The "rafrechi" and the "lòk"
are not the only two methods of treatment that make use of herbs boiled and ingested.
Among 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 hemorrhoids.
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.
To 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
The 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 Houngan and Mambo reach a point of understanding where
he realizes that the body of a person is a unit, a complex machinery indeed.
A 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
A 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 things.
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.
The 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 young persons.
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