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Traditional treatments of leprosy in Senegal

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African medicine is well aware of the contagiousness of leprosy and of the complexity of its manifestations, which is why it treats patients on multiple levels. These treatments are available for all forms of leprosy and all types of lesions and disorders, including psychological problems.

The multiplicity of medications administered internally and externally allows one to adapt to all clinical situations. It is remarkable that special treatments have also been developed for pregnant women whose children are given both curative and preventative treatments.

The mastery of these treatments requires a long training, extensive knowledge about the virtues of the various plants and their synergetic and complementary associations, and of the new properties bestowed upon them by means of these associations and certain modes of preparation.

Recovery demands long-term perseverance from both the patient and the practitioner as it is often extremely arduous and provokes serious lesions. Yet when the treatment reaches its end, patients regain their health, their psychical appearance is transformed, and a normal life can be envisaged. The evidence has been seen any number of times at the Hôpital Traditionnel de Keur Massar.

The stages of treatment

Anti-leprosy treatment is undertaken in several phases:

1 - The treatment of attacks

This step is made up of heavy yet controlled purging aimed at eliminating bacterial toxins and toxins in tissues which have accumulated during a long incubation period and the development of the disease. This phase is brought to an end when deemed necessary with the help of a glass of cold water.

2 - The preliminary treatment
This step is characterized by tonic-based treatments designed to revitalize the general well-being of the patient. This occurs over a short-term period but it rapidly bears fruit.

3 - The underlying treatment
This treatment is undertaken by means of periodical changes in medication, which occur roughly every six months. In doing so, one averts the danger of the germs becoming acclimated, and the patients are also encouraged by the change in taste of the medications. For example, during rain season in Senegal, herbaceous anti-leprosy plants appear for a short period of time during which they are included in new treatments.

4 - The final treatment
This step is destined to consolidate the success of the treatments that have been carried out.

5 - The precautionary treatment
This short-term phase aims to avert the risk of relapse, and brings the treatment to an end.

The active characteristics of the medicinal treatments

These medicinal treatments act on the pathogenic agent as well as the entirety of the disease. They work towards the elimination of toxins, which avoids the risk of “leprous reactions”.

The treatments have the following virtues:
- Antimycobacterial action
- Tonic action
- Depurative action
- Subsidence of lesions
- Re-coloration of skin blemishes
- Normalization of (extremely rough) skin
- Disappearance of paresthesia
- Progressive recovery of the skin’s sense of cold, heat, touch, and pain
- Partial regression of paralysis and progressive recovery of muscle tone
- Action against neuritis
- Disappearance of edema
- Healing of ulcerations
- Improvement of bone lesions
- Scarring of perforating ulcers of the foot
- Treatment of psychological issues

This brief presentation shows us the riches of traditional anti-leprosy treatments in Senegal and they way they respond to various manifestations of the disease.

A last question comes to mind: what is the origin of this vast knowledge of which the perfection can only astound us?

Dr. Yvette Parès, 17/09/2009
Professor at the University of Dakar from 1960 to 1992
Doctor of Science and Medicine
Director of the Center for Biological Research on Leprosy from 1975 to 1992
Director of the Hôpital Traditionnel de Keur Massar (Senegal) from 1980 to 2003


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