Home » Luhya Culture » Mulembe Nation’s Ultimate List of Bukusu Proverbs On Health That Pack a Punch Of Wisdom On Good Living and Wellness
Poster with image of rocks balanced atop each other symbolizing meditation as part of teaching of Bukusu proverbs on health

Mulembe Nation’s Ultimate List of Bukusu Proverbs On Health That Pack a Punch Of Wisdom On Good Living and Wellness

Wisdom from our forefathers on good living, perfect health and wellness gleaned from our ultimate list of Bukusu proverbs on health.

Disclaimer: First things first. Please note that I am in no way offering medical advice. Nor is this article intended to substitute medical expertise. Part of our task (that we do with love, commitment and care) here at mulembenation.co.ke is to flesh out the ingenuity, epidemiological, medical, historical and anthropological value of Luhya folklore to the practice of modern medicine. Therefore, what we chronicle is not meant to be a replacement for medication. This post on Bukusu proverbs on health talks about the WORLDVIEW of our fathers regarding health and is not meant in any way as medical advice.

Omukhasi omukara anania khukwhibusia

Of all the Bukusu proverbs on health in this ultimate list, this proverb bears the most consequences beyond its primary target. It warns expectant women for falling into the trap of laziness that comes with the territory. The extra weight of pregnancy can make one to ‘over rest’. Mbukusu believed that a pregnant women who sat about idly would cause problems and experience much pain during delivery. Therefore in early pregnancy, women were encouraged to partake normal chores such as tilling the farm and fetching of water. But as the pregnancy progressed, the nature of work became lighter.

This thinking by Mbukusu is at par with modern science which encourages an expectant woman to exercise as it will:

  • Reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • Boost your mood and energy levels
  • Help you sleep better
  • Prevent excess weight gain
  • Promote muscle tone, strength and endurance

Other possible benefits of following a regular exercise program during pregnancy may include:

  • A lower risk of gestational diabetes
  • Shortened labor
  • A reduced risk of having a C-section

10 Bukusu Proverbs On Health and Wellness – Meaning Explained

Kumwikule kukwoo, kumwikale kwabene

Sex education is the focus of this popular Bukusu saying on health that means an open door is yours and a closed one belongs to some one else.

The open door is unmarried female while the closed door symbolizes a married one. As regards the effects of physical injury on health and the shortening life span through death, the meaning of this proverb is plain to the eye. If not, the story of Makunja’s fate of khuuna kumusakhu ought be an apt reminder.

Nonetheless it is worth taking note that our forefathers who only had to deal with endwasi. Today we contend with unwanted pregnancies and HIV/AIDS. That said, this proverb can also be seen to advocate for irresponsible sexual behavior due to its teaching. This is because in Bukusu culture, once circumcised and barring taboo, a stud could approach any unmarried female. By any, we mean its fullest sense -including one’s own father’s young wife in what was termed mukha rarao omutiti beya.

Sie munda sisuta sie khumurwe

What is contained in the stomach is what carries the one in the head.

This Bukusu proverb on health recognizes the importance of good nutrition to optimal functioning. Beyond this rather obvious fact, we can interpret this Bukusu proverb as wisdom that lays ground for keto diet and intermittent fasting. In both of these ‘fads’ of modern nutrition, a state that mimics starvation is achieved through low carbohydrate intake.

An array of roasted meats and vegetables with sauce dips. Would such a meal be healthy according to Bukusu proverbs on health
What constitutes a keto diet? Is it diving into a pile of meat and saturated fat laden dips ?

The first one is achieved by eating lots of fat, adequate proteins and low intake of dietary sugars from carbohydrates and fruits to below 50 grams a day. In the second, periodic starving forces the body to work as if it is starved during the hours of not eating. In both instances the body on starvation mode breaks down fats to yield energy in the form of substances called ketones.

The health benefits of starving have been well known for ages. Not only does starving lead to weight loss, doctors for have known that it helps improve bowel and brain health among other health benefits. In addition, ketones that are produced during starving are thought to be protective to the brain. Thus as Mbukusu reminds us, ‘what is contained in the stomach is what carries the one in the head’.

Also Read:

Meet the Maragoli proverb of significance to medical anthropology

Sikhaya wanambwa silulu

What the dog can’t eat is bitter.

