Ras Ills is a herbalist who has dedicated his life to the ancient practice of natural medicine. He has received many awards for his work including his most recent award, The 2011 Oshun Mecca Award, which recognized his contribution to the natural health industry and the many people he has cured.
Ras Ils was born into a family that understood the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, and he decided to study it on a scientific level when he was about 13. At this point, he started to pick up books, study it on a more advanced level and made botany his way of life.
He researched ancient medicine, which teaches you how to harness the medicinal properties of plants and barks. Much of this knowledge, which our ancestors used, has sadly been forgotten, and today few people understand how to harness the power of plants.
Plants and herbs are essentially chemical compounds. That is why they can work as efficiently as the current method of synthesized chemical compounds; which are the modern drugs that most doctors prescribe. In both cases, the chemical compounds bind to receptor molecules in the body.
However, as with any drug, this means that plants and herbs can be just as useful as conventional medicines, but also have the same potential to cause harmful side effects. However, Ils has spent his life learning and understanding how each plant works, so he can ensure that his medicines heal.
“Almost everybody who comes along to me gets cured. I have cured bronchitis, cancer and colds. When people come with cancer, it depends on how far down the line it is as to whether I can cure them or not. If they are too far down the line I will tell them to deal with a conventional medical doctor; however, if I can catch it in time, I can rid the body of it.”
Ras Ils lives by himself in St John, and almost everyone in the village is related to him in one way or another including cousins, uncles, and aunts. Ils became a Rastafarian after he had decided to become a herbalist. The Rastafarian way of life mirrors that of the herbalist in that you ‘live’ your beliefs.
“I have lived the Rasta life for 36 years since I was 16. I only eat natural foods and eliminate flesh and the things that I consider bad for my system. Rastafarian isn’t about going to church; it is about changing your way of life.”
Ils explained that to become Rastafarian you have to alter your whole, complete self. You must only put things into your body that are healthy and natural and conduct yourself in a way that is kind and humble.
Ils explained that,
“Before I was a Rasta I was always into medicine – my interest was not linked to the Rasta religion. I was raised on bush tea by my Grandmother, who was a midwife. It was her, and the lush, thriving land that she lived on that gave me the knowledge. I was her first grandson from her son, and she raised me till I was 13.”
Ils has been most inspired by Oldama from Ghana, whose father was one of the first men that took herbalism to England. He went to university in England and is a very high man in botany.
“His books turned me on as they were about the things around me that I could see.” Oldama and his wife have visited Ils in Barbados.
Some of Ils’ remedies include Quassia bark.
“I take the wood and make it into a cup with African art on it. You have to fill it with pure water either from a spring or bottled water and drink it straight afterward. It will help your skin, skin cancer, tapeworm, malaria, asthma, bronchitis, and cancer.”
Ils also makes a coconut oil – the number 1 oil in the world, which helps the heart and kidneys.
“I make it with pure sunlight, so the color of the water is like crystal. This is one of my most popular medicines.”
Ils mainly uses roots, barks, and oils to treat people, and his advice to someone who wants to become a herbalist is:
“It isn’t something you can just learn – you need to live it. When you come to me you will see that I am living the herbalist life.”
Ils is not only a herbalist, but he is also an indigenous artist. He uses all the plants he extracts from medicine to even make baskets and jewelry.
To buy these and other products from Ras Ils, you will need to go to the Foster Hall Woods in the eastern parish of St John where he lives. When you get there, you can ask anyone, old people or young people for Ils and they will direct you to his retreat.
Ras Ils has branded his products – ‘Sunrise International – international indigenous artist and herbalist,’ which is recognized worldwide. His old label was Oschen international, but this is no longer in operation.
Brett Callaghan is the founder and managing director of Totally Barbados. I specialize in writing content for the tourism industry for my island home of Barbados. I help companies build strategies to grow their businesses online with SMART marketing, advertising, and social media goals.