One hot and slow afternoon at the clinic in Mafi Seva, a taxi drove up with an old woman accompanied by three of her adult children.   While she lay sprawled out in the back seat, the children got out and approached us to ask if it might be possible to treat their mother.

They explained that while walking in the fields about three years earlier, she had experienced a sharp pricking pain on the tip of the large toe of her left foot. It had immediately become quite inflamed, and she went to the hospital for treatment. The inflammation subsequently had subsided until about four months ago when with no apparent cause it re-emerged. This time though the inflammation spread and treatment at the hospital had proved ineffective.

Hearing their story, I suggested they bring her over to the consulting area, but they replied that she could neither mover on her own power nor speak, and hoped that she might be examined in the car.

So, I slid into the back seat to take a look. She appeared to be in a semi-comatose state but aware enough to be experiencing pain as her face was in a grimace. The bottom of the toe in question was quite black as was an ulcerated area about the size of a human hand on the upper foot in front of the ankle.

The children were not able to provide any other relevant information. But the lesions were profound and serious, appearing quite septic. There was no way to be sure, but it seemed reasonable to surmise the ‘pricking’ in the field was from the bite of a snake or some other poisonous animal.

One remedy came to mind immediately that was well known for septic wounds and black discoloration – Gunpowder. Historically used for blood poisoning arising from cuts, snake bites, or, ironically, from gunshot wounds, in homeopathic dilutions, it has remarkable curative properties for all kinds of obstinate wounds or bad infections.

After the remedy was made up into a liquid solution and handed over to the children with instructions to give daily doses for several weeks before getting back to us, the three of them sat silently with their eyes going back forth between the small vial of clear liquid and myself. Doubt, incredulity and disappointment were written on their faces.

I am not sure what they had expected – perhaps a direct treatment on the wound or injections or more impressive looking medicines, but my assurance that the medicine was indeed quite potent seemed to assuage them very little. Nevertheless, they said they would dispense the medicine as directed and let us know how it went.

One unfortunate aspect of working at the clinic for a mere three weeks was that follow-up on many of the patients was either incomplete or nonexistent. Fortunately, a little serendipity afforded a bit of feedback in this case.

About a week after seeing the old woman and shortly before I was to leave, I went to the weekly market in town accompanied by a young man from a neighboring village. Dodze (pronounced ‘doe-jay’ - or at least when I said it that way he did respond), was an aspiring homeopath and often acted as my translator since he had a very credible command of English.

The market was a kaleidoscopic mix of people, colors and smells, and a welcome change of pace from the languid pace of village life. We walked amongst the stalls of materials, clothing, food and other merchandise, much of it cheap and Chinese – including a lot of knock offs of American sportswear.

My intent was to purchase some of the beautiful Ghanaian cloth I had seen people wear as well as score a lunch of ‘kenkey’ – a steamed corn cake wrapped in a leaf not unlike a Mexican tamale. Dodze, on the other hand, was occupied with chatting up just about everyone in sight. There were people from his village, people from his congregation including a pastor or two, people from his school days and more than likely people he didn’t really know at all.

Anyhow, it was a enjoyable and successful sortie, after which we took the crowded ‘tro-tro’ van back to the village. On the way back, Dodze asked if I had noticed that one of the old woman’s daughters had come up to us at the market.  I was a bit embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t recognized her, but curious to know what she had to say.

Apparently, her mother had started responding to the remedy immediately. The wound was turning from black to red, the pain was diminishing and her mental capacity had returned to the extent that she was talking again. She said that though they were dubious at first, the family was very encouraged.

Though it was still early in the curative process, the changes were fairly dramatic for such a short period of time.   Hopefully, the Gunpowder will work its magic.