I recently reconnected with Mike Hurley–an old friend and colleague of mine. Like me, Mike is an anthropologist. He also has a passion for natural medicine and sees beyond the boundaries of mainstream medical thinking. Mike helped me organize the first conferences on complementary, alternative, and natural medicine in the early 1990s.
Mike now leads the Bonobo Conservation project in the Congo. Bonobos are endangered “great apes” that live in one of the most remote areas of Central Africa. The Bonobo is only the fourth species of “great apes” ever found. And we knew very little about them, until recently. In fact, as anthropology graduate students in the 1980s, Mike and I weren’t even taught about this important species.
As part of studying the Bonobo habitat, Mike and his team are also studying indigenous peoples of the Congo. And they’re looking out for undiscovered medicinal plants that may hold more promise for modern healthcare.
Africa is actually the very last place on Earth where we can still find unknown medicinal plants. In fact, Mike and I believe at least a dozen important, “new” medicinal plants–still unknown to the western world–may exist in the Congo. It’s challenging to find these new remedies because indigenous peoples keep the knowledge of their plant remedies hidden. Or–they just don’t have occasion to travel for weeks on the interior waterways to share their remedies or knowledge.
Plants are useful in medicine for many reasons…
Plants make biologically active phytochemicals to protect themselves against other plants and predators with which they compete for growing space and sustenance. The phytochemicals also protect the plants against insect and animal predators.
Plants produce so-called “antioxidants” that protect them against the sun and heat. Of course, plants need sun for photosynthesis. But these harsh elements can also cause stress to the plant. And plants can’t get up and move to the shade–they are the shade.
Plants populated the earth before animals. So it’s only natural that animal and human life is adapted to obtain–and benefit from–these special nutrients and phytochemicals found in the plant kingdom.
Indeed, these phytochemicals and antioxidants form the basis of today’s natural products industry. And they even formed the foundation of the pharmaceutical industry a century ago.
Since Africa straddles the equator, it provides a hot climate for development of diverse plant life and potent plant phytochemicals and antioxidants. Indeed, Africa’s hot climate made the continent inhospitable to Europeans.
Westerners often envisioned Africa as the “dark continent,” meaning unexplored and forbidding. In fact, it took the first European explorers–such as Henry Morton Stanley–years to get across this continent in the late 19th century.
Joseph Conrad’s classic work, Heart of Darkness is literally about a journey up the Congo River in the heart of Africa. (You may be more familiar with Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now, which transposes Conrad’s story of 1880s Congo to 1960s Vietnam.) But vast territories–including many parts of the Congo–still remain completely unexplored to this day. That’s one reason why Mike’s work is so important.
Of course, I regularly write about two natural products from South Africa. The first is Sutherlandia frutescens. It’s a unique adaptogen, meaning it helps your body “adapt” to changes. For example, if you’re cold, an adaptogen helps you warm up. If you need rest, an adaptogen helps you sleep. Or if you need energy, it helps wake you up. According to Zulu Legend, Sutherlandia frutescens helped tribesmen–armed only with shields and spears–beat back a modern Royal British Army in the late 19th century.
A second natural product out of South Africa is red bush (rooibos). Until the 20th century, the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert were the only people on Earth who knew about this amazing plant. Red bush helps keep you hydrated on a cellular level. And it actually helped the Bushmen survive for thousands of years in the hottest, driest place on the planet.
Mike and I recently designed a project to provide red bush to the “trackers” who go deep into the Congo to explore the habitat of the Bonobos. They will use a brand of red bush called Red Joe, which I helped formulate.
Red Joe will help keep the trackers hydrated and boost their stamina on their grueling treks through equatorial Africa.
I’ll keep you updated on Mike and his team’s explorations of the Congo. As I said, we hope he and his optimally hydrated trackers will help find more of the world’s last “undiscovered” medicinal treasures deep inside the Congo.
In the meantime, subscribers to my Insiders’ Cures newsletter can learn more about red bush in my special report called, “Miracle at Red Bush.” If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.