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General considerations

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The Sudanese materia medica contains a variety of recipes fulfilling therapeutic, nutritive, health-promoting, preventive and cosmetic functions. It includes plants, organic substances, minerals, salts, soils, waters and various fluids. Some of these items are used for food, others for treating and preventing diseases, or maintaining general health. It also includes toxic and poisonous plants and minerals that are the active agents in muscle relaxants, central nervous system stimulants, cardiac depressants, narcotic, or oxytocic and abortifacient preparations..

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The recipes usually consist of different proportions of plants, animal products and excreta, minerals, salts, and metals, among other things. The animal products include meat, fat, milk, as well as bile, urine, dung, and special substances such as powdered rhinoceros tusk and ostrich oil.

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The healing methods they have identified include the use of purges, emetics, astringents, skin emollients, diuretics, lactogenics,[1] analgesics, spasmolytics, and tonic drugs. They also include oxytocic, abortifacient and contraceptive agents as well as sedatives, narcotics, muscle relaxants, and plants extracts that induce convulsions; all have been used as poisons for human beings, animals and fish.

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Plants make up the bulk of the Sudanese materia medica. Out of a collection of more than 500 items that appear in Appendix 3, (page ), only 15% are minerals, salts, soils or items of animal origin; the rest are plants.

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The materia medica plays its part in a variety of domestic contingencies. Women use poisonous plants to captivate flirty spouses, to commit infanticide, or to induce abortion. Some tribes smear arrows, lances and spear heads with extracts of poisonous plants. They use these poisoned weapons either to incapacitate victims so that they may conveniently be robbed or captured, or to kill them outright.

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Some recipes are as simple and ubiquitous as a single sip of sesame oil; others are complex. In addition, the ways the healers mix plants with mineral substances or organic matter are also complicated. The recipes frequently contain more than one ingredient that the healers or the families keep secret and maintain as cherished knowledge that is passed from one generation to the next. When a healer dispensed a purgative, for example, that proved to be drastically fatal, the poisonous ingredients often escaped detection even by modern laboratories’ testing. All that could be done to prove the poisonous nature of the remaining sample, if any, is to feed some of it to experimental animals.

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a subject index with record numbers as displayed in the inventory above (Appendix 4 page), a vernacular list (Appendix 5 page , and a taxonomic list (Appendix 6 page) and a vernacular index (Appendix 7 page).

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Forms and efficacy

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At this point we review the basic lay beliefs that underlie the choice of medicinal formulation, dosage, and intake. We also examine what people look for in a drug, how they measure potency, and how they interpret side-effects.

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Claridge[2] noted the complex interaction of factors in drug action and called it the ‘total drug effect’. The factors include:

pharmacological properties.

drug attributes (taste, shape, colour, name, etc. ).

patients’ attributes (experience, education, personality, sociocultural background).

attributes of the person prescribing, or dispensing the drug (personality, professional status or sense of authority), and

 the setting in which the drug is administered (a doctor’s laboratory or social occasion).

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We will take advantage of these categories and provide a few examples from the Sudanese practice of traditional medicine.

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Medicines are like diseases in the lay mind; they have meanings and are associated with personal and social experiences. The way a medicine is taken is culture-specific, and is associated with a variety of personal and social habits and customs, and, most importantly, with rituals that should be strictly performed. The timing of the dosage, the measures they use, and the incantations that accompany their intake, are important for the medicine to work effectively. A medicine may be prescribed to be taken only at sunrise or at sunset,[3] and when the dosage is fixed, the number of sips, mouthfuls or pellets are usually related to arbitrary magical numbers (see Chapter 3).

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Recipes have been prepared in different ways, have come in a variety of formulations, and (with the exception of the injection) have been given through all other known routes. Some recipes have been prepared as potions, macerates or decoctions. Some are presented as powders, sachets or pills. Some have been given as gargles, or applied to the skin as ointments and poultices. Some have been inserted in the back passage as suppositories, introduced as enemas, infused into the urethra, or inhaled. Others have been administered as washes for the nose and the ear, or as collyria (eye lotions). Sometimes a plant has been sucked, chewed or burned as incense.

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People believe that the severer the impact of a medicinal item on body functions, the more effective it is. Potency is directly related to effectiveness. The belief that serious diseases require potent remedies, is common to many cultures. This leads to some drugs being taken for the side-effects they produce, which are thought to portend a cure when they happen.

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A surgical or a medical procedure is considered beneficial if it evokes severe pain, induces heavy perspiration, or severe vomiting. Bleeding during catheterization, a frequent procedure in manipulating strictures of the urethra, is seen as portending a successful outcome.

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Uncontrollable diarrhoea is also looked upon as a measure of how effective a purgative is, and so healers prescribe drastic sharbas (purges) to satisfy their patients. Both the healer and the patient believe that a purgative medicine works better when it is potent. Patients therefore seek drastic purges and the healers often oblige, but caution their unwary clients of the potential hazards they are likely to face. Nonetheless, drastic purges have been given to patients and have caused severe bouts of diarrhoea and even death.

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If a medicine causes sneezing when inhaled, then it is surely effective. The evil spirits are expelled, and the patient is thankful.

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Metaphor and symbolism have given most Sudanese medicinal items their names and meaning, and frequently defined their therapeutic value as well. Metaphor has helped the healers and the patients alike to perceive, chose, and use medicines. Some medicaments are chosen for their symbolic significance, their shape, taste, colour, or behaviour. Their virtues are derived by analogy rather than from any rational process of observation. The main principle underlying plant choice in these instances is similia similibus curantur (likes cure likes). The plant shajarat al-khalas (chastity tree) that resembles the placenta, offers a typical example (see also page Error! Bookmark not defined.).

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Similarly, pumpkins are used to treat breast abscesses and swellings because they look like the breasts. A half-cut fruit is applied to the affected part with the rounded surface outwards. It is thought that this procedure not only cures the disease but will restore the breast to its former smooth and rounded shape.

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In addition, round objects that look like the eyeball, are used for the management of eye problems. A marfa’in’s (wolf’s) orbit is pulled out of its socket, dried up, and applied to a cataractous eye to reverse eye opacity.

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The way the porcupine unfolds and retracts has probably led the lay mind to believe that the animal’s meat has delivery-enhancing properties. A pregnant woman partakes of the porcupine’s meat or attaches a piece of the animal’s skin to her body when delivery sets in, to unfold the womb as the porcupine unfolds itself.

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The consistency of a substance is also considered when looking for cures. The sananir is a type of fruit (or seed) that is imported from Jedda in Saudi Arabia, and is used because it is slimy. The people of Sawakin in the Red Sea region, use this plant to treat infants’ diarrhoea and teething problems. They make a watery paste out of the plant, and then apply it to the top of an infant’s head allowing it to run down to the chin. This, they believe, draws the teeth down through similar action.

