By NICHOLAS ANYUOR
The discomfort brought about by a toothache is enough to keep one awake.
So excruciating is the pain, which will first begin as a distant mild ache before building up to a point a person feels like they want to explode.
No ordinary painkillers will get rid of the pain, which will also be accompanied by a headache, making sleeping almost impossible. The fact that dental care is expensive has been a source of frustration for the many people.
Therefore, while visiting the dentist may be out of the question owing to the high cost of treatment, traditional herbalists have searched and found herbs that can get rid of a toothache, knowledge that has been handed down from one generation to the next.
The Maasai believe a toothache is caused by worms, which they claim are big enough to be seen with a naked eye. They also say there are bacteria, which contribute towards tooth decay.
The Maasai use a plant called sogonoi to prepare a cure for toothache. The plant has now been adopted by neighboring communities.
The bark of the plant is chopped into smaller pieces and then dried, before being ground into powder.
A pinch of the powder is put on the aching teeth or rubbed on all the teeth to kill germs and relieve pain.
To relieve the headache that comes with toothache, oil from a local plant called ngetwa is mixed with the powder. The mixture will then be smeared on the point where the head aches soothing away the pain.
The Luo community use koth kiyombi, whose leaves or bark are burnt on a fire in a plate-like pot.
Chicken fat is dipped in the hot powder with the patient being told to open his or her mouth in order to expose the teeth to the smoke rising from the pot. The Luo believe that the worms causing the toothache will soon be seen dropping into the pot and the pain will disappear.
The Luo also use the ochol tree, which is chewed with its juice, said to be effective in relieving toothache.
Florence Juma Nya Kadero, a herbalist in Kisumu’s Kibuye market, explains that ochol can also be used as a toothbrush as its medicinal value protects the teeth from decay. The community also uses the nyang’anga tree, whose bark is ground into powder and can be used as toothpaste. Studies are still ongoing to establish the medicinal properties of these plants.