Global African Healing with Sufia Giza

Sufia Giza in Tobago

Nutritionist, herbalist, activist and so much more: Sufia Giza shares her world of healing. She is spearheading an effort to compile an “herbal database” and complete a documentary film all to evangelize the power wholistic health. Bringing together her Gullah heritage, her ties to the Tobagonians of the Caribbean and a little Occidental technology, Sufia Giza goes along way towards her goal: The picture above shows her in a market Scarborough, getting coconut water, having traveled thousands of miles to Tobago. Sufia writes, “[coconut water] is so potent that it can be used as an IV Drip…”

Bryan Wilhite: Dr. Vernon Coleman of Devon, England pulls no punches when he writes, “The savage truth is that most medical research is organised, paid for, commissioned or subsidised by the drug industry (and the food, tobacco and alcohol industries). This type of research is designed, quite simply, to find evidence showing a new product is of commercial value.” Is this sentiment one of the motivating factors behind your research?

Sufia Giza: No! Commercial profit is not my motivation. I first wanted to create a unique herbal compendium/database specifically for Afrikan descendant people because that level of research is missing within the Wholistic or Alternative Medicine field. As with most research, scientific or otherwise, our community is often overlooked. My work on this venture in Tobago has been completely independent, financed solely out of my own pocket because I see the value of preserving this vital folk or “bush” medicine information. Another reason was an attempt to help preserve the folklore for future generations. In terms of cultural traditions, many useful practices of the past are being forgotten or lost as elders make their transition to the ancestors. As a Gullah descendant, I’m closely connected to African culture, so it’s important for me to retain, as well as pass on the traditional information. Lastly, I was attempting to connect the dots between the Global African Family by linking up Afrikans, (the Gullahs and Tobagonians) in the Diaspora.

rasx: Forgive my weakening writing skills! By no means do I assume that your research is subsidized by major commercial drug companies. On the contrary, I can see the home-spun sincerity in your efforts. I was just wondering if the behavior of these large commercial drug companies “inspires” you find an alternative way to healing that is both culturally coherent and genuinely effective. Do you think that we should actively find alternatives to or supplements for the commercial pharmaceutical establishment?

I do think it’s necessary for us to sometimes go outside the traditional medical establishment in order to be more proactive in terms of our health issues. I speak from my own personal experience after seeking health care for an industrial injury.

Sufia Giza: Please, no offense taken. It was a good question just the same. Yes, I am inspired to act on my own behalf because if my health depended on using commercial drugs I would have several problems. First economics, I couldn’t afford them on my fixed income. Second, being an Organic, Vegan for more than 10 years the toxicity of fillers and other by-products would poison me. That is if the numerous other negative side effects associated with Dr. prescribed pharmaceuticals, which killed over 100,000 people last year, didn’t affect me.

Buy this book at! I do think it’s necessary for us to sometimes go outside the traditional medical establishment in order to be more proactive in terms of our health issues. I speak from my own personal experience after seeking health care for an industrial injury. For reasons related to pending litigation, I was shut out from getting quality rehabilitation treatment after a 1989 work related car accident, which left me Permanently Disabled and in crises. Thus, I turned to Alternative Medicines like, Herbs, Chiropractics and Acupuncture, for example. So the SANKOFA Study Ethnobotanical Research Project on Medicinal Herbs of Tobago stems from that industrial injury trauma and many other experiences. In addition to the whole economic piece, as the profit margins of commercial pharmaceutical companies are outrageous. Allopathic Medicine is Big Business, and many like me cannot afford the high price of “good health.” I try not to focus so much on the Corporate/Commercial aspects in this field because I’m not in competition with anyone. The Creator is expressed in abundance and this field is so wide open. In terms of what I’m doing, only a few researchers have ventured into this area, such as, Dr. Wolde Kyte, Faith Mitchell [author of Hoodoo Medicine: Gullah Herbal Remedies] and Dr. Sebi. In fact, like them, I’m addressing an unmet need or unique niche in terms of demographics, (i.e.—the AFRIKAN Family). And that is my biggest inspiration. I want to connect the fabric of the global Afrikan family, starting in the Diaspora with Gullahs & Tobagonians, then linking up with others in the Americas, our Afrikan Homeland, Europe or Asia, so that I can compile a comprehensive database of Global Afrikan Herbal Home Remedies that can be cross-referenced from anywhere on the globe for FREE. As you know, it’s about the HEALING… Blessings will follow, and whether or not that includes finances, isn’t the motivating force. As the African Proverb says, “each one, teach one!”

rasx: Do you see the impact of your message changing the minds of our African-American?