This Bukusu proverb on health urges for people to heed advice. In the context of health, this proverb could be a powerful tool for behavior modification as it implores on people to trust and observe health warnings. In the days of our forefathers, such knowledge on what was good or bad was preserved by passing it down generations through oral literature. Thus, this is proverb found use when an elder wanted to warn youth of to avoid risky behaviors and prohibited foods.

Namukhokhome kafucha lisa

The gecko spitted caterpillar.

Previously, we have analysed the meaning of the Abanyala version of this proverb Namukhokhome kafucha esa as: a lesson on the biology of the gecko; the fickle and transient nature of human relations; and the saying’s value in understanding the fragmented and fractious nature of Luhya politics.

Today, we see the value of this saying as a Bukusu proverb on health. Its wisdom is advice for healthy living when we interpret its meaning as: too much of anything is harmful. This is because Mbukusu considered caterpillar as the gecko’s favorite food. That it comes a point that the gecko rejects even its preferred meal is caution for over indulgence.

More Proverbs Beyond Bukusu Proverbs On Health

Kamema kera emboko

This Bukusu proverb on health translates to: too much standing killed the buffalo.

In a world that continuously demands us to be always “plugged” or hustling, this proverbs carries timely advice. For those of us who keep up with animal shows on Tv, the buffalo appears to be always standing. This ‘natural pose’ of the buffalo is one that Babukusu associated with strength. Thus, an alpha male even in today Bukusu land is refereed to as emboko (Buffalo, Lubukusu). In this proverb Mbukusu reminds us that rest is not a waste of time but part and parcel of healthy living.

Kamafuki ko omundu kali nga enyama ye emboko, okinyola khusibumba wakilia nio wamanya buchamu mwayo

A human’s blood is like buffaloes meat, whoever gets it ready and eats it is the one who knows its taste.

Previously, we have found the meaning of this proverb as an advocate for the true spirit of mulembe as it warns against taking human life. Moreover we have also questioned why buffalo meat was a revered meat among the Luhya. A meal so special that was served only in the special dish known as sibumba. Paradoxically, also a meal that one couldn’t just invite their kith and kin over to a feast.

In this ultimate list of Bukusu proverbs on health, this proverb is one that practitioners of modern medicine can find most value. This is because it is an apt reminder of the sacrosanct rule of medicine: “do no harm”. Moreover to all of us, this saying reminds us of the value of human life. In effect, it is a call to practice health promoting behaviors and health preserving habits.

Omulayi akhuloba enjala khakhulia ta

A good person denies you so that you may not die of hunger.

More than ever, a healthy life is tied to apt socioeconomic status. The existence of health disparities that arise from factors such as race and socioeconomic status is a reality that policy makers in health continue to grapple with.

Moreover, even at the micro level of households, research has shown that being poor leads to bad health decisions such as the food one consumes. Nonetheless (ignoring factors beyond an individual’s control – yeah, I know) this proverb encourages people to be hardworking as a way to better health. This is because a good person is one who will deny you freebies so that you become self reliant and avoid being dependent. Remember dependency robs one of choice. For wellness, this might mean making better health choices.

Also Read

Why Maragoli men would disappear every other last week of May: Insights from a Maragoli folktale of value to epidemiology

Omusale akhila omulebe, sisiakhaya omusale bubolo

A friend is better than a relative, but what a friend cannot withstand is bad smell.

At the barest level, this Bukusu proverb on health fronts the importance of maintaining good personal hygiene. Poor personal hygiene is known to cause a myriad of health problems from tooth carries and becoming a host to disease causing parasites like lice.

On a cryptic level, this Bukusu proverb talks of issues of stigma that surround some health conditions. Stigmatized health conditions include: HIV/AIDS, albinism, birth fistulas, mental health, sexually transmitted conditions, erectile dysfunction and certain skin conditions; just to name a few. As you might know, stigma is a key impediment in preventing, treating and care of the afflicted. Further, this proverb could be of use in adolescent health when counselling to discourage harmful peer influence.

Sibi sienda lifumo

The enemy of the stomach is a spear.

One of the key contributors to global disease burden is accidents and violence. Take this briefest of Bukusu proverbs on health as the Mbukusu version of the Kenny Rodger timeless classic ‘Coward Of The County’.


  • Masters thesis authored by David Kavinje Chikati titled: Contributions of Indigenous Education to Health Practices: A Case of Bukusu Community of Bungoma County.
  • mulembenation.co.ke archives

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