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The side effects of drugs, Tigani Al-Mahi noted:

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“Were hailed as oracular and were used in the manner of omens which augur and portend success; for enhancing the psychological responses, moralizing in treatment. This practice in antiquity was perhaps more subtle in a way than the use of Tartar Emetic by Sir Samuel Baker, explorer and African traveller of the last century. Though Sir Samuel was not a physician, he had better and deeper insight into human needs and problems. Sir Samuel used Tartar Emetic as a shotgun prescription for all maladies to induce vomiting which, as a manifestation, he predicted beforehand to the patients. His prediction was regarded by his patients as oracular which, on happening, proved the veracity of his work. His success was enormous, and the ‘bearded Englishman’ draught became proverbial.”[4]

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The role of the colour red in the healing cults and rituals of the Sudan has been mentioned elsewhere in this book. Red-coloured objects feature as amulets, and ritual and medicinal items. Many of these are related to the colour of blood and, therefore, are used to treat alleged blood disorders. The karkade (red sorrel) is a common soft sweet beverage in many parts of the Sudan. It is also a popular medicine for darbat al-damm (blood stroke), and for a cough in which blood is present in the sputum. A patient sucks a few pods of this plant or takes it as a hot drink.

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Turmus (Lubinus termis), and molaita (Reichardia tingitana) are plants that are alleged to have anti-diabetic properties. Both are bitter when raw, and are therefore taken raw by patients suffering from diabetes mellitus in the belief that they lower sugar in the body through opposite action. As food, people wash away the bitter principle in the plant to make it edible.

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Medicinal plants

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Recipes of vegetable origin make up the largest part of the Sudanese materia medica. Some plants when used in healing have genuine pharmacological effects, while others are believed to work through supernatural or magical attributes, or because they are a certain shape, have a specific consistency, a peculiar smell, or colour.

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A recipe may contain one plant or more, and the plant may be used as a whole, as is the case with herbaceous plants, or in part.[5] Examples include: the leaves of harjal, the fruits of hijlij (Acacia aegyptiaca), the latex of ‘ushar (Calotropis procera), and the gum of Acacia arabica.

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Most medicinal plants grow wild, but some are imported from neighbouring Arab countries and the Far East. Examples of imported plants include qirfa (cinnamon), ganzabil (ginger), habba han (cardamom), karawya (caraway), and sandal (sandal wood). Herbal items are sold by urban vendors in the streets of many Sudanese towns, and in Groceries called the ‘attara[6] (herbal shops).

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Herbal treatment is usually associated with magical and religious rituals and incantations. Bakhur al-taiman (the twins’ incense), for example, is burned whenever a disease is suspected to be due to the evil eye;[7] the incense, it is believed, exorcises the evil. Healers, on the other hand, add various religious prescriptions—amulets and erasures—to support medicinal recipes. Some things are believed to protect women during pregnancy by averting the evil eye and evil spirits that haunt them during pregnancy and confinement. Examples include the egg plant, cumin seeds (that are used for their black colour), and onions (for their repellent smell). These are kept under the beds of women who have recently delivered, as part of the mushahara (page Error! Bookmark not defined.).[8] Shajarat al-khalas (chastity tree), on the other hand, is kept handy whenever a woman is about to give birth, to ensure safe and easy delivery.

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The fumes of boiled dura (sorghum), known as balila, are believed to drive evil away. In performing this type of cereal sacrifice, people frequently say ‘yazil al-bala bi al-balila’ (literally, boiled dura removes harm).

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These therapeutic regimes have shed some of their usual cultural overtones, and the magical and religious rituals have consequently decreased in recent years. This is particularly noticeable in urban settlements, probably due to contact with modern medical institutions and practitioners. The basic dictates of traditional medicine are, however, still followed.

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Poisonous plants

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People have always suffered from snake bites and scorpion stings, and experienced the noxious effects of various mineral and vegetable poisons. Over the years, these have been identified and named, and practitioners have harnessed the resources of their bountiful environment to provide measures for protection. They have also discovered how to extract poisons from some of these plants, and probably how to prepare antidotes. The poisons they have extracted have been used to commit crimes such as homicide or infanticide, and to aid legitimate pursuits such as fishing and hunting. Warriors of the southern and western tribes paint lances and arrow-tips with poisonous extracts, and use these deadly weapons in hunting animals, in personal combat, and in war.

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This section and relevant section in the Materia Medica: (Poisons, toxins, and anti-dotes, include description for man, cattle, camel, fish, fowl poisons, as well as molluscicides, pesticides, insect repellants, anti-lice, elephant hunting aids, arrow and lances poisons, agents used in ordeal, homicide, infanticide, suicide, abortifacient, and anti-dotes if available.

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Shajarat al-sim (Adenium honekel), also known as daraq in Taqali, narurai in Al-Liri, and tumu in Kaduqli of the western Sudan, is a common source of poison. However, many other plants are known and used. I have included in this inventory most, if not all, the poisonous plants that have been reported in the Sudanese literature including those identified in recent surveys.

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Many tribes in the southern Sudan cultivate certain plants or collect wild ones to isolate their poisonous principles for catching fish. Fishermen throw or spray pieces of bark, fruits, branches, pods, seeds or leaves on top of a pond or a running stream. They sometimes macerate the plant before they throw it in water. The active principle oozes, stupefying or killing the fish, which eventually float to the surface to be caught. They are then usually eaten as wholesome food.

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Many poisons do not harm human beings or higher animals, but affect lower species and insects. Preparations of dawa al-samak (Tephrosia Vogelli), have killed insects such as lice and other vermin. Other poisons are so potent that they may kill a small crocodile, cause diarrhoea in human beings, or harm grazing cattle.

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The poisonous properties of some plants have attracted researchers in insecticides, molluscicides, and anti-bilharzials. Sir Robert Archibald[9], as early as 1933, suggested that lalobe, the fruit of hijlij, Balanites aegyptiaca, might be used to combat bilharzia in the Sudan. He noted that the active principle in lalobe can poison freshwater snails and the bilharzia parasite in its free living stages.

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Certain Plants have strong narcotic effects which the people have recognized and used to advantage. They have sometimes crushed saikaran (datura) seeds and added them to the local beer, marisa; alternatively, the latex of ‘ushar (Sodom apple) is used. In both cases the intoxicating effect of the beer is increased. This is used in the course of robbery and in hunting monkeys. Other poisons have been used in suicide, homicide, infanticide, in inducing abortions, or in inflicting various types of injury. The emmenagogues[10] on the other hand, may be none other than abortifacient substances.

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Without explicitly stating why, the women in Kordofan have forbidden adolescent girls to eat the lalobe; they have apparently noted that girls who consume large quantities of the fruit conceive late, or may even become infertile. Recent research, furthermore, has given some support to this traditional belief. Maha Nasr Al-Din Babiker and Ibrahim Abu Al-Futuh in the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Khartoum, have provided this evidence. They found that the oral administration of the succulent edible part of the lalobe produced post-coital infertility effects in female rats. They attributed this either to the fruit inhibiting implantation, or to its interference with the normal process of pregnancy.[11] It is noteworthy that women seeking contraception in the Kordofan region have found this fruit most effective. They only need to suck a few unripe pieces of the lalobe to achieve their goal.

