Cultural conversations among Black women around sexuality and sexual wellness have historically been shrouded in secrecy. This is in contrast to a hyper-sexual social stereotype. However, the statistics tell yet another story: there are delayed or denied diagnoses and/or treatment and high mortality rates among Black Americans, in particular, many associated with sexual health and the failures of mainstream medicine to address. But the work of a new generation of bold plant medicine practitioners like Mayasa Telfair, curator of It’s Time to Heal Holistic Sanctuary have begun to remove Black women from the margins of conversations on femininity and sexual health.
Mayasa Telfair brings ancestral wisdom into focus in a non-“woo-woo” way based upon her teachings as a second-generation holistic health practitioner. She grew up between the American South, raised by her grandfather who was a sharecropper, and the Caribbean, at the knee of her grandmother, who was indeed a true medicine woman. For Mayasa, there was only holistic medicine in her early life. Like many Black and poor families, no one went to the doctor. There were no immunizations. Life and death were believed to be in God’s hands alone.
“We grew our food and our own medicine,” said Mayasa.
CANNABOOMER: Black women are three times more likely than women of other races to suffer from uterine fibroids and noncancerous tumors of the uterine walls , according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. This, together with premature delivery, sexually transmitted diseases, and cervical cancer are four of the eight top diseases that disproportionately afflict black women. Have you found this to be true in your practice?
MAYASA TELFAIR: In the big cities and the areas where I lived later in life, people constantly went to the doctor to seek care, often to address some of these issues. In general, women received medications that gave them side effects, creating yet other conditions. Instead of treating the disease, they were essentially being treated for their symptoms.
In conversation, I’d often ask if they’d tried this or that, something I remembered my grandmother used to do. Or I’d suggest something my grandfather used to do. Some of my earliest lessons stem from family traditions but became very popular with clients in the area where I was then living.
I broadened my education, experience, and exposure through travel to different parts of Africa while studying dance. Everything in my life was about natural health, whether it concerned yoga training or learning how to cook and eat raw. This became my lifestyle.
Is that why you created It’s Time to Heal Holistic Sanctuary?
It started and remains an appointment-only sanctuary because I was part of a community that focused on women under what we called the Red Tent. We learned to chart our moon cycle in the Red Tent. You know the first calendar was a lunar calendar of the woman and at one point in history, we could predict the weather and all of these things, based on a woman’s body. I also recognized there can be a lot of brokenness that follows women. In our society, women can become calcified from going to work day after day, from being a mother, from being the matriarch of their family. Essentially, they lose their femininity.
Tell me about your services. How you are tying intimacy and femininity together in the holistic services you offer?
Many of our services deal with the yoni, a Sanskrit word for the vagina, a most sacred aspect of a woman. We provide doula birthing services as well as support to women physically throughout their pregnancy into delivery. We also integrate the postpartum phase of their pregnancy. The Sanctuary also offers holistic nutritional consultations.
How have you incorporated cannabis into your practice? This is another secret among black women, especially of an older age group.
Yes, CBD is one of the most crucial elements in my practice because it’s entirely plant-based. It’s particularly important to my vaginal yoni steam offering, which is my most popular service. Did you know the yoni is the largest space of absorbency in the body, even larger than your mouth?
We address issues associated with Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Polycystic ovary syndrome, (PCOS), and endometriosis, for example. Some women suffer from a diversity of medical issues as it relates to their yoni. That could mean intercourse has become uncomfortable. We use cannabis of different strengths in our holistic practice, particularly with women who have anxiety specifically around the sexual or sensual experience of womanhood. We can provide them with a particular strain or dosage that will help them relax. Some women suffer from vaginal dryness and can benefit from fantastic CBD suppositories. Others wish to intensify their sexual experience. A lot of times women aren’t able to feel vulnerability due to their hard-working day. We understand the plant and are abreast of various high-quality forms of CBD and different strains of cannabis.
How can you be certain that each client gets what they need?
Before I meet with each client, they fill out a holistic health history intake form to learn what they’re taking and what their issues are. I use my many years of practical herbalism training and indigenous training to offer a recommendation. Based on their information, I create a tincture or topical cream for them. By the time they see me, I’ve already got a protocol laid out for them. Perhaps I will provide them a tea to drink. I may offer a cream that they can use topically. I could offer a suppository, and I might recommend the vaginal yoni steam.
Hold on a second. So does the vaginal yoni steam give you an orgasm?
It does not give you an orgasm. However, during the vaginal steam, I can teach you how to increase your orgasm, how to have an orgasm on your own; how, for example, to incorporate the use of different types of cannabis plants and how to use the yoni egg.
No one will deny that the benefits of sexual gratification flow out into other aspects of our lives, our health, and our overall welfare. Most of us want more of this, no matter our age or sexual preference and will pay to maintain what can only be described as a healthy, well-exercised sexual system that is on top of its hormones. If you believe that,
it’s hard not to pay attention to Mayasa’s beliefs and holistic health practices.