Herbs Can Help

2008:   PHASA.  South Africa 

Herbs Can Help  

Dr. Juliet  Waterkeyn &   Josephine Mutandiro 


With the terrible effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, medical services in rural areas of many developing countries cannot keep up with the demand for treatment. Where ARV and other drugs are scarce, herbal remedies can provide ‘first aid’ and alleviate the many uncomfortable symptoms of opportunistic disease associated with HIV/AIDS. In the past five years an innovative herb programme has been introduced to over 4000 households through Community Health Clubs in Zimbabwe, and people living with AIDS have been trained in the growing and use of herbs in nutrition gardens.  Based on well-reputed research (Bartram, 1995) the poster presents 30 of the most useful herbs used in this programme.

The information is presented in the form of a user-friendly matrix, developed specifically for the use of rural semi-literate communities.  It enables those who are growing the herbs to have a ready reference, to ensure the correct herbs are used.  Ailments can be treated with the right herbs by identifying the appropriate symbol on the x axis, (representing areas of the body where symptoms occur), and then following the column down to see which herb is marked for use as an effective remedy. Numbered illustrations of each herb on the y axis are related to photos of each herb around the border. 

A booklet is being printed for the facilitators in each community with more detail on growing and using herbs.  The poster was pretested in a recent training which confirmed that even semi-literate women with little English can access this information accurately. Furthermore, it has now been shown that villagers can be trained to treat symptoms without formal medical diagnosis of disease. Herbal remedies can provide a self-help solution in rural areas where long distances to clinics, lack of transport or funds, prevent medical treatment.