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Accidental poisoning has frequently occurred through a person inadvertently taking an overdose of a common medicinal plant routinely used to treat some everyday ailment. The offender is usually an inexperienced healer or a quack who is evidently ignorant of the toxic properties of the plant he or she is prescribing.

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The latex of ‘ushar is held to be harmful to the eye, and it is therefore blamed for causing blindness. This, however, is not borne out by experience. The milky juice has, indeed, caused more or less severe inflammatory eye reactions, but these do not result in blindness.

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Burckhardt in Travels in Asia (1819) reported on the health conditions in Shendi and Berber towns. He noted that there was a big slave market at Shendi. Besides he also observed that the slaves had endured great hardship on the way to the market, and that many had died before they reached it. He also said that if a female slave became pregnant, her master would do his best to get an abortion by one means or another. They would either give her some drugs to drink, beat her on the abdomen, or put the extract of the dead sea fruit [’ushar] on a piece of cotton inside her vagina.[12] The latex of ‘ushar, Calotropis procera, is still used for this purpose in many parts of the Sudan. Nadel writing about Heiban and Otoro tribes of the Nuba Mountains observed that virginity of the bride is appreciated—vaguely and in a platonic fashion. It is rarely, if ever, a reality. The girls in Otoro and Heiban are familiar with methods of preventing childbirth or procuring an abortion. They range from pure superstitions, like pulling a string from the fringes of the pubic apron and burying it under the door of the sleeping hut (to dig it up again after marriage), to more empirical practices, e.g. massage of the abdomen and the use of strong laxatives: a preparedness all the more characteristic, as in this society, where girls marry as soon as they are sexually mature, the danger of an untimely pregnancy is comparatively small.[13]

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Shatta (red pepper) is a popular condiment and appetizer of which people consume small quantities with food. However, when they take it in large quantities, it proves to be harmful. It results in a burning sensation in the mouth, throat, stomach, and rectal passages, and causes vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, and even death.

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The Azande and their kindred tribes of the southern Sudan use certain poisonous plants and minerals in divination procedures. Evans-Pritchard has described at length some of these practices and reported on the nature of the poisonous material used in divination by ordeal.

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Broun and Massey recorded the use of the seeds of Erythrophleum guineense as an ordeal poison among the Dinka tribe. They reported that:

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“The accused is required to swallow four of the seeds with water, after they have been cut into two, the belief being, that the innocent vomit the poison and are safe, while the guilty retain the poison and die.”[14]

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Grove[15] described the use of another ordeal poison among the Acholi tribe, and Anderson noted yet another Azande one but neither of these authors characterized the agent. However, the Azande were known to force a condemned person to eat four small beans obtained from the pods of a tree called lappa. This was most probably the plant Erythrophleum guineense.[16]

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The banga cult has attained a special importance among oracular procedures because it uses a poison ordeal. Early anthropologists who have studied the social systems of the southern tribes of the Sudan, have described the cult at length. Edward Evans-Pritchard dealt with the cult in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande.[17] Major Brock writing in Sudan Notes and Records in 1918 reported that the poison is obtained from the root of a shrub usually found growing in khors; it is rarely found in the Bahr Al-Ghazal and mostly comes from the Belgian Congo.[18] Kirk later reviewed the evidence related to the nature of the poisons used, and incidentally noted that investigating this field is laden with difficulties because many of these practices are highly secretive. He reported that:

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Benge is described by Anderson[19] as a powdered root obtained from the Congo, by Seligman[20] as a red powder obtained from a creeper growing in the wooded region south of the Uelle River in the Belgian Congo, in the land of the Mongbettu and the Abasambo. Its nature is a little uncertain. An ordeal poison known as ‘bengue,’ and obtained from the Haut-Oubangui region by Pouthiou, was analyzed many years ago at Bordeaux by de Nabais and Dupoy, who found that it contained strychnine and a red coloured matter, and concluded that it was identical with the M’Boundou poison of the Gabon (Strychnos Icaja Baill.). A sample of benge from the Bahr Al-Ghazal was analyzed in Khartoum by Dr. Beam[21] and found to consist of a brownish-red oxide of iron with a small amount of fine sand. It contained no organic material or metallic poison. Beam suggested that the powder was probably selected because of its bright red colour, and when a bad omen is desired poison of some sort is added. A later sample analyzed by Mr. Grindley[22] in 1943 was found to contain strychnine.”[23]

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 Some plants poison human beings or grazing cattle when they are eaten raw, improperly cleaned or processed, as may happen in famines and periods of general scarcity. Cyanogenesis occurs if bitter cassava, Manihot utilissima is consumed uncooked. This type of poisoning arises from failure to remove the contained glucoside and ferment. These two components, in the presence of water, liberate the poisonous prussic acid. Thus, the glucosides and ferments that are contained in the milky juice should be thoroughly pressed out by washing, scraping, and grating the tuber before it can be used safely.[24] Animal owners have also noted that the roots of some plants are poisonous to their livestock. Haikabit, for example, also known as sharoba and gulum (Capparis tomentosa) is well known to be poisonous to camels.

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Father Zugnoni of Deim Zubeir Mission has heard that members of the Yilede secret society in the Banda country in southern Sudan use several kinds of poison. They avoid drugs which produce immediate deaths for they are too afraid of the courts, but they use poisons which are alleged to cause death after several days, perhaps after months. One of these poisons is said to be prepared from the juice of the mbuga (euphorbia sp.), which is administered in gravy and produces swelling of the belly. People under its effects drink much water, and death probably results in ten to fifteen days. Women have no fear of this poison for they prepare their own food, and eat it apart by themselves; also they are believed to know the antidote, and will willingly administer it to people who yield to their wishes, make reparation and pay the fines. Another similar poison is produced from certain tubers, which are pounded and mixed with millet flour. This produces nausea and vomiting. Blindness can be produced by certain small leaves which are placed in the water with which a person is to wash.[25]

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Traditional health practitioners take great pains in preparing safe medicinal recipes. They try hard to eliminate the harmful substances in the plants they use. Nonetheless, cases of severe toxicity, irreversible organ damage or even deaths have occurred. In 1908, Anderson commented on the outcome of the local treatment of gonorrhoea in Kordofan:

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“The native treatment of gonorrhoea is not only ineffective but most dangerous. There have been three deaths in the Civil Hospital, El Obeid, during the last year from malpraxis in this direction, one from anuria, another from acute ascending nephritis, and a third from gangrene of the scrotum and penis. Each of these unfortunates had, prior to admission, undergone a course, resulting in severe vomiting, diarrhoea, and acute inflammation of the kidneys, with haematuria, the passage of blood being looked upon as an essential to the cure.”[26]

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‘Root therapy’ is the use of plant roots in healing and in magic. The Fullan tribe of Darfur, the Nigerians in the Sudan, and all the people of the western Region of the country and neighbouring Chad, have attained a wide reputation for proficiency in the use of ‘uruq (roots).

