Let food be thy medicine” – wise words to live by. In times of Corona, good health, a nutrient-rich diet and medicine are all at the forefront of many a mind, which means there couldn’t be a better time to introduce the spiraled Living Pharmacy garden at Kenya’s Angama Mara Safari Lodge.
Although The Living Pharmacy was designed and built during my last visit three years ago, the Shamba team hadn’t had a moment to install its plants until the recent absence of their much-loved guests. The team are usually kept frantically busy growing and supplying ‘garden-to-table’ fresh produce to the lodge’s kitchens or guiding guests to handpick their salad greens during a Shamba Lunch.
The pharmacy lives in the Shamba’s Zone 5 just behind the Manyatta and close to the chook hotel – (yes, even the chickens at Angama reside in style). It consists of two comma-shaped raised beds which morph into spiraling towers offering a range of easy-to-clutch natural remedies.
The two beds mirror each other and welcome visitors to sit on their curved lower walls whilst the shamba keeper explains the plants’ medicinal values. In the beds surrounding the spirals, you’ll find larger sprawling herbs and indigenous medicinal trees, many of which the Maasai use daily.
Plant varieties are arranged according to which hemisphere of the body they treat – the upper body in one spiral and the lower body in the other.
The healing properties of the available plants can be enjoyed in a variety of applications:
• Freshly brewed herbal teas are known to treat many an ailment and many of which happen to be delicious. My favorites are cinnamon basil and chamomile (separately) but others to try are ‘Bushman Tea’ (congestion), lemon balm (fevers, anxiety and depression), peppermint (upset stomach), fennel (halitosis), rosemary (depression, memory, circulation and even baldness) and lavender (strong anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties)
• Dried leaves: some medicinal herbs, such as Moringa, are easier to absorb when the leaves are dried. I’ll never forget the aroma of a medicinal healer’s hut where bowls of herbs were placed to dry on top a wood burner oven
• Fresh juices extracted from leaves and stems, tamed with a drop of honey and a kick of ginger. Some seasonal health juices on offer include green alkaliser, slick citrus, and beetroot boost
• Fresh leaves: simply chew on a Bushman’s Tea leaf and your congestion disappears. James, the head shamba keeper, reported on our recent Zoom catch-up call that guests found this one most effective
• More on the scrumptious side, health smoothies are loaded with antioxidant goodness thanks to moringa leaves and blueberries and are flavored with frozen banana and Maasai honey
• Fresh flowers: calendula petals have anti-inflammatory properties and are used to treat skin conditions. They also add a yellow coloring and spicy, saffron-like flavor to soups, salads, herb butter or pasta
• Flower buds, fresh or dried, such as dandelion have excellent detoxifying properties
• Floral tea: viola’s ancient name is ‘heartsease’ as a tea made of its flowers is an effective treatment for blood pressure
• Roots: Num num roots are boiled into a soup-like broth and used to treat toothache
• Chopped stems: not healing but still fun, such as the African Olive, are used as (plastic-free) toothbrushes
These are just a few of the remedies on offer. For the full experience James will tailor your next visit to the Shamba to meet your healing requirements.
The next time you’re in the pharmacy checkout aisle, I dare you to close your eyes and imagine you’re circling Angama Mara’s herb spirals and citrus labyrinth with the smell of freshly cut lemon balm in your nose, the Maasai Mara wilderness below you and a herb bundle clutched in your hand. The visualization alone is likely to kick start your body’s immune system.