Keeping healthy, Zanzibar style

posted in: Zanzibar | 0
The bare essentials...
The bare essentials…

So, we’ll be heading off to Snowdonia in the spring for some more commissioned work. It’s nearly two years since I climbed Snowdon for the first time, and I don’t know if we’ll have an opportunity to again conquer Wales‘s highest mountain on the next trip, but I’m very excited at the prospect of returning to that stunning mountainous landscape.

I just hope the weather’s a little kinder to us this time round. In April 2012, bad weather forced us to walk mainly along lower trails, although Harri did experience one terrifying white out when he was crossing a mountain alone (I was waiting in the valley below, having dropped him off and driven the long way round to pick him up). It really is scary how quickly conditions change in the mountains so, if anyone is contemplating a visit to Snowdonia this year, please take heed of the weather warnings and make sure you’re well equipped with extra food, clothing, torches, mobiles, etc, etc. Remember, just because it’s spring or summer, it doesn’t mean the conditions will be good. Lecture over.

The good news about Snowdonia almost makes up for the fact that it continues to rain here in south Wales.I heard on the radio yesterday that it’s been the wettest January since 1974, though not quite as wet as 1948…yet! Will today, the last day of the month, bring enough rain to break the record?.

With the rain still falling, the rivers raging and most footpaths reduced to quagmires, there’s little outdoor activity going on here in south Wales.

You’ll remember that as we battle through the elements in wellies and waterproofs, my daughter Elinor is busy exploring the beautiful African island of Zanzibar in temperatures well into their thirties.

So, as I’ve barely ventured from the four walls of my study this past week, it’s farewell from a soggy Walker’s Wife and hello to my lovely daughter in sunny Zanzibar.

A local market in Zanzibar
A local market iZanzibar-style

One of the worst things about the New Year is no sooner have you recovered from the expense of Christmas than you’re handing over the biggest part of your pay packet to cough and flu medicine companies. Personally, I think they lace your January credit card bills with immune system blocking particles.

But if you can’t face a walk to the pharmacy in blisteringly cold wind and rain, why not try some Zanzibari remedies with ingredients you can find at the back of your kitchen cupboards?

The humble cinnamon tree growing wild
The humble cinnamon tree growing wild

Take cinnamon, for example; the trees are fairly short and thin but they actually have many uses. The fancy tubes you can buy in supermarkets are strips of bark that roll up naturally whilst drying in the sun. The root has far more virtues than merely providing a nice spacey kick to your latte. Just smelling it can rid you of a cold or the flu. To use as a decongestant, simply boil with water then place a towel over your head and the bowl and inhale. If it doesn’t work, at least it smells nice. Except, of course, you can’t smell anything, you’re congested!

Turmeric plants growing in the dry ground
Turmeric plants growing in the dry ground

Suffer from blotchy skin? It might be due to a lack of sunshine. Take a root of turmeric and rub it over your face. Leave the yellow residue on for 20 minutes and then wash off. It’s a cheap and easy face mask.

“Doesn’t it stain the skin though?” I asked Mohammed, a spice farmer, as I desperately scrubbed my yellow fingers. “Nooo, not at all. We are black. For you though, yes. You will have a yellow face for a long, long time.”

Turmeric (Small)
No spots but a bright yellow face

Okay, maybe not a face mask but turmeric has many other medicinal uses in Zanzibar, like healing broken bones. Simply add two eggs to turmeric powder and smear generously over the bone and bandage. This remedy will apparently heal the bone in two weeks!

Turmeric is also useful if you’ve managed to escape the British winter and are enjoying tropical weather – it’s used as a super-fast treatment should you succumb to yellow fever. Add turmeric power to boiling water and drink it three times a day; the following morning you will be fully recovered.

At this point I should add that this medicinal advice comes from Mohammed. Elinor’s advice is to get the yellow fever injection before you travel. Prevention is better than cure, particularly, I imagine, the turmeric cure!

While sleeping on your tropical island, you might try repelling mosquitoes by burning lemongrass in your room. And during the daytime, simply rub the leaves directly onto your skin. I’m assured this will keep mosquitoes “at least ten metres away”. I’m presuming it’s the smell that repels them, so I imagine smearing an actual lemon on your skin would work just as well (the smell is almost identical).

Stomach bugs are always a big problem when travelling, but don’t despair. If you’re unlucky enough to find yourself vomiting in your tropical paradise, find some cardamon to chew on.

The spice is also used by local Muslim men to conceal the smell of alcohol and marijuana on their breath – both illegal for Muslims in Zanzibar – from the local police. It’s not foolproof – if police can’t decide whether someone is drunk/high they usually carry out the ‘walking test’ – but at least those anti-vomiting properties prevent some pretty unpleasant hangover symptoms while stuck in a Zanzibari jail cell.

If drinking isn’t your problem but your diet has been reduced to cheese, mince pies and Christmas cake over the festive period, try some papaya. I am assured that eating just one papaya will immediately relieve your clogged intestines; it also helps with blood circulation. Double whammy!

The fast-growing pepper tree seeks support from other trees
The fast-growing pepper tree seeks support from other trees

It doesn’t get more simple than this one: if you have a cold and sore throat, chew black peppercorns. Arguably, Strepsils taste much nicer but they’re the newcomers on the block. The peppercorn remedy has been tried and tested over centuries and, of the three of us (Sabine, another westerner, accompanied me on the tour), Mohammed was the only one without a cold.

In Zanzibar, black pepper is also added to porridge and fed to women immediately after they’ve given birth to help them deliver the afterbirth quickly. A word of caution here: if you think you might like to try this yourself, consider having a home birth (or booking into a private hospital) – a busy NHS midwife is likely to think you are crazy.

So now that you’re feeling better, why settle down to some pampering?

Lipstick2 (Small)
Red lipstick for the femme fatale

The zingifuri tree grows hairy bulbs, much like the horse chestnut tree, and inside you’ll find dozens of red berries. Smudge these together with your fingers and apply to the lips for a lovely, cheap a fiery red lipstick. Unfortunately, the range is currently limited to the one shade.

Not just for baking... a nutmeg straight from the tree
Not just for baking… a nutmeg straight from the tree

And now that you’re de-congested, you’ll want to smell nice so try making yourself a chemical-free perfume. Just mix the red stringy skin of nutmeg – the bit that looks like trickling blood – and ylang ylang petals. This perfume is popular in Zanzibar and referred to as Chanel Number 0, though, if I’m entirely honest, it doesn’t actually smell very nice. In my view, ylang ylang petals are best appreciated on the flower.







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