With king sugarcane no longer attractive, Mauritius can profitably divert to cultivating this plant and position itself as an exporter of its products
By Dawood Auleear
Gandia is talk of the town, but this time as a respectable subject, courtesy of the United Nations that have given the green light for Cannabidiol (CBD) products to be used for medical purposes.
As a village boy, I used to watch the ’tilam’ (homemade smoking pipe) stuffed with gandia leaves, crushed by fingers, and being lit and smoked during social gatherings. Old village folks had identified special places, such as in the shade of a tree or under shop verandas, to meet for a smoking session every day at a specific time. We would watch amazed at how the old people enjoyed their puffs, and one could notice how, with every puff, the cheeks of their toothless mouths would collapse and join together.
Cannabis cultivation by Clever Leaves, the world’s largest Colombian company of medical cannabis cultivation and extraction. Photo – healtheuropa.eu
Cuktoo Nana (grandpa Cuktoo) who lived up to eighty years old, like most of his gandia club peers, and who, let’s face it, had a tough life working in the sugarcane fields, would tell me that smoking gandia gave him a better appetite, or that he would find nani (grandma) more attractive. He would add that he had a better and more peaceful sleep. Some ‘pionniers’ (Mauritian soldiers who came back home after serving in the British army in Egypt) would add their bit to the folklore. They and their colleagues in other sections of the army chose Cyprus to spend their (gandia-smoking) holidays, as fences around the houses there were made of gandia plants which also grew wild and were available for free.
Again, in the old days, cinegoers, especially in Port Louis, would recall that they became passive gandia smokers with the smokes coming from ‘Troisième’ which was the cheapest section for watching films. The audience there would have bought the leaves rolled in expired blue lottery tickets, for a ‘fleur’ (flower on a twenty-five-cent piece) or for a ‘cerf’ (a stag on a fifty-cent coin).They claimed that the gandia allowed them to appreciate the music and the film songs better. Compared to the violence caused by alcohol drinkers, for most of the time there are no reported cases of crimes committed by gandia smokers. Nor can one recall anyone dying from overdose of gandia as much as one hears of cases of deaths caused by abuse of alcohol or synthetic drugs.
Let’s leave the folklore aside for a moment. Cannabis has been used for ages by humans for various reasons. There are two opposing schools of thought: one believes that cannabis is harmful to health, an opinion held by, among others, Big-Pharma supporters, and the other one that CBD products can treat 70 per cent of all human ailments. The latter want Big Pharma tamed to stop them influencing political leaders from criminalizing the use of CBD products.
I am a big advocate of legalizing gandia for therapeutic purposes. As far as I know, it is generally harmless and non-addictive. I have witnessed sufferers finding solace or cure when treated with alternative medicine. Parkinson’s patients have seen improvement in their condition after only two days’ treatment. Go to google and you will find out that there are 20 health benefits of cannabis that everyone should know: it relieves chronic pain, improves lung capacity, helps lose weight, regulates and prevents diabetes, fights cancer, helps treat depression, shows promise in autism treatment, regulates seizures, mends bones, helps with ADHD/ADD, treats glaucoma, alleviates anxiety, slows development of Alzheimer’s disease, deals with pain linked to arthritis, helps with PTSD symptoms, helps provide relief to individuals with multiple sclerosis, reduces side effects linked to hepatitis C drugs and increases the effectiveness of its treatment, treats inflammatory bowel diseases, helps with tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease and with alcoholism.
Modern medicine has invented only palliatives for the above-listed ailments and admitted that they have no treatment for some, such as PALMS… Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer.
Luckily interest in traditional medicine, practised for millennia in the world and still popular in Asia and Africa, is growing. Research institutes have increased in number. Scientists more and more are pushing for molecules derived from plants to be used in medical production processes, thereby increasing efficacy of treatments. Advocates for the use of gandia have classified it into various varieties and extracted derivatives in various formulas for the appropriate illness.
Public pressure, especially after the famous incident at Heathrow airport, when a lady was barred entry to her own country with a medically prescribed CBD product, has increased with the result that those countries and governments opposing the use of gandia have finally given way and are allowing the use of the leaves for recreation purposes and treatment of diseases.
Doctors practising alternative medicine are reporting miraculous results in the treatment of PALMS and mental illnesses when they add CBD to their prescriptions. Many countries are competing to become big producers of this new source of wealth. Private companies are raising finance from money markets to develop gandia plantations for medical product development. With king sugarcane no longer attractive, Mauritius can profitably divert to cultivating this plant and position itself as an exporter of its products and derivatives.
But first humanity has to shake off the white coat syndrome and adapt to the new reality being ushered in by CBD. Novelty has always been opposed by human beings but I keep the pious hope that the positive benefits of the use of CBD will encourage universal acceptance in order to achieve a healthier world.
* Published in print edition on 2 February 2021
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