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Rencontre des Médecines in Dakar: an initial assessment

Yvette Parès (1926-2009) was a researcher and doctor of medicine, who was initiated by a Peul teacher into the practice of traditional medicine. She discovered its treasures, and came to believe that all the medicines of the world also contained such treasures. Yvette Parès thought that the day would come where a meeting between doctors would not only be important, but necessary. She was unfortunately unable to organize such a meeting during her lifetime, but two close friends — Anne de Constantin and Dr. Béatrice Milbert — took on the task and organized this meeting in Dakar, which represents a first! Anne tells us about it.

“For the last several months, we had wanted to organize this meeting in order to continue the work of Yvette Parès, who was the founder of the Hôpital Traditionnel de Keur Massar. We were aware of the greatness of the medicine that is practiced at Keur Massar, and we knew that this meeting had become possible as some doctors and scientists are seeking alternatives. Yvette Parès was a pioneer, I would say a prophet — one who had predicted the current difficulties of Western medicine: chemical-based drugs that are largely incompatible with a living body and that are sources of pollution, and a sharp rise in diseases because of this pollution.

Western botanist-researchers travel the world to discover new plants that they then classify before they extract the active ingredients. Yet these ingredients are not the only ones to be active — the entirety of the plant is active. We neglect the wholeness of the plant as a coherent and living entity in order to extract a molecule and we turn in the wrong direction. Doctors and researches like Luc Montagnier are searching for new ways to treat diseases that are more and more invasive and resistant to antibiotics, for example. Professor Montagnier agreed to be filmed to speak to the public at the meeting in Dakar, and told us that all the medicines of the world are worthy and important for the future, and that they have treasures to share.

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From right to left: Anne de Constantin, Brother Elie of the Keur Moussa Abbey, Talap Sarr, botanist, and Djibril Bâ of the Hôpital de Keur Massar.

The next day, all the speakers who had come from France met at Keur Massar. After having visited the botanical garden and the different sites for the preparation of plants, they had an in-depth discussion. It was fascinating to hear this valuable and precise exchange on health issues between specialists from various fields.

Some were just discovering the subtlety of the knowledge of Senegalese traditional medicine: complex blends of plants in well-established proportions, which act on a global level — viruses are attacked from multiple directions and not from a single active ingredient. As Yvette Parès explained: “In traditional forms of treatment, pathogens are under attack by a formidable army, which bring together a multitude of beneficial principles provided by these complex medications.” Tradi-practitioners continue to conduct research in this vein.
Over the course of these few days, I was able to fully realize the treasures of this invaluable tradition, and of those who study it so that it can live on, like long ago the artisans of the Middle Ages or some forms of apprenticeship today. This training continues over the years, and each step adds to one’s comprehension. It is a living tradition, not one that is locked into the past. It is ready to react when faced with contemporary illnesses and to offer the necessary antidotes.

These few days opened a breach in the wall that separated our knowledge from that of traditions: those who had come from France knew little about these traditional teachings, but, beyond the specialties of each participant, a real exchange took place.

This exchange continued during the course of a visit to the Keur Moussa Abbey, which is located an hour from Keur Massar and home to some thirty monks. We were invited to lunch by Brother Elie who cultivates a garden of medicinal plants that he uses to treat patients. He knew Yvette Parès and often had discussions with her. The Father Superior came to meet us under the grapefruit trees, which was an exceptional moment in a magnificent garden, giving us the impression of being close to heaven.”

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Djibril Bâ shakes hands with the Father Superieur of the Keur Moussa Abbey.

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