Noni Sufia Giza: I would hope so, but I’ve already spent a million woman hours and hundreds of dollars on people within my own family to help them with illnesses, without much success because they weren’t ready for the information/healing at the time. It’s one of those things where, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, so I can release the desire to help everybody by having had these types of disappointing experiences. However, sometimes you do throw an idea/energy out there and it will take hold, as my mother has been taking Noni now for a few years. After a long impasse, she turned to me out of desperation while struggling with low iron and unable to proceed with a “necessary” medical treatment until her iron level was high enough. Long story short, she used Noni Juice and got results. When she stopped taking the Noni, her iron dropped, so she had conclusive proof that it was in fact working for her. This was a major milestone, as my mom’s a retired nurse. Despite the recurring question from numerous people about my opinion on the Monopoly of pharmaceutical companies or corporate greed of medicine/doctors, I really don’t give that much energy. There’s room for everybody here, but I think the issue of Self Determination is even bigger than that, so I’m simply going about my own self-business to do the things I need to do for me and mine to be healthy & happy. In addition to my already having a negative experience with the Medical Industry, another thing I consider is the budget cuts and the state of Medical Facilities in urban areas like Los Angeles’ King/Drew Hospital, which was slated to close, but saved; however, with a loss of 400 doctors and nurses. Analysis of this situation should automatically require us to become more pro-active in our health choices. Convincing people of anything that challenges them philosophically creates cognitive dissonance when they just can’t wrap their mind around the idea, so I’m hoping that exposure to the material is enough. All I can do is be an example of what it is I’m doing. In terms of demographics, I plan to target the community at large, but no soapboxes for me in trying to reach my people. I can see marketing the SANKOFA Study research by direct mailings to specific groups or service organizations: NCNW, NAACP, Linxs, etc., NGO’s and Environmental Orgs., Screenings of the documentary for public and private groups, Alternative Healing Schools, Film Festivals, Databases on CD-Rom/DVD or the Internet and other venues like Herbal Healing Tours that will take visitors to meet the Herbalists in Tobago. These types of approaches will allow sharing of the research with a wide variety of people.

rasx: I agree. No soapboxes. Most people suck. This is to say, “Most people consume products without much thought about what they are taking in and where it comes from.” And even when they are thinking about it, the thoughts are not in line with action. A family member smoked crack right in front of me and tearfully pleaded with me never to get hooked on drugs. Another family member smokes cigarettes and curses the day he ever started smoking. Another elder in my family takes a drug to control her cholesterol level and intends to use this drug FOREVER. There is no thought about what nature can do for her—about controlling her cholesterol by changing her diet. As you say, this requires self-determination. One must become a disciple to a self-made world discipline. To present this “bizarre” world the average American appears to me extremely difficult. So with much sadness let’s leave these people behind with hope and love for their speedy recovery: Now, can you share with us at three of the remedies from your herbal database?

Sufia Giza: Because it’s summer and mosquitoes are biting, here’s a great repellant remedy I was given in Tobago by sister Chi Stewart, who relocated there from D.C. Take 4 drops essential oils of Citronella & Eucalyptus and mix into 1 ounce carrier oil, like olive or jojoba oil. Rub on exposed skin for protection as often as needed. Citronella can also be used to keep ants & other insects from entering your home by placing a barrier line near the entry point, which they will not cross since the scent, as well as direct contact work to repel them.

Next, since such illnesses as High Blood Pressure & Diabetes are rampant in the community, cleansing the kidneys is very important. Use dandelion tea available in health stores or pick leaves from yard, dry them completely (1–2 days), then steep leaves in hot water for 4 minutes and drink. Do not add sugar/sweetener, as this is not a “fun” tea, but is medicinal instead. Dandelion greens can also be added to salads and the root can be dried, powdered and used like coffee.

Lastly, slippery elm powder can be used for sore throats/coughs by placing a heaping teaspoon of powder into a cup of warm almond or rice milk. Add honey or maple syrup if needed. I suggest non-dairy milk, since cow’s milk is for calves and most Afrikan descendant people are lactose intolerant and cannot digest cow’s milk. The other thing is that dairy products create mucus in the body, and the mucus is counter-productive to good health.

Some of these herbs may be growing in your own yard or are available at your local health food store. For those in the L.A. area, Dr. Goss’ New Body store in Compton & Sister Sharon at New Body Inglewood are a good source for finding herbals and information.

rasx: Thanks very much for taking the time to share with us. Is there anything I may have neglected to ask you that you would leave us in parting?

Sufia Giza: I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my work on Medicinal Herbs with the kinté space. I hope the information will help, as I feel that exposure is everything. If people do not know about things, then they have no ability to make better choices for themselves.

For those adventurous spirits, we’ll be starting Herbal Healing Tours to Tobago in early 2004 to meet the Herbalists I interviewed and experience the many benefits of Tobago “bush” medicines first hand. Lastly, since screening the SANKOFA Study documentary locally, I’ve had several requests for consultations, so I would like your audience to be able to contact me should they want further information or consultations. In terms of qualifications, in addition to 23 years of experience in Herbalism I also have a 1988 Master’s Degree in Counseling and a 1982 Certificate in Nutrition. I see Herbs as well as Vegetarian (organic/non-toxic) Lifestyles as part of good nutritional practices. I do personal nutrition counseling in the L.A. area and offer consultations by phone (909) 684-9098 or email Prevention is better than intervention any day…