I accompanied a rainforest preservation group called Seacology. On the Island of Savii, in Western Samoa I spent ten days among the villagers, learning about their natural diet, attended a Kava ceremony and left with some ethnobotanical knowledge that was surprisingly effective. Here the indigenous knowledge of medicinal application of plants was most profound and advanced of all places I visited thus far.

To see a 12 year old boy return from the forest, asked to fetch the male version of leaves of a tree of which professional Etnobotanist had, to that point, not been able to tell the difference between the sexes was quite impressive. The chemical, opposed to the topical difference was all the old village healer cared about; to get the right leaves to treat a particular ailment, a fading wisdom.

The healer knows that the difference between the male and female is the difference between a possible cure or ongoing suffering. Until recently, without access to modern medicine, of which not always a positive outcome can be expected, these traditional healers have proven to be remarkably effective, in some instances, even beating synthetic (conventional) medicine.

Then there was the great dietary differences that set these people aside from most other cultures.
Eating a diet largely compiled from taro roots, fish, pork, white rice and starchy vegetables these people are mostly healthy but sadly often also obese. From a genetic point, no other group of people have naturally such large calves and shoulder muscles without doing particular exercise to stimulate this kind of muscle mass. It was simply shocking to see nearly all males to have champion body builder calves muscles and if they would limit the pork and starch intake the melting fat layer would reveal great, muscular bodies. It is no wonder how many of them are drafted by American colleges to play football.

Despite the pure source of their “natural” diet, the pork and high caloric, starchy food, turn in to fat,
leading to disproportional levels of atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and death at a relatively young age. These symptoms are amplified when Polynesians arrive in the US and switch to an all American junk food diet, which is, in essence, also devastating to white Americans but especially American Indian and African American communities, who, besides the processed nature of their food, also consume large quantities of fat and starch after sacrificing traditional, natural ingredients for potato flour, corn by products, beef products and soft drinks.

Conclusion: no matter what source (organic, synthetic, conventional), too much of the wrong foods leads to disease and eventually kills.

Catherine Sanson

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