African herbalist teaches the ancient art of herbal healing


by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey

Now that the community garden movement, the farmers market movement, the legalize marijuana movement and the aquaponics movement are all kicking up dust throughout the nation, the Black community needs to relearn the ancient knowledge of how different herbs affect our bodies so that we can learn the art of caring for ourselves instead of putting our lives in the hands of pharmaceutical dope dealers.

Opesanwo Ifakorede
Opesanwo Ifakorede

Opesanwo Ifakorede is a local herbalist that was originally taught about the world of herbs by his grandmother a generation ago.  He recently did an “Urban Practical Herbalism Workshop” at Deep Roots Urban Refuge in East Oakland. For those that did not get a chance to make it, I really want to whet your appetite for the subject. Check out Opesanwo Ifakorede in his own words.

M.O.I. JR: How long have you been into herbs? How did you get into them?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: I’ve been connected to herbs and roots since I was knee high! My grandma taught me how to organically garden and to identify herbs when my parents were at work.

I am a seventh plus generation herbalist on my mom’s side. I was initiated into Ifa over nine years ago in Nigeria. I’ve traveled to Burkina Faso. Learning about herbs has been a part of my life ever since I can remember.

M.O.I. JR: What is the main reason you stayed with it?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: Herbs are not just things we experience on our skin or in our mouth. It is the smell, the presentness, how we engage or disengage with ourselves and other people. I’ve lived herbs, because this is who I am. This is what I know!

M.O.I. JR: Can you give us five herbs and five practical uses for them?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: Black seed is high in Omega 3, 6 and 9 – all the trace minerals. Historically, black seed has been used for headache, toothache, nasal congestion and intestinal worms.

It has also been used for pink eye (conjunctivitis), pockets of infection (abscesses) and parasites, treating digestive tract conditions, including gas, colic, diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, respiratory conditions including asthma, allergies, cough, bronchitis, emphysema, flu, swine flu and congestion. It is also good for lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol levels, treating cancer and boosting the immune system.

Olive leaf is an anti-inflamatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral, immune boaster and natural antibiotic! Prepared Shou wu, cardamom, Chaga mushroom are useful too. There are so many other “herbs,” and that includes crystals!

M.O.I. JR: Since you have been an herbalist, what kinds of campaigns have you been engaged in?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: Helping to persuade my community to value their health – not just surviving but truly living.

M.O.I. JR: You taught tonic making at your recent workshop. What is that?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: Tonic herbs that I use in this workshop are for not only everyday medicine but, more importantly, balancing preventive medicine!

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about Deep Urban Roots Refuge? How long have you been working with them?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: I’ve been working with Deep Roots Urban Refuge over the last year – my first experience being one of the presenters at the Men of Color Healing Workshop. I’m seeking to make alternative medicine more accessible.

M.O.I. JR: If people don’t make it to the workshop, how could they keep up with you?

Opesanwo Ifakorede: Look for Opesanwo Ifakorede on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tumbler or call 510-239-8794 or email!

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is the author of several books including the upcoming “Halfway to a Hundred: Dispatches from the Black Panther Party.” Tune to and reach him by email at


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