The Ghanaian Church that “Hated” Medicine: A Parable

One of the most indelible preteen memories of my Ghanaian upbringing is the early Saturday morning ritual of household elementary school-age children lined up in yards throughout the neighborhoods for their weekly purgative treatments. In theory, each child had three alternatives to choose from: traditional “enema,” Mist Alba, and Castor oil. The Mist Alba and Castor oil were the “white man’s” gentrified addition to a long-established traditional health regimen that even detractors grudgingly conceded was effectual and safe.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Your childhood anecdote reminded me that as a child in Uruguay, I had been given castor oil as medicine, I do not remember what was I was suffering from when my parents decided to give it to me. Every one knew, of course, that swallowing it was quite unpleasant. Therefore, when it was to be taken my father came with two spoons full, one in each hand. The first one to go into one’s mouth was castor oil, and the second, that followed it immediately, was honey. That way taking the medicine was not that bad.

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