Connect to share and comment

Africa's herbal answer to Viagra

Sao Tome and Principe's traditional healers have vital knowledge of natural drugs.

In Africa, to cure is to restore human vitality and harmony with the universe. Body and soul are not separate entities and they are not isolated from nature, spirits and other people.

This knowledge can’t be hurried. It earns respect, even fear, but little money. Most people on Sao Tome are poor and the healers fees are modest. Healers need to work other jobs to pay the bills. Not surprisingly, few young take up the craft.

“Young people don’t want to spend years studying, they want to enjoy life quickly,” said Sum Costa.

Of his four children, only one followed his steps and at age 20 was "almost ready to become a stlijon" but he died in a car accident, said Costa. Banned by colonial governments, condemned as witchcraft by the church, despised by post-colonial Marxist regimes, African traditional medicine is regaining prestige.

The World Health Organization describes it as “heritage, knowledge and healing that is affordable, accessible, and culturally acceptable” and has declared Aug. 31 International Day of African Traditional Medicine.

Tall, thin and dreadlocked, Kwame Sousa is a local artist and filmmaker, working on a documentary on myths and beliefs of Sao Tome and Principe.

Whenever he sprains an ankle playing soccer, he visits his old stlijon.

“He rubs with a warm, foul-smelling, vinegary potion and in no time I am cured,” he said. “It would be sad to lose this knowledge.

View Larger Map