, and tea. The corresponding decline in their vigour and vitality as a race is truly astonishing.’
He continues to acknowledge that since the change in diet the Masai seem to be much more increasingly prone to malaria. Keller attributes this to the (raw) milk diet previous generations had subsisted on.
2. How fascinating, and surprising that cow dung should have such an effect on burns! I am not going to rush to use this particular remedy. But it seems worthy of being noted in some way. I wonder why this works. Does anyone have any ideas? Please do comment!
3. There is an interesting dynamic at play in how the Masai are gravitating to this ‘white man’ for medical advice when many of their own remedies are more appropriate and effective for their injuries. It seems likely that western medicine has much to learn from similar remedies and far flung tribes have much to learn from western medicine. If only it were possible to have a healthily symbiotic relationship!