My grandma was just a miracle worker! I used to look forward to those Christmas visits to my village in December, which was really when I got to see her and my aunties and spend some time with them. I remember my 8-year-old self, running to her in tears after having fallen and scrapped my knee or hurt myself. She would say something to make me laugh, and then she would get some leaves, rub them together till they were slightly wet, and then apply on my bruise which would heal very nicely in a short time.
Fast forward to my 15-year-old self, when I would be in pains due to my monthly periods, and she would encourage me to drink some bitter juice, which she got by vigorously washing these same leaves with a little water, and then straining with a sieve to remove as much of the leaves as possible, leaving just the liquid behind. I tell you, it was very bitter, but it always seemed to do the trick and relieve my pain. I remember one time I was quite ill with fever, and this time she boiled these same leaves in a big pot, and asked me to sit over the steaming pot, and covered me with a huge blanket. As uncomfortable as it was, I sweated out the fever, and was back to myself in no time.
It was in my teens I realised what these leaves were, and that they were capable of solving so many problems. They were called bitter leaves or ‘onugbu’ in my native language. These same leaves were used, and are still used, to prepare a special meal which is called ‘ofe onugbu’ – a delicacy that always left my dad smiling. It seemed there was no limit to what these leaves could do.
As I grew up, I continued to use these leaves to solve my period pains. I also found that family members had testimonies of these leaves being beneficial for stomach ulcers, insomnia, diabetes, fertility, and generally cleansing the system.
Looking back, it’s no wonder these women in my family always seemed to be so strong and in control of situations in their lives. I don’t remember them being so ill that they were incapacitated.
Having this remedy to various ailments certainly empowered them to carry on, even when things were so hard. My grandma has since passed on, but those memories of how she used bitter leaves to help me solve problems while growing up will always leave me with nostalgia and will continue to empower me to seek solutions and carry on. So, on this International Women’s Day let us remember fondly and thank all these strong women, who have made us who we are today and let’s their legacy be passed to all daughters.