Circumstances of the discovery - Statement of Eszter Tamás
I was working between 1974 and 1990 in Zaire, the former Belgian Congo and the present Democratic Republic of the Congo as a chemistry teacher in a secondary school and a college. I got over different tropical illnesses such as malaria, amoebiasis , parasitosis but all these have efficient antidotes. It was in autumn 1979 that I began to feel really ill. I had backache, I often had migraine, and I had frequent troubles in the stomach and intestinal irregularity that happened more often. My doctor friends tried to help but in vain; no medicine helped me. In March 1980 I visited my husband in his workplace, the plantation of cinchona of Nyanja, from where we visited together the nearby hospital in Walungu and the missionary nuns working over there. Among others my persistently bad health condition was mentioned and our hosts asked why dont I give a try to one of the local medicinal herbs: if I agree she would give me a dose of the most frequently used ones. It would not do any harm but it might be helpful. She took me along to the garden and showed me a quite insignificant, wild-growing plant. I should pick off 5 shoots, make an infusion and drink it step by step during the day. I started drinking its infusion the following day. By day three my constipation stopped and after 10 days I felt like healed. The result was so surprising that I did not dare to stop drinking the infusion. My symptoms disappeared but I did not know the reason of my illness. The local people around they all knew and used this drug, they even told me their opinion, they only called it as a traditional remedy ending their bad symptoms. They take it against headache though they did not know the reason of the headache. They use it if they have stomach pains, if they have fever, or diarrhea, constipation, if they cough, or don't have appetite, if they lose weight rapidly, if they have spasm or nausea they mix this plant into their food or prepare an infusion. Anyway useful information but I still did not know the name of the disease I came through.