To an ordinary person in and around Kerugoya town in central Kenya, Darkson Kago is just any other villager. This is until you arrive at his home in Gakoigo, a suburban residence of Kirinyaga town in Kirinyaga Central Sub-County that you realise his humble demeanor belies a fountain of knowledge on indigenous herbal medicine.
When we visit, we find Kago waiting for us. We had booked an appointment and so when we arrive, he is delighted to welcome us. Without prompting he immediately starts narrating how and why he ventured into practicing herbal medicine.
It all started back in 1980 when Kago developed a “mysterious” disease that almost took his life. He visited many hospitals in search of treatment without success. One day he visited his grandfather, who, after observing him for a day or two gave him some herbs he claims healed him completely.
“I took with me more herbs when I left for home and took the dose as instructed. It permanently cured the problem that had almost turned my family into paupers,” he says.
“It is from there that I developed an interest in alternative medicine. I had to know the ‘magic’ my grandfather had used to treat me. For three years, he taught me the use of different herbs in the treatment of human beings and animals,” narrates the herbalist.
He goes on, “Every time the old man sent me to collect a particular herb, I would either take the roots or the seeds and ensure I planted the same on my farm. That is how I managed to gather all the herbs on my farm today,’ Kago says proudly.
He has more than five hundred different species of herbs on his two-acre farm, some of which, he says, can only be found in the sprawling Mt Kenya Forest. Some transform into herbal medicine only at night.
He uses the herbs and experience to treat patients with “complicated diseases.”
Johnson Murimi Wagura spoke to us of a problem he had for a long time that Kago treated within four weeks. Murimi was referred to Kago when he discovered he had prostate cancer and was on the verge of giving up the fight. After four weeks of treatment, he improved. His urinary system started functioning well again.
Others who have benefitted from Kago’s herbs include Harrison Murimi Gitau, who dropped out of school when he was in Form Two because of a mental problem. Kago’s own daughter, who had crumps in one of her breasts, too was treated with her father’s herbs. Both now live a healthy life, while Murimi went back to school and completed secondary education.
“I also treat animals. The response to herbal treatment has been good. A neighbour sold to me a cow he thought was dying. I treated it of East Coast Fever and it recovered after a few days. Then a problem arose when the neighbor reclaimed the cow, claiming he sold it to me at a throw away price. We went to court and I won the case. The court ruled that the cow was genuinely mine,” Kago said.
Despite the success, Kago says he is faced with the challenges such as charges for testing his medicinal herbs in a laboratory.
”I take my herbs to Nairobi University, Kabete Campus for testing and approval. After testing, I am able to determine the percentage of the active healing substances in the plant,” he says.
He spends over Ksh100,000 (US$1,000) per year on laboratory tests before he is allowed to administer on humans and animals.
He says, “This is why we encourage local people to embrace herbal medicine since it can cure diseases that are resistant to modern drugs. Our forefathers used herbal medicine before the coming of conventional medicine. This knowledge has been passed from one generation to another. The knowledge encourages communities to take care of our environment.”
With fellow practitioners, the herbalist has founded a group that is championing protection of indigenous trees instead of the exotic species. The campaign has so far given out over five hundred indigenous tree seedlings, some with high medical value.