The forest retreat of orpul: a holistic system of health care practiced by the Maasai tribe of East Africa

J Altern Complement Med. 2001 Oct;7(5):547-51. doi: 10.1089/10755530152639774.


The orpul healing retreat practiced by the Maasai of East Africa, in which decoctions of medicinal plants are taken with large quantities of meat, provides an example of a holistic indigenous system of primary health care. Most of the plants utilized in orpul medicines by the Maasai of Eluwaii, northern Tanzania, have already been empirically demonstrated to possess pharmacologic activities in vitro and/or in vivo. In addition, the songs, meditation, and prayers that form part of the orpul experience are likely to contribute significantly to recovery, particularly in the case of psychosomatic and stress-related illness. This community-based health practice should be preserved and evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Eastern
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Diet
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Tanzania