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In the early 19th century, Al-Tunisi, an Egyptian traveller, visited Darfur, and described incidents in which the ‘uruq al-sihir (the magic roots) were implicated.[27] He asked his shaikh, Medani Al-Fotawi, about the secrets of the nara roots so popular in the region at that time. He was told that the holy books that were communicated from God to Adam, Abraham, and other prophets, were buried and grew plants. The seeds of these plants were later borne in the air and dispersed throughout the globe; from these also grew the plants from which the ‘roots’ in question are dug out and used in subsequent years.

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The ‘roots’ are credited with a variety of attributes throughout the Sudan. People believe that some of these roots protect against snake bites, scorpion stings, gun shot wounds and knife injuries. Others help to attain love or attract a spouse. The roots that protect against snake bites and scorpion stings are also used in the treatment of these afflictions.

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Some ‘roots’ are used to scare away locusts in the Nuba Mountains and Darfur Region. The Dar Masalit and Zaghawa tribes are famous in this field. In these tribes the Dambbari keeps the secret knowledge about certain ‘roots’ and uses them with the necessary rituals to scare away locusts. In the Nuba Mountains, the right to carry out this procedure and that of rainmaking are prerogatives of the kujur’s office.

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Some people wear specific types of ‘roots’ as amulets to protect them against troubles of one kind or another. Others keep some handy to be used as and when necessary. If one is bitten by a scorpion, for example, one chews a piece of ‘a scorpion root’ and applies it to the affected site. Alternatively, one rubs the root vigorously over the bitten area to effect a cure.

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Eric Hussey reported on the crocodile charmers in the Dindir area in 1917. Among the West African folks who wander through the Sudan on their pilgrimage to Makka, one occasionally finds members of the Hausa-speaking Kabbi tribe, a race of fishermen who live for the most part in a large city called Argungo, about one day’s journey west of Sokoto. Members of this race are recognizable by the marks on their faces; ten long cuts spreading out in a fan-shape from the corner of the mouth on the right side, and nine on left, meeting vertical cuts on each side of the brow.

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These people have a curious power over crocodiles, which they pull out of the water alive, the crocodile apparently being subject to their influence. A crocodile, reported Hussey, was taken out of the Dindir river in his presence and was very much alive but quite under the spell of his captors. He was afterwards cut up and eaten.

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The secret of this power is said to lie in a certain ‘uruq compounded with herbs found in the forests of Nigeria and its composition is known only to the old men of the tribe. The ‘uruq are smeared on the body and a small portion is eaten by the fishermen before entering the water. A line is stretched across the stream with baited hooks attached on which fish are caught, while the fishermen walk up and down beside the line. If an inquisitive crocodile comes up to the line, one man seizes it by the jaws and another by the tail and they drag it alive to the shore. If it is a very large crocodile, a rope is tied to its tail; several men are then required to pull it up the bank. This method had to be adopted with a crocodile 16 feet long which happened to be caught one day when a sub-mamur was staying at the village. In 1914 the pools in a large stretch of the Dindir river were cleared of crocodiles by three or four men of this tribe who were living at the large Fallata village on this river.[28]

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Narcotics

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The arrival of coffee in the Sudan late in the 16th century A.D., had its impact on the conservative Muslim society of that time. The learned men approved coffee for individuals with a ‘phlegmatic temperament,’ but not for those with a :choleric temperament, because they believed that coffee increases choler.[29]

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The problem of tobacco remained a point of disagreement among early scholars for a long time. Ibn Daif Allah, an 18th-century Sudanese historian, described at length how the fervent debates among the Sudanese scholars were taken up by the learned men in Egypt and continued with equal vigour and enthusiasm.[30]

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Tigani Al-Mahi elegantly reviewed the history of khat and coffee in East Africa. In this review, he described the proverbial attachment of the famous Yemeni mystic Ali Ibn Umar Al-Shazli’s (1442 A.D.) to coffee. He said:

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“According to tradition, Al-Shazli was responsible not only for the spread of coffee but for making coffee much more popular than khat. It is necessary to explain in this respect that coffee was and is still being prepared for use from the husks and not from the beans. This is true in Yemen and in some parts of Arabia and of Ethiopia. The name given to this preparation is al-kahwa al-kishriyra, i.e., husk coffee. The husk coffee is sweetish and agreeable in taste and its stimulating effect is even stronger than the bean coffee. In many respects it is superior to the ordinary coffee. The name of Al-Shazli is immortalized today as the patron saint of coffee. To mark his championship, coffee is given the appellation of Al-Shazli Abu Al-Hasan in some countries such as the Sudan.”[31]

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During the Mahdiyya theocracy (1885-1899), the Mahdi denounced and banned the consumption of alcoholic beverages, smoking tobacco and the use of tumbac (snuff). He declared the consumption of these items to be unforgivable sins.

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Tumbac, it is worthy to note, holds a special place in the materia medica of the Bahr Al-Ghazal Region of the southern Sudan. It is a staple remedy for all illnesses. It is used as a drug, a dressing for wounds, and as a wash to safeguard animals against the bites of ‘fly’.[32]

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Since the Condominium, the law in the Sudan has banned the smoking and handling of hashish (Cannabis indica) known interchangeably as banqu and kamanqa. Nonetheless, hashish remains popular, and is smoked secretly throughout the country.

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Shanty settlements surround every major city and town in the Sudan due to the ravages of the protracted civil war in the southern Region. Because of the crowded conditions in these areas and growing poverty in general, shammasha (vagrant children) swarm the streets, and have developed their own ‘street culture’. They have established various habits including sniffing a variety of petrochemicals including acetone, silicone, benzine, glue, and the like for ‘kicks’.

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In Muslim Sudan, the teachings of Islam forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but in spite of that, different tribes continue to distill and brew a variety of them. They distill ‘araqi from sorghum, dates, bananas, onions, guava, grapefruits, oranges and many other substrates rich in starch.

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Dealers selling alcoholic drinks secretly, often adulterate these beverages to increase their intoxicant effects. They even dare to add chemicals from old car batteries to their brew, resulting in severe poisoning. Some Sudanese within the country and those who have emigrated to the neighbouring countries that ban alcoholic beverages, have consumed eau de cologne and other perfumes containing methyl alcohol. This practice produces permanent optic nerve atrophy and results in permanent blindness.

