Gĩkũyũ Folk Remedies in a Scientific Age

In traditional Gĩkũyũ society, women drew water from the nearest river or stream. They carried the water on their backs in a large earthenware pot, Ndigithũ, or a sizable guard, Kĩnya kĩa maaĩ. The preferred stopper or lid for the pot was usually the Banana Flower, Mũkoro or Mwongoro wa irigũ. When the men began to work in Nairobi and other towns they brought to their wives in the village the metallic cylindrical 20 liter container as a replacement for the Ndigithũ. It had a metal twisting lid of about 2 – 3 inches diameter and the first thing a woman did was to throw the lid away and replace it with the Banana Flower. Even today in the village, the Banana Flower is the preferred lid for the 20 or 10 liter ex vegetable oil plastic containers that have become the new water containers.

Modern plastic water containor with Mwongoro lid

It was eons after completing my miseducation that I came to understand the science behind the women’s Banana Flower preference as a stopper. As you squeeze it to tighten it, the inner juices of the flower drip into the water. After a week or two when it dries up the woman exchanges it for a new one. 

According to new research, the Banana Flower is a power capsule of healing properties especially for women. Some of these healing properties are:

  • Control of menstrual flow
  • Strengthening the uterus
  • Increased lactation in mothers 
  • Treats anaemia

Did the Gĩkũyũ woman in having such a watertight bond with the Banana Flower know of its healing powers? I think we can answer in the affirmative. Traditionally the Gĩkũyũ woman controlled her menstrual flow to a mere trickle using this and Castor oil massages. She could go through the magic for two days and sometimes just a day! This is in heavy contrast to the quagmire of the flood in today’s woman that sometimes lasts for 5 days with terrible cramps and pains. Of course we are civilized and have pads and modern diseases like fibroids to prove it.

When the so-called white man came to Gĩkũyũland, he wrote, “The Kikuyu native possesses nothing but a gross and ignorant empiricism exploited as he is by sorcerers, wizards and diviners and quacks.”

Today the vast Gĩkũyũ plant knowledge and wisdom has been well documented by the likes of Francis Mũrũga Gachathi in his Kikuyu Botanical Dictionary, a guide of over 400 plants describing their medicinal uses and cultural value. Gachathi’s Botanical Dictionary is indeed one of the ‘must haves’ in every Gĩkũyũ home’s bookshelf. It is the first aid in any health challenge in the home and a guide to good living and health. Another academic article by University of Nairobi dons published by Tang.Org is a survey of medicinal plants traditionally used for the management of human diseases in Nyeri County. It is a downloadable gift to the readers of this site. (Download PDF)

Yours truly, I Mũkũyũ, gathers all manner of herbs and using a modern vegetable juicer to extract the juice from Mũngei – Gallant soldier, Mũceege – Blackjack, the Banana Mwongoro,  Aloe vera, Terere, Spinash, Kales, Cerery, and many other herbs. By blending them with freshly pressed sugarcane juice and ginger, we are able to make wonderful and healthy vegetable smoothies. In Mũkũrweinĩ, these smoothies are taken as remedies for all manner of ailments like joint pains, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and many more thus bridging the gap between traditional knowledge systems and the scientific knowledge of this age which has accepted and embraced these diseases as inevitable consequences of civilization.

 The civilized Gĩkũyũ man today is frightened to death by any passing so-called virus from he knows not where. He is a slave chained and sold to the pharmaceutical industry. In every small village or shopping centre today in Gĩkũyũland you will see a little shop called “Chemist”, a sales outlet for Big Pharma licensed by a certain Poisons Board and embrazoned with adverts of all manner of medicines. You will also likely see Mũngei and blackjack growing behind the shop.


Sugarcane juice
Sow thistle
Gallant soldier
Cerery stalk

22 thoughts on “Gĩkũyũ Folk Remedies in a Scientific Age

    1. Bwana Koigi Sow Thistle is Ithũnga, a favourite of rabbits and a very good vegetable for Ugali. Animals like goats and rabbits were created not mainly for eating but to point to us what is best. Look at a rabbits hair, its eyes, its libido.. Let them teach us.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is a really beautiful piece.
    You mean our culture was this intelligent? I used to only think Mwongoro was just a lid with no meaningful purpose.
    On the juice part, the juices you make at Mukurweini are the best natural fresh juice I have taken in my life.
    From April last year, I replaced my lunch box with a 350ml glass of juice and it really did wonders. My digestion complexity disappeared completely, my belly’kitambi’ reduced and panting/breathing difficulties after short distance running is a thing of the past.
    I used to hear that Mwongoro is such a sweet delicacy. Can you please expound on that?


  2. This information is very enlightening and eye opener so that we became more sensitive to what nature has given to us as remedy for ailments that we find our selves facing in this life. Thanks.


    1. Above Classic Butchery and next to Kuwait Petrol Station. A stones throw from the main Matatu Stage


  3. Thank you for the enlightenment. Mathunga truly have medicinal value. They relieve nasal congestion and brings down fever. Perhaps in this COVID 19 ERA, we should also advise our people to use it.


  4. I take this opportunity and express my joy. Am so happy and delighted learning my culture and traditions. So educative and informative. Keep me posted . Thanks
    On Sat, May 2, 2020, 10:55 Gīkūyū Centre for Cultural Studies wrote:
    > Mũkũyũ posted: ” In traditional Gĩkũyũ society, women drew water from the > nearest river or stream. They carried the water on their backs in a large > earthenware pot, Ndigithũ, or a sizable guard, Kĩnya kĩa maaĩ. The > preferred stopper or lid for the pot was usually the” >


  5. Very imformative, am realizing now how our beautiful culture has been eroded by nyakeru.
    We surely must go back to our roots


  6. Thanks to be my eye opener,Iwish nyumba ya Mumbi will go back to the traditional food and herbs medicine. Thanks


  7. This is great information! Where can one source the Kikuyu Botanical dictionary? The limitations of Western medicine and the harm of western lifestyles have been there for all to see. The need to document and popularize effective remedies from our rich flora and fauna is taking on a new urgency as non-communicable diseases once unknown in our shores soar. What you are doing is invaluable in the long journey of restoring our rich heritage.


  8. My upcountry is Mukurwe-ini and I can’t fathom the number of times you have mentioned it in these stories. I feel much appreciated and I also appreciate you for gathering this knowledge and imparting it on us younger people


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