A Phytotherapeutic Medical System
commonly known in the Creole language spoken in Haiti as "Medsin fèy,"
and in English as Herbal or Botanical Medicine, phytotherapy can best be
described as a type of Medicine that make herbs an integral part of the
treatment. The word Herb is understood to mean plants, animals or any part of
them, that are utilized for medicinal purpose. A herb may be a leaf, a
flower, a stem, a seed, a root, a fruit or the bark of a tree, or it might also
be any other part or whole of an animal that is used for that specific purpose.
It could be, for instance, the liver of a fish or the wool of a lamb.
plants that are used for food flavoring such as thyme, chive or parsley
"woucou" (parwah - Bixa orellana) are also considered herbs
when they are used for medicinal purposes, as are certain peppers such as "pwav
potorik", "pwav ginen" or "pwav a manje
" (piperacea family), "reseda"(henna) and allspice. So are
oils extracted from avocado, coconut, sesame or peanuts, castor beans or almond
and many others, all of them fit into the category of herbs.
should be noted that in the Phytotherapeutic type of medicine those herbs work
in a manner that is somewhat similar to that of the pharmaceutical drugs used in
conventional Medicine, that is via a chemical make-up that affects the human
physiology. The World Health Organization has advanced that approximately 25
percent of all prescription drugs are still derived from trees, shrubs or herbs.
Others are made from extracts, and still others are synthesized chemically to
mimic a natural plant compound. Of 119 plant-derived pharmaceutines that are on
the shelves of the pharmacies tcal medicioday in the United States, 74 percent
of them correlate directly with their traditional uses.
involved in the field of Phytotherapeutic medicine in Haiti, it is not
sufficient to purchase herbs at the market places where people sell leaves that
are too often dry, tired, old or lifeless. One must collect them in the proper
conditions, that is "according to the règleman," as it is said
in the Vodoun culture to mean in accordance with the proper protocol. According
to that protocol, collecting herbs should always imply a certain degree of
respect for the plant to guarantee its cooperation. That respect is translated
by the songs, the dances, the method of approach and the fact that the harvest
must be purchased. One must buy the herbs from the plants and the money to pay
for it, like a sacrifice, must be deposited at the feet of the tree while
singing the appropriate songs. Furthermore, one must also take into account the
influences of the Moon and of the Sun at the moment of the collect, and also the
prevailing atmosphere at that time.
respect to the Moon, most species must be harvested before the plant flowers and
preferably during an ascending Moon. As for the roots and the tubercles, it is
better to collect them before the flowering time, even before the new leaves or
buds come out, and during a descending Moon. When the Moon is going down, the
vitality of the plant, meaning the biologically active principles it contains,
is greater at the roots. At the end of November and at the beginning of
December, the potency or curative power of a plant is almost absent.
With respect to the Sun, most
leaves should be harvested before sunrise. That is the optimum time, the time
when the plants hold the totality of their curative powers. But when the Sun
shines or is high in the sky, the plants are said to be at work and consequently
lose a significant portion of their active principles.
During the preparation of
certain mixtures, some of the ingredients reach their full potentiality only
after the clapping of thunder or only when lightning strikes. This is why
certain types of preparation should be reserved and done only periodically, when
the weather is acceptable, the best months of the year being the second half of
December, May and August.
vegetables and plants are often preferred to the cultivated varieties since they
are frequently found to be richer in nutrients. This was noted when studying an
improved process for obtaining sapogenin, mainly hecogenin, a chemical substance
of the steroid family, from the plant known as "Pite" or
Sisal.* It looked like in the wilderness, the hormonal glands of the plant were
more vigorously stimulated by the competition against weeds. In the laboratory
they yielded a much higher quantity of that particular compound.
It takes a dedication to
follow the behavior and strength of each species of animals and plants, those
that live in water, land or air, those that strive in the mountains, and those
that grow at sea level.
This study resulted in a patent held by the author, Max-G. Beauvoir, 1976.
U. S. patent # 3981867,