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Marisa, ‘asaliya and sharboat are fermented beverages that are popular throughout the country. Cereal grains, dates and a wide variety of fruits make the most common substrates for brewing these beverages. Marisa, a local beer[33], is a staple food in the southern and the western Sudan. Krump while at Mosho [Hafir Mosho] and Sennar (1700-1702), wrote:

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“Not only here but in many other countries of the Moors, too, they make a drink or beer called busa from this durra in the following way. They soften this cereal in water, then dry it in the sun as we do (in Europe) in the malt-kiln, then they pound it to flour on which they then pour boiling water and leave it until it has cooled, then they leaven it so much with years that it becomes similar in colour and smell to hops … by drinking this brew they get drunk.”[34]

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In eastern Sudan, ‘asaloab is a strong alcoholic drink that is made from honey and the bark of a certain tree imported from Abyssinia. The locals call this tree the sadoh. Kirk, who described this drink, says the following of this bark:

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“… As far as I am aware it has not yet been identified either botanically or chemically. Mead to which this substance has been added is extremely potent. Comparatively small quantities produce rapid and prolonged intoxication, even in habitual heavy drinkers of alcohol. In some cases it has been noticed that the pupils are dilated.”[35]

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In the same region, the followers of the Mirghaniyya Sufi order partake of a special beverage or porridge during their religious services on Mondays and Fridays. It is called qahwat loz—coffee with milk and crushed almonds. When it is porridge, it is made of rice, milk, sugar, crushed almond or pea nuts if almond is not available. Loz (almond), however, is a very rare ingredient in the Sudanese materia medica, but it is popular in Arabian recipes, and is credited with various virtues. It is believed that it is a panacea for chest troubles, that it treats liver, spleen and skin diseases, augments eyesight and increases the amount of ejaculated semen. glossary

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Organic substances

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The traditional Sudanese diet combines staple foods, the meat of different animals—cattle, sheep, camels and goats, as well as fish, poultry and seasonal fruits and vegetables. It naturally varies according to locality, ethnic group, mode of life and degree of contact with cultures. The Turkish and Egyptian, influences on culinary habits are clearly seen in the northern and central Sudan, and among Muslim groups throughout the country.

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More exotic recipes are prescribed for rarer ailments. Finely ground crocodile’s sex organs, and rhinoceros tusk are prescribed as aphrodisiacs. People also eat the meat of abu-dalaq, a rare black bird, as a cure for rabies. They use dofr [36](the dried cartilaginous remains of shell-fish) to manage fever and wasting diseases.

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Sorghum flour is sometimes cooked into madida or nasha (drinkable porridge), and various medicinal herbs are added for their flavouring and spasmolytic properties. The following are typically added: the herb mahareb (cymbopogon proximus) as a flavouring and a spasmolytic agent, or hilba (fenugreek), and tahniya (sesame sweat cake) are lactogenic items.

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Samin (local purified butter), dates and milk also recur frequently in recipes. Some animal organs, products, and excreta are credited with therapeutic properties influencing mind and body. Cat’s meat and donkey’s milk are taken for whooping cough. An extremely minute amount of finely-powdered crocodile penis, ihlil al-tumsah, is credited with aphrodisiac properties. Porcupine’s meat is said to hasten delivery, that of abu al-dalaq cures rabies, and crocodile’s lung treats asthma. Lemon juice or qarad (sunt pods) macerate in curdled milk, rice water, rashad (Senebiera nilotica) seeds in goats’ milk, boiled milk, harjal (Trigonella argel) paste in cold water, have all been alleged to treat diarrhoea in children. Meat in general and beef in particular are believed to cause flatulence.

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People consume the milk of sheep, cows, or camels when it is fresh or after fermentation. In the northern Sudan, they prescribe donkeys’ milk fresh and warm from the breast for the treatment of whooping cough. The patient keeps drinking it until a cure is achieved. If a child falls ill with measles, its skin is rubbed with goat’s milk; later, the rash is anointed with the milk froth.

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The Sudanese consume a variety of milk products. Robe (milk curd) is considered a healthy drink and one that keeps longer than fresh milk. Samin (ghee) and wadak (animal tallow) have frequently appeared in the preparation of medicinal and cosmetic recipes. They have also been constantly used in body massage and skin care. Women also frequently apply oil, alone or mixed with perfumes and other ingredients, to their skin to keep it supple and healthy.

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The Hadandawa tribesmen of the eastern Sudan apply wadak liberally to their distinctively-plaited hair. This often gives their hair a peculiar smell that is barely tolerable to those unaccustomed to it. They also apply wadak as a poultice on abscesses, to ripen them until they burst spontaneously.

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Stories have been circulated in early Sudanese chronicles attributing miraculous cures to certain foodstuffs. Tigani Al-Mahi stressed that these dramatic recoveries were overwhelmingly psychological. He said:

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“It is difficult to see how a dish of dates prescribed to a patient bed-ridden for months could possibly bring relief to the sufferer almost all of a sudden. In a seventeenth century chronicle we are told that this was prescribed by a physician to a patient whose name was given, and a member of the family taking the caravan route in earnest in a round trip of fifteen days brought the dates from another part of the country and dutifully laid them before the patient, who on partaking of the fruit brought by his nephew made a sudden and spectacular recovery. Perhaps the rigourous trip in the mind of the patient was the major psychological issue that triggered the process of recovery. His disease must have been largely if not exclusively psychological.”[37]

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Kala-azar (Visceral leishmaniasis) is endemic in south eastern Sudan, especially in the Singa area of Blue Nile region. There the locals designate the disease marad al-sa’id (the disease of the North), and have tried several cures. The nomads in this area give these patients a diet formed exclusively of al-qaris (fermented camel milk), on which they live until cured. Sometimes they add 12 kinds of medicinal herbs that they call buharat (spices) to the milk, and the patient is expected to drink it for 12 days.

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Oil obtained from ostrich fat is famous in many parts of the country as a relaxant for the muscle contracture and shortened tendons that frequently complicate burns, and fractured bones when they are badly set. Oil is massaged over the affected site for several weeks with allegedly gratifying results.

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The glands of some animals produce certain secretions that man has found to be useful in certain circumstances. The tears and saliva of cattle suffering from abu-Iisan or gadda’ (foot-and-mouth disease) have been found to protect the healthy herd through a process akin to variolation. A piece of cotton gauze is soiled in the tears or the saliva of the sick animal, and then transferred to a healthy one. It has obviously been noticed at some stage that such secretions protect the herd against the disease. Another type of variolation makes use of a dead cow’s infected lung. Cattle owners cut this lung into small pieces, make small incisions on the ear of each of the healthy cows, embed the lung tissue in the wound and sew it up. This, they believe, protects the cows against catching the disease.

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A mother frequently applies her saliva to the eye of her baby to expel a foreign body from it, and covers an infant’s infected boil with spittle in the belief that saliva has healing powers.

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Sheep’s bile is another item that frequently appears in food and in therapy. The inhabitants of the northern Sudan love it as an appetizer that they add to the popular dish of raw entrails, marara (an hors d’oeuvre of raw offal—stomach, liver and lung) and to um-fitfit (raw stomach and small intestine). These two dishes are delicacies that are freshly prepared after home slaughter. When one is presented with one of these dishes at breakfast, it is a sign that one is a truly honoured guest.

