What are the medicinal plants in Equatorial Guinea?
The use of medicinal plants in Equatorial Guinea continues to be a common practice as a home remedy in rural and urban areas. It has been transferred from generation to generation and is, in many cases, popular knowledge. There are usually wise or elderly people in each rural center who specialize in the art of traditional medicine, considering themselves healers, sorcerers, or simply elderly people with vast knowledge.
Although it is an extremely widespread custom, little by little, the use of traditional medicine in Equatorial Guinea is diminishing due to the access to western medicine from a significant part of the population. In turn, as we developed in the post on Biodiversity in Equatorial Guinea, some of this knowledge is lost due to the lack of interest of the new generations.
How is traditional medicine in Africa?
Africa is one of the oldest territories in the use of medicinal plants for healing. Traditional medicine is based on experience and observation of our surroundings to learn from the customs of animals. Did you know that monkeys sucked the sap from the Ekuk when they were hit by poisoned arrows? The wisdom of plants transcends human knowledge. That is why it is so important to take care of our ecosystem.
Here comes into play, in addition, a fascinating theory called the Signature Theory.
What does the Signature Theory say?
According to this theory, nature or a deity has marked every plant with a sign that indicates its function for the human being. That allows us to know its virtues. An example is a walnut. With its shape, it represents an unequivocal sign of its usefulness against head ailments. Another would be the plants with white latex that were used to increase milk production in both people and animals.
It should be noted that traditional medicine in Equatorial Guinea and Africa is not so much based on deities or science, but rather on superstition and magic. For this reason, it is impossible to separate these arts from healing. The main difference between the healer and the sorcerer is more linked to the patient’s own belief than to their ailment. Thus, if the patient believes that his illness is of natural origin, they will consult a healer, while, if it is of spiritual origin, they will put themselves in the arms of the sorcerer.
Healers in Equatorial Guinea
Healing in Equatorial Guinea is an innate part of the culture of the Equatoguinean people. And therefore, it must be respected and studied regardless of the personal belief of each person.
What is the difference between healers and elders?
Healers are responsible for treating the most persistent diseases or ailments, while older villagers or wise are responsible for the lighter and easily treatable ailments, such as kinkelibá and contriti for malaria or sanalotodo for anemia.
Despite this, the healers are ordinary citizens and inhabitants within the villages, although they enjoy special admiration and consideration from their fellow citizens.
Where does the knowledge of traditional medicine in Equatorial Guinea come from?
Depending on the tribe or village, we find different stories. Some claim that they have been passed on by spirits while people sleep, or while they are in the jungle. But the most common one is the parent-to-child transmission. This is usually represented with some kind of ceremony in which the apprentice officially begins in this craft and the rest of the inhabitants are made aware of this fact.
As in all branches of medicine, there are healers specialized in different ailments such as fractures, congenital diseases, or even experts in animal poisons. It is extremely important to preserve the knowledge of these healers, as they have really useful information about their local ecosystems.
What is the future of traditional medicine in Equatorial Guinea?
For the healing of ailments in a traditional way, it is very important to have faith in its science and to estimate it correctly. At the slightest sign of mistrust, these healers will detect it, and they will not be able to carry out the healing.
Technologies and social media have given the general public access to more information than it was historically available, and this makes them increasingly skeptical of these practices. In addition, it has led to a change in the mentality of the population, preferring chemical documents as superior to traditional medicine, although both are based on the same active ingredients. As a result, we will see a progressive loss of this medicine in Equatorial Guinea. A clear example is the growing proliferation of pharmacies in increasingly small and remote villages.
It should be noted that it has been proven that medicinal plants cause fewer side effects, and in some cases cure better than other medicines that we can find in pharmacies. We do not want to say that one is better than the other, but that the complement of both would be even more beneficial for the people of Equatorial Guinea.
Medicinal plants of Equatorial Guinea
Originally, primitive people used raw medicinal plants without any preparation. Gradually, this art has become a science, largely due to the improvement of the methods of preparation. Thus, below are some of the most representative medicinal plants in Equatorial Guinea, as well as their effectiveness and methods of preparation.
Kinkelibá (F: Ebesi) - Cassia occidentalis L.
Small shrub 1 or 2 meters tall with yellow flowers. It is widely used against malaria as a good substitute for quinine. Historically, it is taken in an infusion of stems with leaves and mixed with contriti. In addition, the juice of kinkelibá combined with lemon can be used as a remedy for hepatitis. By cooking the seeds we also have a good eye that helps prevent eye diseases. And if this were not enough, the infusion of its leaves is also used as a laxative for children and belly pain.
