The African cure that almost got away
Traipsing around the world in search of cures for the last 16 or 17 years hasn’t been without its shares of failures and disappointments. For every effective remedy I uncover, I would guess that there are at least a hundred others that prove to be worthless. I can’t remember how many times I’ve traveled half way around the world to some desolate, disease-ridden village in search of a highly touted “miracle,” only to find that it was either an elaborate hoax or something that simply didn’t exist. It’s frustrating to say the least. If I focused on all the failures and dead-end roads I’ve travelled, I would have stopped doing this years ago. That hasn’t been the case however. Even with a young family at home, I’m still on the move.
Last week after returning from yet another trip, I placed my backpack, stuffed with potential new ‘cures’, in the corner. My understanding wife, Wendy, kindly informed me that I needed to unpack it. She then pointed to another pile of backpacks and bags that still hadn’t been unpacked from my last three trips. Lately, I’ve been packing a bag to leave before I unpack from my last trip. (I unpacked all-well almost all-of my backpacks and cancelled a trip last week. I spent the weekend camping with my wife, my nine-year-old daughter, Meagan, and my son, Mason. It was Mason’s seventh birthday.)
I’m leaving again next week. It’s not always easy to leave home, but stories like the following one keep me on the trail of new cures.
Gumshoe, Black Goo, and Voodoo
Several years ago, I received reports of two natural remedies from Ghana in Africa. One was a foul smelling black liquid that was supposed to cure impotency. The other was a powder that reportedly cured asthma and hay fever. After considerable effort, I did finally find the so-called impotency cure. I collected samples and also had samples sent back to my office in Texas. It was a foul-smelling , nasty black liquid. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – before I had a chance to test it, it turned into a mass of orange and gray mildew. The mailed sample that made it back to Texas looked even worse when it arrived. It had fermented and had leaked through all the packaging. I’ve always felt fortunate that I wasn’t arrested by customs or postal authorities for trying to bring it into the country. I was never able to find the powder that reportedly cured asthma. My sources told me that a lady healer or shaman was dispensing the cure to locals. The source of the powder was a closely guarded secret that had been passed down from African shaman to shaman for generations. I was disappointed at not finding the powder, but as I’ve said, it happens a lot.
A Cold Trail Heats Up
Then, a couple of months ago, I got a call from one of my contacts and was told the powder I had been looking for years ago was now being sold in London. After doing some serious investigative work, I discovered that the powder is in fact now available there. The man selling it, Jerry Yamoa, happens to be the grandson of the lady shaman I was trying to locate years ago in Ghana. Jerry told me that his grandmother was a traditional healer who lived near Agogo, in the Ashanti region of Ghana. Her name was Akua Asirifia. During the 1970s and 1980s, she became quite famous in the area for curing people’s asthma problems. Although she was approached on numerous occasions to reveal her secret remedy, she always declined. She was afraid that once the remedy became commercialized it would become too expensive for those who needed it....