Opeoluwa Aremu-Okulaja is a pharmacist, nutritional therapist and detox specialist. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Ola Herbs, a company she founded last year, which aims at ensuring complete well being by providing healthy diets, organic skincare products, as well as, nutritional therapy for various health conditions. Aremu-Okulaja, who is also a pastor and writer, always endeavours to teach people all they need to know about healthy living. She recently spoke to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on her journey from being a pharmacist to a nutritional therapist, among other issues.
How did you venture into natural and herbal treatment?
I studied Pharmacy at the University of Ife, and graduated in 1983. In 1996, I relocated to England with my children, where I practised pharmacy. I later decided to return to Nigeria, since my children were all grown and my husband stays here in Nigeria and the Lord began to speak to me about healthy living, how diets and lifestyles are making people ill. Having been in pharmacy for many years, I know that pharmacists are trained to give tablets, but with no training in nutrition, unlike a nutritionist or dietician. Even doctors have little training in nutrition.
As a pharmacist, I have seen over the years that we just treat the symptoms, without getting to the root of the problem, and then there are too many side effects, with people are not getting any better. For instance, cancer is on the increase. The Lord began to move me in this direction and I embarked on a lot of studying and courses and I also began to apply the knowledge I gathered.
In the process, I learnt a lot about the bad things we put in our bodies, the power of plants, herbs and seeds and what they can do. I also learnt that nature has provided us with a lot of things to heal ourselves, as the body can heal itself, if we give it everything it needs to do so. I’m quite passionate about it, because I can see what natural things can do in one’s body.
Before I left England, I started going to churches and teaching people the hidden dangers in everyday living, our diets, cooking pots, deodorants, the amount of sugar we take, the importance of water, how we can keep ourselves healthy and use natural foods to heal ourselves. I don’t use chemicals on my face, the powder I am wearing is made from cocoa and we produced it. This is the awareness I want to go about giving to people, that eating healthy is key to living healthy.
If people could change a lot of things they are doing, illnesses would be reversed. But people just want quick fix, however, knowledge is power. For instance, I have clients with skin issues, and nim (dongoyaro) oil and Shea butter have done the magic and cured them. There are so many plants around us that can do the trick. Cocoa is anti-ageing, as it improves the skin. Lemon is also very good. We have all these things around us, but we don’t use them; rather, we reach for tablets that can’t cure. Most food companies produce unhealthy foods; they are after profit and not the well-being of their consumers.
People sometimes consume sugar to increase energy level…
Sugar is one of the biggest problems in the human body. It is the root cause of almost every illness we suffer from, yet everything produced for us is loaded with sugar. Sugar not only makes the individual fat, but it also increases body pressure, chances of cancer, cholesterol and diabetes, among others.
That is where the passion to teach people about healthy living comes from and when clients come, we give them alternative medicine, change their diet plans and get their bodies back in shape. Ninety-five per cent of all illnesses are caused by diets – nutritional deficiencies, and toxic ingredients we use on our bodies.
How did you start Ola Herbs and Greens?
God led me to come home to set this up and my husband was already here. If anybody had asked me a couple of years ago, if I would return to Nigeria, I would have said no. But here I am, even with the recession, obeying God’s word and following my passion. I needed to ensure that people know the truth, because when you lack knowledge and information, problems follow.
I first thought I would be bringing in healthy products to sell, but it was necessary that I set up an office. So, I went for an intensive two weeks programme. I learnt a lot about setting up a business and everything we did to set up this place was done professionally with a corporate outlook.
We do detox and weight loss programmes for clients. I have this dream of producing healthy beauty products that are chemical-free. So, I teamed up with my cousin, who is a make-up artist and we came up with Fedola products, which are based on natural products. We have lip balms, facial masks and eye shadows, among others.
In our kitchen section, I know how bad wheat is for the body, as it raises the sugar level, and how much people love baked foods! So, we bake, using non-wheat flour. For instance, when we bake cakes, we use coconut or plantain flour. We don’t use sugar or margarine; rather we use honey or dates. So, we source alternatives to every food.
We also have energy bars that contain 100 per cent organic nuts and seeds that will do the body a world of good. We need people to understand that it is not every meat, fish, oil, seasoning or snack that is healthy. We are about ensuring that people know what is healthy. We are not saying that you shouldn’t go to your doctor or pharmacist, but then, eating right can prevent a lot of complaints we take to doctors. We would have needless deaths and people can live longer.
What is the level of awareness in this regard in Nigeria?
From my experience gathered while delivering speeches in places, the level of awareness is almost non-existent. Most times, I am bombarded with questions and people would keep saying they didn’t know. We try to get people to engage in exercises, cook with the right utensils and take the right supplements, as not every supplement in the store has the appropriate amount of vitamins.
How many people know that when you are making smoothies, you should have more vegetables than fruits? But people put in bananas, pineapples and oranges, which make it too sweet, thereby doing more harm than good. It should be 80 percent vegetables and 20 per cent fruits.
What is your daily routine like?
When I wake up in the morning, I spend some time praying. Then, I make lemon about half glass, squeezed in lukewarm water. I add some ginger, black pepper and honey to it. That is my first drink, as it detoxifies and flushes out unwanted things from the system. It kick starts the metabolism and works on the liver. Before that, I go on my trampoline and jump on it.
If there is electricity, I also go on my vibration plates, and then I have my bath. I do a dry body bath first. Then I use coconut oil, as against mouthwash, to remove all the dirt stuck in the teeth. After which I use chewing sticks to brush and then rinse with salt water.
Then I use lemon as deodorant and my body cream, which contains Shea butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Then I take my smoothie. I also eat a lot of bars and salads. I try to eat as little rice and bread as possible, because these are foods that can inflame the body. That is my routine. If I come to the office and have a programme to attend in church, I go and then go home.
You are a mother, pastor, speaker, pharmacist, detox specialist, writer and nutritional specialist. How do you combine all these?
It’s God’s grace. When you are doing what we are supposed to do, the grace just comes, and you are able to fit everything in. it is also doing what I am passionate about and the fact that I am touching people’s lives keeps me going.
What is the future of Ola Herbs and Greens?
We want to make it global. We will take it to as many places as we can. We want to do a lot of manufacturing, seminars, teaching, and trainings. I see a time, when we can have a lot of nutritional therapists, and people won’t have to see me to get what they want. I want this vision to be everywhere. We also want to go into organic farming. We want to produce vegetable and fruits that have no pesticides in them, just bird droppings, because a lot of farm produces today have pesticides, which is part of the problem. I see us having farm shops, where people can buy and eat healthy and live long.
Culled from the Guardian: