As a follow-up to last week’s article on “Covid Home Remedies”, Voice Woman speaks to 44-year-old Florence Maseko – owner of Eden Health, an outlet that has been in operation for the past 8 years.
Conveniently situated at the Main Mall next to CPS and President Hotel, the outlet sells health foods, herbs, herbal remedies, therapeutic products, educational and religious books and music.
The Mandunyane-born Herbalist narrates her entire journey to becoming an herbalist, a journey that dates back to her early twenties. As a member of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church, Maseko indeed credits her church for shepherding her along this path.
“My church places greater emphasis on caring for our God-given health and encourages us to grow our own food. In fact, my church promotes vegetarianism. My interest grew from these invaluable learnings,” she explains, adding that from a very young age she developed an interest in the field of health care.
“I saw myself working in a hospital setting, helping people and though growing up in the village meant that I did not have immediate mentors to help shape my career choices, I think the doctor’s set toys that my mom used to buy me also added to this interest. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I share a name with the famous founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.”
However, the devout Adventist says upon completing high school, she went on to do her national service [Tirelo Sechaba] in Sankoyo in the North West District where she worked in a clinic. From there she would apply for a nursing course at the IHS. “I passed the first interview but unfortunately failed the secondary one as I didn’t do well in mathematics. So I ended up pursuing other interests altogether.”
But her dream of helping people wasn’t entirely deferred. She would later seriously consider other disciplines of health care where she developed a love for teaching at seminars and camps organised by the church. She would also keenly seek out the many conferences across the region to increase her knowledge. The well-travelled Maseko has taught in Zambia, Congo, Rwanda and most parts of South Africa. In Rwanda, she represented Botswana at a health missionary conference where she met delegates from Australia, America, United Kingdom, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“In my interactions, I sort sponsorship from fellow Adventists as I travelled widely attending seminars. I met with various experts and mentors.”
In 2003, while attending a seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa, a Good Samaritan – an elderly German Adventist named Volp – offered to sponsor her to travel to Brazil and learn from experts in the field of alternative medicine. “He paid for my studies in Brazil. Prior to making the decision to relocate to Brazil, I contacted another brother, a naturopathic physician, Dr Tuleo, whom – together with his wife – I had also met in South Africa while teaching there. He was very helpful in that he encouraged us to read and research extensively, so he spotted a hidden talent in me and invited me to work in the specialty hospital, which he was heading in a place called Almirante Tamandaré in Curitiba, the Southern Brazil. The hospitals are called sanitariums,” she says.
A sanitarium is a medical facility for the treatment of chronic ailments and for subsequent convalescence of patients. Maseko says though she was only there for a period of one-and-a-half years, she learnt a lot in terms of holistic treatment, procedures and the application of traditional medical methods. “Sanitarium are usually located in remote areas away from cities. They use indigenous medicinal plants, clay, organic food and water to treat a myriad of illnesses. Brazilians rely heavily on their environment hence their age-old traditional methods, in fact all Latin American countries do. Their environment is a rich source of medicinal plants. The Amazon rainforest being the largest rainforest in the world, its indigenous people are also very knowledgeable,” she explains.
Maseko says at the sanitarium, patients are taken out early in the morning to walk on grass; “ It had a positive effect on their health as it was therapeutic.” She says she was awed by the recovery of most if not all of the patients. “I remember we treated one gentleman who had a mosquito-borne disease. He had deep septic wounds that would reappear after we had dealt with one. We’d take turns to clean the wound thoroughly every 15 minutes, apply a combination of herbs and seal the wound with clay and dress it. He was on a strict diet, like a fast, where doctors ordered that we serve him only grape juice; morning, noon and night. After 30 days, the wounds were healed, with very little scarring and the patient’s health was restored. His skin was even as supple as a baby’s!”
“Unfortunately, when my sponsor died, my studies were cut short; I was unable to complete my course as a result. It was a very difficult time for me.”
Not one to be easily discouraged, upon her return from South America, the soft-spoken herbalist approached the Ministry of Health to ask for a license to establish a sanitarium but was not given the go ahead. However, she continued to learn more about plants, their healing properties and how to administer them.
“I also wanted to master the use of clay and how it’s applied to different parts of the body as well as the many benefits of herbs. I chose to focus on phytotheraphy and geo-therapy” Phytotherapy is defined as “the use of plant-derived medications in the treatment and prevention of disease”. Geo-therapy is, “the technique using clay and mud to improve health and many diseases. The therapeutic use of clay has outstanding properties: it is refreshing and anti-inflammatory. We have to dig deep into the earth, beneath the second layer, to source the clay. For all patients, the clay is applied to the abdominal area and the lower back,” she says, adding that they work with white clay strictly as it is easy to see the toxin materials absorbed by the clay.
In 2013, she applied for a P50 000 youth grant and bought the porter cabin and stock. “I started with a few products and herbs and because of the location of my shop, I managed to grow my customer base very quickly.”
Maseko says she has been helping people from all walks of life since, from the very knowledgeable to those referred by doctors and loved ones whom I have assisted previously. “There’s private clinics and lifestyle centres, they refer their patients to me, and since the advent of Covid-19, demand for herbs and medicinal plants has increased. There’s one other client I helped by the name Jujuvine. He came here last year the first after lockdown. He has asthma and I think people with underlying conditions were really scared at the time. I helped him with a combination of herbs to ease breathing and loosen mucus in the chest. He shared about my herbs on social media. In that period, I saw a surge in requests for the particular herbs I gave him. I only realised much later when a client told me he saw Jujuvine’s post about my shop on Facebook. I’m not on Facebook, so for a while I couldn’t understand the sudden demand for that particular combination.”
She further explains that one of her clients, a Cardiologist, was diagnosed with breast cancer but because she appreciates alternative medicine, she sort her services. “When we treated her with clay, we’d see fatty substances coming out of her pores. We’d apply the clay to her back and tummy for 2 hours.”
Maseko advises people to respect good diet, to honor the very life God created. “As a herbalist I encourage everyone to eat right. Food is either your poison or medicine. A dog is smarter than a human being, when it’s sick; it stops eating altogether and looks for grass, to self-medicate. As for us humans, we’d even visit love ones in hospitals to give them fast foods and toxic foods high in sugar and carcinogens! We also wait to be sick to start eating right; that very food meant for diabetics is what you should be eating in your youth to avoid ailments in the first place! ”
She ends by stating; “God creates all this colourful food for a reason, yet we consume so much fast foods. God created fruit with seeds, GMOs are sometimes seedless. This should worry us. It’s a pity land is scarce otherwise I’d urge everyone to grow their own food.”