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Animal excreta have also appeared in the Sudanese materia medica. In several occasions, people knew how they got ill. They noticed that mosquitoes swarm in rainy seasons and fevers increase then. To protect themselves and their animals, cattle-owning tribes throughout the country paint their bodies with oil or ash and burn cow dung to drive away flies and mosquitoes. The smoke repels mosquitoes and flies, and the fire scares away predators. Among the Dinka tribes, cattle are a source of wealth and power, and the cow is held in high esteem. It is therefore not unexpected that they endow cows’ dung, urine, and other excreta with favourable attributes. Indeed, they believe that cow dung is a potent cure for all wounds, and when it is burned, the ash is used in body-care. Many southern tribes apply the dung as a dye to their hair to give it a reddish tint. Shuqair reported in 1903, that the Dinka also gave cow’s urine special attention, and preferred it to fresh water when washing themselves and their utensils; it was also used to flavour their butter.[38] The Dinka are not alone in using cow’s urine this way, Shuqair added that urine was used in washing also in the eastern parts of the country, while the bark of the ihlilij tree[39] was used for washing in the west.[40] On the other hand, in the northern parts of the country, human urine is occasionally used to clean fresh wounds, and in the places where elephants are found, their dung is used as a cure for asthma.

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The meat of several animals and fish is an important part of the Sudanese diet. Islam specifies the types of meat man should consume and those that he should not touch. Shot animals should not be eaten unless ritually slaughtered immediately, animal blood is not drunk, and pork is strictly forbidden. Fish that have fins and scalps are eaten, but no other sea foods. In addition, children in the Darfur Region barbecue locusts as snacks, and children eat termites in the southern Sudan. In the western Sudan, people of all ages sometimes ferment caterpillars and eat them.

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People attach specific therapeutic significance to poultry and eggs, and order them as food for the sick, the convalescent, and nursing mothers. The belief is that both speed up the healing of wounds and fractures.

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On the other hand, it is believed that egg yolk delays the development of a child’s ability to talk. It is, thus, a taboo food in early childhood. Egg shells, however, are thought to have styptic properties. Users burn them, powder them, and apply a small pinch of the powder inside a bleeding nose.

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In cases of eye inflammation, they instill in the eye either a crocodile’s liver extract or bile, a gazelle’s bile, a cow’s liver extract, or a nursing woman’s milk.

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Beeswax and honey have a special place among the organic products used in the Sudan. The popularity of honey stems from the Quran in which two verses stipulate that in honey is found ‘medicine for mankind.’ Whenever food for the sick is sought, honey comes first. It is instilled as drops for the inflamed eye, used for dressing wounds, and eaten as a general tonic. For infected wounds or karu (chronic leg ulcers), honey is the specific treatment. Several foods are believed to increase ba’a (virility). Some are indigenous, others were learnt of through contact with neighbouring cultures and from the Arabs. The Muslim medieval texts describe these items at length. Local items include: dates, ginger, zarana seeds (unidentified taxonomic name), al-mardud (unidentified taxonomic name), tahniya (sesame sweet cake) and honey. Goro (Cola acuminata) (kola nut), is a popular plant that Nigerian chew as a general tonic. Though this root is available, the Sudanese do not use it, most probably because it stains the teeth red, and, therefore, its use and the reasons for which it is taken are evident. Things pertaining to sexual vigour are always considered personal.

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Metals, minerals & soils

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Different minerals and soils have been awarded special attributes for supernatural or religious reasons. Some minerals have been blessed with the baraka (blessing) of a holy man, and have, thus, acquired a potency unrelated to any intrinsic quality. Tinat Al-Mikashfi[41], and tinat wad Al-Turabi[42], are two types of clay that have been credited with this holy power. Both are clay that has been collected from the burial places of the holy shaikhs. The first is believed to cure snake bites, the second rabies. The jardiqa[43] and the turaiba[44] are two types of clay that are used as purgatives. The turaiba, in addition, is a specific cure for syphilis, and is dispensed as ‘syphilis pills.’ The chemical analyst of the Wellcome Research Laboratories in Khartoum reported the following about this mineral in 1904:

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Tureba is very generally used in the Sudan as a remedy for syphilis. The most highly prized is that from the vicinity of Berber; and the wonderful effects ascribed to it are attributed to the presence of mercury. How this idea originated is not known—probably simply by inference from its supposed anti-syphilitic effect. So general is the belief in the presence of mercury that the local hakims even employ small cones for treatment by fumigation.” [45]

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The samples tested revealed no mercury, but examination of the watery extract prepared the local way[46] showed it to contain a considerable proportion of sodium carbonate and bicarbonate along with a certain, usually smaller, amount of sodium sulphate and chloride. A large amount of organic matter, humates, etc., was present in all samples, as well as a trace of iodine. The last was however in far too small proportion to have any medicinal effect.[47]

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The Prophet Muhammad has been quoted in the hadith (Prophet’s Sayings) as having advised the use of earth or sand to cleanse utensils that a dog has soiled, irrespective of whether the dog is rabid or not. This is not a usual practice in the Sudan. Different types of earth have been used for other functions including healing. Deep river mud is the first choice for managing the burjum (chicken pox). It is believed to lessen itching and prevent infection of the pox.

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Shebb (alum) is well-known both as a substance that purifies turbid water and as a magical substance. A small piece of this mineral precipitates suspended matter in turbid water. It is also an incense ingredient that is used to identify an evil-eyed person. People believe that when alum is burnt in a censer, it melts and moulds itself into the shape of the evil-doer.

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‘Atroun (natron) is equally important in at least two processes. It digests the fibres of the popular food vegetable molokhiya (Jew’s mallow) and makes its cooking easier. It also breaks down the tobacco fibres during the process of tamtir (tumbac-making), and releases the active principle from the carbohydrates in the tobacco leaves.

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Qa’ab Al-Laqiya is a valley near Donqola in the northern Sudan with extensive sand dunes, which, unlike many others in the country, are strikingly free from poisonous insects and reptiles. The region also has fine weather all the year round. Its people believe that qa’ab sand treats a variety of diseases if the patient is buried in it. The place has therefore become a holiday resort for recreation, convalescence, and for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, hypertension and other ailments that biomedical specialists have failed to cure. People simply get buried in the sand, eat well, rest, and frequently indulge in massage and dukhan.

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People use a variety of plants and minerals to purify turbid water. Turab al-rawwaq (purifying earth) and shajar al-rawwag (purifying tree) are popular in the northern region of the Sudan. Turab al-arda (termites’ hills) also have purifying properties when sprayed on turbid water.

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Many cultures believe that soot and spiders’ webs have antiseptic properties, and use them as wound remedies. In the Sudan, the ceiling of the local kitchen usually collects soot, dust and grows spiders’ webs. People collect this mixture and use it in the dressing of wounds. The spider’s web is probably seen as the active principle in this mixture.

