Dr. Sam Christian

Dr. Sam Christian

“Doc, sorry I didn’t take the medicine you prescribed,” admitted my patient, this prominent professional. “I’m taking my little bush, you know…”

That’s when it really hit me – the scope of the problem!If this most learned of men could say that…

Dominica is quaint mix of advanced technology and backward traditions. As the FIRST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD to operate a fully digital national telephone system, it is not uncommon for citizens to have two quality smartphones, one for each network. Yet it is rare to find diabetics owninga much cheaper glucometer. (And when they do, many do not invest in strips for actual testing). Instead, the norm is checking their blood sugars once a month or so at the health center. Little wonder that diabetes ravages Dominica to the extent of having one of the highest amputation rates among countries not afflicted by warfare

Consider this. Digitalis is a leading drug for treatment of heart failure and irregular heart rhythm. It is high on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. For centuries Europeans knew that the Foxglove plant containedsomething ‘good for’ the heart and dropsy. However, it took Englishman Dr. William Withering to publish in 1785, “An Account of the Foxglove and some of its Medical Uses.” History documents that he presented clinical trials and notes on digitalis’s effects and toxicity.

We hold sacred the belief that nature is endowed with untold cures for humanity’s ailments. Research funded by the National Cancer Institutes isolated a substance, Taxol, from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. It found to quite effective in the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers. Researchers come in and out of Dominica, testing our flora and fauna. Do we even know their findings? Where can one go to review the accumulated research by our own scientists on the benefits, dosages and toxic effects of our bush?

Time and again, folklore trumps medical advice. Nursing mothers of newborns refrain from eating anything yellow because ‘they say’ it will worsen their baby’s jaundice. Despite instructions from efficient community health nurses, they shelter their newborns fromjaundice-fighting sunlight,fearful that they might get sunburnt or darker.

Sufferers of high blood pressure switch to bush when their prescriptions run out – even when obtained free from the clinic. All they know is the some particular bush, like Vehven, ‘is good for’ blood pressure. But do they follow up by monitoring their blood pressure? Oftentimes, their next encounter with the health care system is when they feel dizzy with headaches and just not feeling well – or worse, with the onset of kidney failure, stroke or heart attack symptoms.

August Monday has devolved into just another time for picnics and revelry. Far from the minds of many is that it commemorates emancipation in the British West Indies, the Abolition Act of 1833. (It came into effect on August 1, 1834).Interestingly enough, France initially abolished slavery in 1794, Napoleon re-imposed it in 1802 and finally abolished it 1848. But this was not before Haiti smashed slave-addicted French domination in 1804 to become only the second republic in the western hemisphere. Actually, the first republic, the United States, turned out to last cacarat with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.To be fair, honourable mention globally goes to the Islamic Republic Mauritania,which officially outlawed slavery in 1981! Yet we know that different kinds of smaller scale slavery flourish in nations great and small today.

History teaches us that this unsavoury aspect culture of tends to have an oppressive grip on the minds of citizens. Even after liberation through relentless implementation of scientific method and force of logic, mental slavery can still be re-imposed. Digitalis and Taxol remind us that our herbs likely contain a treasure trove of treatments. It’s not a choice between white man’s ‘chemical’ medicine and our ‘natural’ bush. It is about discipline to focus on what works and what’s safe. In health and in society, as Brother Bob challenged us:

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,

None but ourselves can free our mind

 

Dr. Christian is a syndicated columnist on health and related development issues. He can be reached at http://urgentcareda.weebly.com/