“When most people visit saunas especially here in Kigali, they do it for fun. Little do they know that it is also a life saving venture,” says Mohhammed Kintu a naturo- therapist at Sky Hotel leisure center and Sauna.
To anyone, this may sound like a little exaggeration. However, he goes on to explain: “While conducting a massage we discover that some of our customers have ailments that we can cure and we take them on as patients,” the specialist says.
Today, over 700 patients have enlisted at Sky Hotel under the reflexology department since its inception in 2011 and are being treated for various health problems.
Kintu says that for those who opt for Aromatherapy, they use natural herbs plus nutrition treatment with food supplements to treat a variety of conditions.
Natural therapies originated from Egypt giving way to the development of treatments like reflexology, massage and other healing methods. These therapies were later developed by Europeans after recognizing their effectiveness.
However, researchers are not entirely clear how aromatherapy may work. Some experts believe our sense of smell may play a role.
Many are of the view that the “smell” receptors in your nose communicate with parts of your brain (the amygdala and hippocampus) that serve as storehouses for emotions and memories.
When you breathe in essential oil molecules, some researchers believe they stimulate these parts of your brain and influence physical, emotional, and mental health. For example, scientists believe lavender stimulates the activity of brain cells in the amygdala similar to the way some sedative medications work.
Gerald Ruzindana, studied complementary and alternative medicine and graduated with an advanced diploma in Nairobi-Kenya and Uganda. He now works at Health Inspiration in Kimironko. He says natural therapy is under complementary and alternative treatment.
According to Ruzindana, natural therapies started way back before colonialism where our grandparents used natural healing methods like herbal medicine to treat common diseases.
“Treatments like aromatherapy, that involve steaming the body, were used to treat fever; they used hot stones to treat nerve problems, because we had not yet developed in the modern medicine,” Ruzindana explains.
According to Kintu, there are many people who have ailments like back pains, nerve problems, and vein blockage and are not aware that the treatment is simple and is offered in these health spas.
He says that while taking his customers through an aromatherapy session, he asks them about their medical history and symptoms, as well as any health problems that they may have.
“In most cases, I tell them how to use aromatherapy at home, by mixing essential oils into their bath on a daily basis,” he adds.
“In general, the therapy relieves pain, improves moods, and promotes a sense of relaxation, relieves anxiety, stress, and depression,” Kintu adds.
Kintu explains that in aromatherapy the massage therapist uses up to five oils in a mixture, and chooses the oils based on what you need.
In his office, he displays a variety of these oils and the natural food supplements in bottles of different sizes.
“These essential oils are a volatile, highly concentrated plant extracts, derived from leaves, bark, roots, seeds and flowers.”
Kintu adds that many patients have been recommended to them by professional medical practitioners and they have successfully treated them.
On the other hand, he says that there are some people who should be exempted from the use of some essential oils especially pregnant women, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies.
‘In such cases, people in this category should only use essential oils under the guidance of a trained professional and with full knowledge of their physicians,” he adds.
Nevertheless Ruzindana says his practice is facing three major challenges here in Rwanda.
“I have encountered a challenge of limited funds; natural therapies need an environment which is clean, quiet and organized. Yet to find such places is very expensive, because for someone to benefit from these treatments he or she has to be relaxed and comfortable, these areas are only found around hotels which make it a bit hard to start a natural therapy centre in Kigali.”
Ruzindana also says that there is lack of professional workers here in Rwanda. “There are few practitioners and even the higher intuitions of learning have not yet enrolled such courses, for example reflexology, holistic massage, aromatherapy, and other courses are not being offered.
He laments the lack of raw materials, and the expensive equipments that are used.
“These materials are not locally made and even those available are of a low quality. Things like essential oils and other carrier oils that we use are imported which increases the costs of the services that we offer, thus limiting the market.”
Ruzindana adds that though a good number of people around Kigali have started to understand the importance of natural therapist, some people still have a negative feeling about these spas.
“People think that some practitioners in these centers are not trained because these services are considered to be traditional and in Rwanda traditional healers are referred to as gakondo which means traditional healers,” Ruzindana notes.
Ruzindana dreams of building a first class and a well equipped complementary and alternative healing centre, and also putting up a one stop centre of organic products in the country.