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Many metals, including iron, copper, and zinc, and inadvertently, lead have found their way into the Sudanese materia medica. The waste from iron smelters, known as khara-hadid, was a popular medicine for syphilis in Kordofan. Tutiya baida (amorphous powder of Zinc Oxide), kohl (Antimony), tutiya hamra (Rosaniline, a tri-phenyl methane dye) and hajar maqar, have all been used in treating eye diseases.[48] Use of kohl (antimony) needs a special word of caution here as it is freely available and some products are sometimes adulterated with lead, charcoal, vegetable ash and possibly other organic matter, hence rendering it potentially harmful to users. The samples reported from Kordofan as early as 1908, were found to contain black antimony; no adulterating substances were identified.[49]In the Sudan, kohl is mainly used as an eyeliner by women. Men rarely use it, and then only as bridegrooms. It is also applied to the eyes of children of both sexes when being prepared to be circumcised, but the potentially dangerous use is its application to the eyes of the newborn.[50] Worley reported in 1968 on lead poisoning due to lead adulterating kohl.[51] Lead-based kohl, absorbed from the naso-lacrimal mucosa or ingested through sucking the contaminated fingers, may lead to chronic lead poisoning causing hypochromic and microcytic anaemia, chronic encephalopathy, and renal damage. Similar investigations corroborated these findings using samples obtainable in Saudi Arabia. In a survey published in 1993, Al-Kaff [52]et al investigated five most commonly used commercial products of alleged kohl eyeliners.[53] Pure kohl was found to contain antimony sulfide and trisulfide as its main constituents, and its source is a shiny, dark stone known in Arabic as ithmed, antimony in English, and surma in Urdu. The samples analyzed showed that some preparations have a high pH and a high lead concentration (88%), indicating that most preparations are lead-based rather than antimony-based. It is also found that some kohl preparations have a weak antimicrobial effect against Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Proteus species. Earlier studies by Tabbara et al found that kohl samples were heavily contaminated with Bacillus species, gram negative Bacilli, and a number of fungi.[54]

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Goldsmiths use sulaimani (Arsenic) to purify their gold, but sometimes the substance is swallowed in attempts at suicide, causing severe corrosion, oedema of the mouth and the upper respiratory passages, and sometimes death. Copper, on the other hand, is popular in the southern parts of the country as a treatment for rheumatic pain when worn as bangles.

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Blessed and healing water

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We have discussed earlier methods of water management and the material used to make it wholesome and potable. Some types of water, however, have been credited with holiness. They do not need any type of processing and should be used as they are.

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A holy man’s rakwa (ablution jar), stands as a source of baraka for all those who touch it. The water it contains is blessed and is a cure for various ills. A car owner, indeed, might prime the radiator of his new car with its blessed fluid; this is believed to protect the car on the road.

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Pilgrims to the Muslim holy land drink and wash repeatedly from the Zamzam water spring in Makka. This is the holy spring whose water gushed from underneath the feet of Hagar and her son Ishmael. All Muslims believe that this water is holy, and drink it for its therapeutic value. They often bring it back home after the pilgrimage for relatives, friends, and well-wishers to use. They take a sip, if the amount is large; otherwise they satisfy themselves with dabbing the ailing parts.

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Hammamat ‘Akasha (the ‘Akasha hot springs) in the northern Sudan, attract many patients from all over the country, In these spas people indulge in prolonged bathing. They usually suffer from trouble with their joints, skin problems, or other vague, chronic maladies.

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Wells sometimes attain supernatural attributes. They become blessed if, for example, water gushes out more forcefully than expected. This happened in ‘Id al-Tin, a village near Qadarif in the eastern Sudan. During the digging of an artesian well, an extensive underground river was tapped. Water rushed out with unexpected force, gushing several feet upwards. On analysis, the water was found to have had a high salinity, alkalinity and sulfate content. It was also unpalatable. Nonetheless, the well became a Makka for all the sick from all over the country. Ahmad Bayoumi reported on this incident:

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“The influx of water, being the first of its kind in the country, became a subject for supernatural and commercial speculation. A large illiterate population, with various cultural backgrounds, began to collect around the well, being attracted by a strong belief which rapidly circulated around the country about the holiness of the water and its supernatural healing powers. The well became known by the local Arabic name Faki Abu Nafura, which literally means ‘Fountain Healer’. The initial curious gatherings gradually added up to form a huge assembly of people turning the once infamous Idd El Tin into a pilgrimage ground. This great conglomeration of people, amongst whom were the ill, the deformed and the disabled, drank voraciously from the pool or massaged their bodies with its mud, hoping for miraculous cures.”[55]

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It is sad to record that all this resulted in an unfortunate epidemic of cholera-like gastroenteritis. Dozens of patients died before people were able to see that the water was neither holy nor healing.

 

 

References

[1] An agent that increases the milk flow in nursing women (also known as a galactogogue).

[2] Clarildge, G. Drugs and Human Behaviour. London, Allen Lane 1970.

[3] In this context chronological time is of little or no significance to the layman, and, hence, rarely, if ever, is a specific hour of time mentioned for taking the medicine.

[4] Tigani Al-Mahi. The use and abuse of drugs. Ahmad Al-Safi and Taha Baasher, editors. Tigani Al-Mahi: Selected Essays. Ist ed.  Khartoum: Khartoum University Press; 1981; University of Khartoum, Silver Jubilee-1956-1981, pp. 67-77.

[5] The parts used include the leaf, the root, the stem, the twig, the fruit, the seed, the bean, the tuber, the rhizome, the bark, and the flower. Exudates such as latex, gum, resin and oil are also employed.

[6] This name is borrowed from neighbouring Egypt.

[7] The incense is burnt while chanting loudly certain incantations. These incantations were documented by Abd Allah Al-Tayib in three articles titled: The Changing Customs of the Riverain People of the Sudan in Sudan Notes and Records, starting 1956; 37(2):56-.

[8] The mushahara is both the set of pregnancy protective taboos and the ailments that may befall the pregnant woman or her baby from the 7th month of pregnancy to the fortieth day after delivery. The word mushahara is derived from the Arabic word shahr (month). In Egypt, Crete and Iraq, the mushahara is a necklace of special beads women wear, and is associated with fertility and childbirth.

[9] Archibald, R.G. Trans. R. Soc. Trop. Med. Hyg. 1933; 27, 247.

[10] An emmenagogue is an agent or measure that induces menstruation or ‘bring down the courses’ when the flow is irregular.

[11] Maha Nasr El Din Babiker. Master of Veterinary Science, University of Khartoum, October 1988. (unpublished thesis).

[12] Burckhardt. Travels in Asia. 1819, pages 229 and 337.

[13] Nadel, S.F. The Nuba: An anthropological study of the Hill Tribes of Kordofan.  London: Oxford University Press; 1947: 119.

[14] Broun, A.F.; Massey, R.E. Flora of the Sudan. London: Thomas Murley & Co.; 1929.

[15] Grove, E.T.N. Sudan Notes and Records. 1919: 2, 157.

[16] Anderson, R.G. Some Tribal Customs and Their Relation to Medicine and Morals of the Nyam-Nyam and Gour People inhabiting the eastern Bahr El Ghazal. Wellcome Research Laboratories Report. London: Bailliers, Tindall and Cox; 1911; 4A: 0.39-277.

[17] Evans-Pritchard, E.E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937): Abridged with an introduction by Eva Gilles. Clarendon Press: Oxford: 1976.

