"rafrechi" and the "lòk"
are not the only two methods of treatment that make use of herbs boiled and
others, one should mention the "te" or tea and the
decoction. Other means are the "bath," the "ralman"
or direct rubbing of the body with previously crushed herbs and
herb-extracts, the cataplasm or poultice where a warm and moist mass is made
with tubercles and applied to a sore part of the body. Smoking also enters
as an efficient mean of treatment, when flowers are dried, rolled up in
paper and smoked as a cigarette such as in the case of the treatment of
asthma. A small red bean called "wari" and a larger one
named "je bourik," i.e. horse-eye bean or Mucuna urens,
L., are simply put into one’s pocket, or hanged around the neck as a
necklace. This proves to be a very efficient treatment in cases of
Also understood to be an
infusion, is the preparation of the "te" or herbal
tea. It involves steeping in hot water three to five minutes the selected
leaves and flowers. It then becomes a decoction when those leaves and
flowers are put for fifteen to twenty minutes in a rolling boil in the case
of denser materials like roots and barks. Due to the higher water content of
fresh herbs, three parts fresh herbs replace one part of the dry ones.
Infusions are most
appropriate for tender plant parts such as leaves, flowers or green stems
where the medicinal properties are easily accessible. To infuse barks, roots
or seeds, it is best to powder them first in a mortar in order to break down
some of their cell walls before adding them to the water. Seeds should be
bruised to release the volatile oils from the cells. Any aromatic herbs
should be infused in a pot that has a well-sealed lid, to reduce the loss of
the volatile oils through evaporation.
become a Phytotherapeutic healer thus implies not only a good knowledge of
the herbs and their classification, but also a comprehension of their
compatibilities and incompatibilities when blending and mixing them is
necessary. Furthermore, it calls for a fair appreciation of the environment
and of the immediate surroundings and an acceptable knowledge of the human
being’s body and his functioning.
Phytotherapeutic medical student is not required to know as much anatomy and
physiology as his university counterparts. The level of knowledge in those
fields is definitely not comparable and it should be regarded as absurd to
weight them on a same scale. He or she must understand, however, that a
Phytotherapeutic student is not authorized to perform autopsies in order to
comprehend the functioning of the human body. The systematic confrontation
of these types of study with the abnormalities found at the autopsies in
Europe and North America allowed the symptoms and the syndromes to be
understood and became the basis for the Modern type of Medicine. Limited
then to what one would observe from dissecting animals at the time of ritual
sacrifices, and adjusting one’s knowledge by comparing what one has
learned that way with what one knows about the human gross anatomy, the
young Hougan and Mambo reach a point of understanding where he realizes that
the body of a person is a unit, a complex machinery indeed.
skeletal connection of bones and cartilages wrapped inside the skin gives
the body its shape, its architecture and its possibilities of action. The
bones are attached one to another by muscles which have the ability of
contracting and stretching to allow the various movements to take place
easily. Though much less flexible than the muscles or the skin, which
themselves are much less elastic than the body fluids, all bones show a
certain degree of springiness when the person is alive. In a living person
everything is somewhat supple and flexible. That potential of tractability
decreases with age and maturity. At the time of death, the bones lose
completely that property because the person loses a spirit named
"Dan," born from Dan-ballah Wèdo and Ayi-Da Wèdo,
the snake-Gods. The word Da or Dan, translated in English,
signifies "Life," "the living Force," or "the
condition of movement."
collection of organs constitutes the human being’s substructure. Their
functioning is most of the time independent of the person’s will. Of
particular relevance are the brain, heart, "biskèt,"
lungs, belly cavity, kidneys and
lower part of the stomach cavity ("anba ti vant" -
pelvic cavity) which is the seat of the sexual organs.
There is, and should
always be, a complete harmony in the body. That is why it is believed that
skin, bones, organs, blood, blood vessels, hair, nails, teeth and muscles
are all made up of the same fundamental substances, though each compound may
be present in a particular area under different concentration. Just as bread
crust is basically the same as the crumb, the tough tissue called skin is
but an oxidized and a concentrated form of muscle or blood, made of the same
Waters fill up all the
empty spaces in the body’s cavities. Never pure, even when very clear,
they contain in their constitution a few ingredients that are more or less
diluted depending upon where one looks in the various parts of the body.
When red, that water is called blood, when pink or salmon-like colored, it
is named serum and when white, it is named milk. When totally clear, for
instance, it may be called tears or cerebrospinal fluid. Whenever it is
yellow or yellowish-green, it is called pus and that is a clear sign of the
presence of an infection.
function of the cerebrospinal fluid is greatly magnetic and sexual, aiming
at the reproduction of the species and at maintaining contact with the
spiritual world. Unlike the circulation of the blood, that clear liquid
subsystem functions inside the cerebrospinal cavity without a pump. The
circulation of that liquid is maintained by the movements back and forth of
the pelvis. This is why, in order to maintain the efficiency of this
subsystem, dancing is considered a prophylactic activity, most important for
The principal function of
the blood is to serve as a vehicle for the "life force." It flows
constantly in all the parts of the body. The redder it is, the better one
feels. To give away some of it, voluntarily or accidentally, is considered
equivalent to a loss of part of one’s vital energy or vitality.
Any impairment in the
functioning of the structure of a person or in one of his substructures or
organs automatically generate disease and possible complications.
That important organ, which doesn’t seem to be the thymus, doesn’t seem
to have its equivalency in the anatomy books. Located behind what is
understood to be the xyphoid appendix, it acts like a gland that has the
habit to "fall" after an excessive effort. When it does, a
condition called "biskèt tonbe" or "fallen bisket"
occurs, generating all sorts of perturbations in the physiology of the
person, male or female, young or old.
To redress an abnormally inverted or retroverted "biskèt which has
fallen" calls for painful and elaborate manipulations and treatment
2 They are
the organs of respiration which are believed to be under the control of the
Petro "lwa" - Fire divinities - see Section III "Masterly
3 Which shed liquid wastes
and, given the occasional production of stones from the latter, need to be