Yucca (F: Mbo – B: Kassada, kasaleri) - Manihot esculenta
Tuberculous root shrub which is known worldwide for being rich in starch and a great food. But, in addition, the latex of its stems can be used against conjunctivitis. Its crushed leaves in cold water are a good remedy against worms. If we also rub these leaves on the body, this helps greatly in the healing of scars and diseases that affect the skin such as chickenpox.
Alstonia boonei (F: Ekuk – B: Bojua) – Sin A. congensis Engl.
Large tree that can reach 35 meters high. It is very common, as it grows very fast and is visible in secondary forests. This plant is used as an antipyretic against malaria in a cold infusion. It can also be used against worms when cooking the bark and filtering it. This bark can also be used to expel the placenta after childbirth.
Palm oil (F: Alen - B: Obílá, Pilá) - Elaeis guineensis.
Palms of straight trunk up to 15 meters high. It is one of the most common trees in Equatorial Guinea, and is extremely frequent around villages. From its fruits comes the well-known and recently hated palm oil. But, in addition, in the back of the branches are some cotton fibers that are used to heal wounds. Moreover, the palmiste, boiled with local spices and salt is a good remedy to cure bronchitis. But be careful, because the roots of this tree are considered poisonous.
Ochre, Chimpanzee (F: Etetan - B: Lukokoo) - Hibiscus sculentus.
Plant with red and erect stems up to 2.5 meters high. It is known primarily for its green fruit that is used to prepare various tropical dishes, known as Ocro Soup. Its leaves, in addition, can be used as anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.
Sanalotodo (F: Esan) – Hibiscus sabdariffa.
Herbaceous plant about 1 meter high. This is one of the most historically used plants in Equatorial Guinea. It can be consumed in infusion alone, with contriti, or with kinkelibá for acute cases of anemia. If we squeeze the leaves and heat the juice, it’s a good wound healer in the mouth of babies. In turn, a infusion with salt helps sooth coughs in older people.
Ceiba (F: Dum – B: Búbá) – Ceiba Pentandra.
Ceiba is the national tree of Equatorial Guinea, as shown on the country’s flag. With its imposing 30 or 40 meters of height and robust trunk and spine, it is one of the most common in the forests of Equatorial Guinea. Its young leaves have a purgative effect. The infusion of its leaves and its fruits can be used as a lotion for cases of fever and headache. The oil from its seeds is a good treatment for rheumatism and, in cases of leprosy, its roots have also been used as a treatment.
Mango (F: Andok-ntang – B: Bomakoro) – Mangifera indica.
The mango or mangrove is a tree of about 10 to 30 meters of height, native to India, and that stands out for its fruits, known as mangos, very widespread in West Africa. In addition, its barks and leaves are used to treat toothache, ulcers, sore throats… The infusions with the bark are good against diarrhea and the juice from its trunk is a good antisyphilitic. Moreover, the trunk is used to heal and heal hemorrhoids.
Country spice (F: Ondondo - B: Bokolo, sokolo) - Capsicum frutescens.
The famous hot spice of Equatorial Guinea. It is a woody plant that reaches 2 meters high. Young leaves mixed with water and grains of paradise are used to fight venereal diseases. If we place the leaf smeared in palm oil on open abscesses, it will heal them quickly. In addition, the country’s spice has been shown to have antibiotic as well as inflammatory effects.
Contriti, lemongrass, citronella (F: Osang - B: Bokoó) - Cymbopogon citratus.
The infusion par excellence in Equatorial Guinea, although it comes from India. The infusion of leaves is similar to tea and helps to reduce fever and prevent malaria. Chewing its roots is useful to soothe sore throats and to clean teeth. More recently, it has been discovered that mixing it with coconut oil can be a good mosquito and gnat repellent.
Bitter cola, false tail (F: Oñeñ - B: Buale) - Garcinia kola.
Medium-sized tree that can reach 20 meters high. This tree stands out mainly for its seeds, which have aphrodisiac, stimulant, and appetite-reducing effects, so it is very famous among males. These seeds are also used to soothe coughs.
Conclusion on medicinal plants in Equatorial Guinea
As we have seen, there are many plants and seeds that have all kinds of day-to-day uses in Equatorial Guinea and that can be more beneficial than other medicines that we can find in pharmacies.
All this information work of sublime quality has been extracted from the book “Medicinal herbs of Equatorial Guinea” (Plantas medicinales de Guinea Ecuatorial) available in the library of the AECID in Malabo.
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