[18] Brock, Major R. G. C. Some Notes on the Azande Tribe as found in the Meridi District (Bahr El Ghazal Province). Sudan Notes and Records. 1918; 1: 249-262.

[19] Anderson, R.G. Op. Cit. 239.

[20] Seligman, C.C.; B.Z. Pagan Tribes of the Nilotic Sudan. London: Routledge; 1932.

[21] Quoted by Gall and Clarac (1911), Traite de pathologie exotique, Vol. v. Impoisonnements. Paris: Balliere et Fils. (Quoted by Kirk op. cit).

[22] Grindley, D.N. (1943). The information was circulated in Sudan Medical Service Circular Letter of 12th June 1943. (Quoted by Kirk Op. Cit.).

[23] Kirk R. Some Vegetable Poisons of the Sudan. Sudan Notes and Records. 1946: 27: 127-157.

[24] Kirk, R. Op. Cit., page 147.

[25] Zugnoni, Father J. Yilede, a secret society: Among the Gbay "Kreish", Aja, and Banda tribes of the Western District of Equatoria. Sudan Notes and Records: 106-111.

[26] Anderson, R.G. Medical Practices and Superstitions Among the People of Kordofan. Third Report of the Wellcome Research Laboratories at the Gordon Memorial College, Khartoum, l9O8: 281-322.

[27] Muhammad Ibn 'Omar Al-Tunisi. Tashhidh Al-Adhhan Bi-Sirat Bilad Al-'Arab Wa-'l-Sudan (Arabic), (Editors) Khalil M. 'Asaker and Mustafa M. Mus'ad, Cairo: Al Dar Al Masriya Lil-Ta'lif wal-Tarjama, 1965 : 328.

[28] Hussey, Eric R. J. Crocodi1e Charmers [Note] Sudan Notes and Records; 1918; 1: 206-207.

[29] Muhammad Al-Nur Ibn Daif Allah ( -1809). Kitab Al-tabaqat fi khusus Al-awliya wa l-salihin wa l-ulama wa l-shu'ara (1805?) ed. Yusuf Fadl Hasan, Khartoum: Khartoum University Press, 1985: 51-54.

[30] Muhammad Al-Nur. Op. Cit.

[31] Ahmad Al-Safi; Taha Baasher, Editors. Tigani Al-Mahi: Selected Essays. Ist ed. Khartoum: Khartoum University Press; 1981; University of Khartoum, Silver Jubilee-1956-1981. 187 pages. Page 91.

[32] Anderson, R.G. 1911 Op. Cit.

[33] Though names of marisa differ from place to place, its methods of preparation are essentially the same. Abu Salim described marisa-making in northern Sudan, and several travellers described it in the last three centuries.

[34] Krump, Theodor (1660-1724). High and fruitful palm-tree of the Holy Gospel …[German]. Augusburg; 1710. 510 pages. Note: The book has a title 198 words long. Page 246.

[35] Kirk, R. Op. Cit. 135.

[36] Dofr, in addition, is a valued item in perfumes, and an indispensable ingredient in fumigation mixtures.

[37] Tigani Al-Mahi. Op. Cit., page 130.

[38] Naom Shuqair. Gughrafiyat wa Tarikh Al-Sudan, (1903) [Arabic] Beirut: Dar Al-Thaqafa; Many editions, 1972: page 20l.

[39] For more information on this plant see Ibn Rasoul, Yusuf Ibn Umar Ibn Ali (D. 694 A.H.), King of Yemen. Al-Mu'tamad fi Al-Adwiya Al-Mufrada [Arabic]. Beirut: Dar Al-Ma'rifa; 1982, and Daoud Al-Darir (the blind) Al-Antaki (of Antioch) Tazkirat Ulil Albab wa Al-jami’ lil 'Ajab Al-'Ujab, Cairo: l836. Many editions in Arabic.

[40] Naom Shuqair. Op. Cit., 223-292.

[41] Abu Umar Al-Mikashfi of the Shikeiniba village in Gezira region, Central Sudan.

[42] Ahmad Wad Al-Turabi Al-'Araki of Al-Talha village, was originally buried in Abu Haraz village in the eastern part of the Gezira. Later, his remains were removed to Al-Talha village, which has been known ever since as Talhat Wad Al-Turabi. His hafir, (water pond) there became a source of the blessed tinat (clay).

[43] Jardiqa is dug out of a shallow lake in a volcano crater called Malha in Jebel Medab in Darfur. The Kababish and Kawahla Arabs use it for fattening cattle.

[44] Turaiba is also obtained from around the towns of Bara in the Western Sudan, Atbara in northern Sudan, Kosti in southern Sudan or from Qoz Rajab.

[45] First Report of the Wellcome Research Laboratories at the Gordon Memorial College, Khartoum 1904: 237.

[46] A couple of pounds, more of less, of the earth is treated with hot water and, in the morning, the clear dark brown supernatant liquid is poured off and drunk. (First Wellcome Research Laboratories Report, 1904; 239).

[47] First Wellcome ... Op. Cit. 239.

[48] For more information on these metals, please see their respective entries in the Materia Medica inventory page

[49] Anderson. R.G. Op. cit.: 1908.

[50] Application of kohl to the umbilicus of the newborn is also a common practice in Saudi Arabia.

[51] Worley, M.A., Blackedge, P. O'Gorman, P. Lead poisoning from eye cosmetic. British Medical Journal 1968:1 :117.

[52] Al-Kaff I. Ali, et al. Kohl--the traditional eyeliner: use and analysis. Annals of Saudi Medicine. 1993 (January) 13(l): 26-30.

[53] Due to the influx of goods from Saudi Arabia through the massive migrant Sudanese, and individuals visiting the country for Ummra and pilgrimage, some of these commercial products could be introduced in the Sudan. This is not to mention the possibility of introducing the same or similar products directly from India and Egypt together with other medicinal items and cosmetics.

[54] Tabbara, K.F., Burd, E.M. Microbial content of kohl. Annals of Saudi Medicine 1987; 7(3): 177-9.

[55] Ahmad Bayoumi. The History of Sudan Medical Service. Nairobi Kenya Literature Bureau, 1979: 316-7.

The Sudanese materia medica contains a variety of recipes fulfilling therapeutic, nutritive, health-promoting, preventive and cosmetic functions. It includes plants, organic substances, minerals, salts, soils, waters and various fluids. Some of these items are used for food, others for treating and preventing diseases, or maintaining general health. It also includes toxic and poisonous plants and minerals that are the active agents in muscle relaxants, central nervous system stimulants, cardiac depressants, narcotic, or oxytocic and abortifacient preparations.
Sunflower: Ricinus communis L. Khirwi'; Bullas (Hadandawa), and Hurua (Kordofan). Castor oil plant. A shrub or tall herb. Seeds used for oil; leaves crushed with water, and used in treating guinea worm, as laxative, purgative, poultice, abortifacient, source of oil, and poison.


 


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