Culture is one of the most exciting, vast, encompassing part of any society. It includes how you dress, the way you eat, the way you dance, the way you perform ceremonies, rituals, and the way you speak. Language and religion are also included. In this case different societies use different kinds of solutions to overcome obstacles.
Illnesses are also considered as obstacles to daily activity. In order to counter it we need medicine, which assists in treatment and mitigation, lessens physical symptoms, restores and corrects organic functions, and disinfects premises.
Traditional medicine has been critical in treating illnesses in Eritrean society. Different society’s traditional medical practitioners mostly implement herbs, spiritual healing, bone-setting and minor surgical procedures in treating diseases. The practices are culturally entrenched, accessible, and affordable. On the other hand, there is concern because some commonly used traditional remedies have the potential to adversely interact with conventional medicine.
The use of traditional medicine brings up the issue of culturally constructed notions of health and illness and demands a place in the conventional health care provision discourse. Mostly the community applies herbs and spices as an ingredient to the traditional medicines. Herbs and spices as part of a normal diet are not likely to cause adverse herb-drug interactions because they are consumed in relatively small quantities. However, when these herbs and spices are utilized for medicinal purposes there may be an increased likelihood of adverse interactions with conventional medicines because of the dosages consumed.
There are several classes of medications that are at a higher risk for adverse herb-drug interactions that one should be aware of, including anti-arrhythmic (heart case), anti-seizure (spasm), anti-diabetic, and anti-coagulant (blood clotting stabilizer) medications.
Generally in Eritrean society, herbs and spices are used in rural society where there is shortage of health centers. It is also influential in the urban society. One of these traditional medicines is black seed, which we call it awesuda in Tigrigna. Its common use is for headaches, stomachaches, etc.
Ginger, which we call gingible in Tigrigna, is also commonly used. This medicine’s pretext uses are for depression, stomachache, cough, fever, and influenza. For fever treatment you have to crush 10 grams of raisins and ginger, boil them in one cup of water until it reduces to small amount and is concentrated, then strain and drink while it is still warm. For treating the common cold, which is related to coughing and influenza, coarsely pound ginger, boil it in a cup of water until the water reduces to half its original volume, add some honey (preferred to sugar), and drink it hot at bedtime. An easier option is to drink tea made from half of a tea spoon of ground ginger in a cupful of boiled water.
Other traditional medicine frequently used is garlic, locally called tsaeda shigurti in Tigrigna. It is used for common cold, malaria, cough, pulmonary TB, hypertension, wounds, STDs, asthma, parasitic infections, toothache, diabetes, hemorrhoids etc. To treat asthma in its early stage you can take garlic cloves boiled in milk daily. To treat toothaches the procedure is to place a clove of garlic that has been dipped in salt under the affected tooth. Alternatively, chew a clove of garlic every morning. Along with treating the teeth, it can also make them stronger.
Rue, which is chena adam in Tigrigna, is used to treat the common cold, stomachache, diarrhea, influenza etc. It also is used as ingredient in traditional food like shiro. Rue naturally generates heat and is commonly used by Eritrean mothers. Its preparation is to grind the rue finely and fry a small amount in oil in a very clean pan. Once it cools down, rub it on the affected area, usually the chest. It gives the patient warmth and energy and makes him feel much better.
Fenugreek is a traditional medicine typically used for stomachache and antispasmodic, taken as a drink. You can add up 2 to 3 teaspoons of dry roasted fenugreek seeds and boil it in water, then strain it and add ghee.
Similarly, cinnamon, which we call it karfa, is used for the treatment of cold symptoms and also for skin treatment like acne. The recipe is to mix half a teaspoon of cinnamon with half a teaspoon of honey.
These traditional medicines have a great impact in providing relief from different diseases. Our society has developed and used these medicines before having access to modern medicine. There are other medicinal ingredients in use but the ones mentioned here are the most available. Traditional medicine is vastly complex and diverse and varies greatly among different ethnic groups. Most traditional medical practices rely on an explanation of disease that draws on both the “mystical” and “natural” causes of an illness and employ a holistic approach to treatment. Having faith has huge impact on the actions of these medicine. Nonetheless, with the advance of modern medicine and awareness of the importance of regular check-ups, Eritreans nationwide enjoy free health care while using ingredients in their kitchen for their daily health related prevention.