The Unfortunate Reality Of Botanical Racism and How We Can Imagine Healing Without It

woodne ladle and chopping board with ginger
Alyssa Guzik
February 7, 2024

Across all of the nations and territories of the African continent, through the pockets of diaspora worldwide, Black people have been tending to, studying, and applying the healing powers of plants and herbs for millennia. Here’s how.

#1: Herbalism Over Prescriptions

The collective knowledge of plants and herbs that spread throughout the diaspora is based on the understanding that medications are potent compounds derived from plants. Not every treatment plan needs to include an abundance of synthetic chemicals to provide relief, a sentiment Black folks have always understood.

#2: Food As Medicine

The belief that foods are either “good” or “bad” descends directly from the supremacist notion that ethnic foods are inherently unhealthy. The Black collective has always understood that food can nurture and heal. From the root vegetables and fruit trees we’ve grown to the herbs, spices, and plants we’ve cultivated, food – like in many traditional African-based dishes – is nutrient-rich and can heal from the inside out.

#3: Holistic Healing

Physical illnesses manifest from a variety of underlying causes, from stress to vitamin deficiencies or even mental illness. Everything from musical therapy to meditation and massage is used to treat illness, and these forms of healing often include oils such as rosemary and lavender; seeds such as cacao, bark from trees, and roots.

Had colonial racism not put our deep understanding and practice of herbalism in the category of “the other,” how far could medicine have advanced? What ailments would have been prevented or cured?

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