What I admire about Adio Akil, the woman who convinced natural healer Dr. Sebi to open a practice in the United States, is the way she shares her knowledge about food, herbs, natural healing and young entrepreneurs who picked up the baton Dr. Sebi left behind. She’s mature and articulate and speaks in a no-nonsense manner when she gives generous doses of health and nutrition tips. On the other hand, when she speaks about sea moss there’s a childlike joy and awe in her demeanor and tone. More about sea moss later.
Without fail, in all our conversations since the first time I met her in 2017, Adio asks if I’m familiar with other herbalists and holistic entrepreneurs making strides in natural health care and food products, namely Tassili Ma’at in Atlanta or Bongo Hu I of St. James, Jamaica. When I pause to recall who they are, Adio jumps in and offers to send me information about them. No doubt there’s a library at her own business Quintessence Health & Wellness Center in Washington, D.C.
Adio opened the doors to Quintessence events much like those she organized at The Community Warehouse decades ago. In February 2020, with a celebration and demonstration of “Food as Medicine” at Quintessence, Adio gave away food samples, coached her audience on how to prepare natural foods, and recounted the work of Dr. Sebi.
I interviewed Adio about Food as Medicine but the Barnard College graduate offered so much more that matters just as much today as back then, like how young people and seniors feel about making changes in health and diet. She mentioned the “now moment,” where “some older people feel that they have lived, have made it up to now, why bother to change.” People of color, Adio observes on her holistic journey, are more likely to feel that way and less likely to make changes in their health than Caucasians. She said that if you tell Caucasians they need to make changes in their health and diet, and tell them what changes are necessary, they will change in that moment, in the now.
The following is the edited interview with Adio. Pay close attention to what she says about that little known but powerful gem in the sea—sea moss.
Health care insurance issues
We talked about health care providers and the fact that health insurance does not cover natural healing therapies and products, one of the reasons people of color are less likely to change diet and lifestyle.
Adio: Right now, there are so many different types of healing programs that are going on around D.C. But at the same time, if you don’t have the money to pay for it, aside from your insurance, then you can’t take advantage of it even though there’s a lot out there. There’s a lot, from different types of massages. There’s reiki. We’ve reached a milestone in health care and nutrition, and that’s due to COVID. COVID made people of color realize that they have to eat better. They have to exercise. They have to take walks. They have to drink more water. And that’s because it became popular all over mainstream America and in the media, in the major TV shows telling people what they should eat, and talking about good nutrition and things that they could do to help them have a better diet, a better outcome from the choices they made over the years.
Dr. Sebi back in the early 70s and 80s and how natural healing was viewed as weird back then.
Adio: It’s great to be alive and healthy and to have experienced Dr. Sebi and his works and his formulations. So that’s a great thing. So, to be alive and tribute Dr. Sebi and Maa and natural healing and to see it come full circle, to see it come from people who thought you were weird or people just thought you were so different because I prioritized food and health and herbs. And back in the 80s, late 70s, it was not prioritized. It was prioritized in the early 80s by The Community Warehouse, where I was able to get Dr. Sebi to come to. But overall, it was still thought of as something weird, wanting to care about what you put in your mouth rather than eating meat or other substances that wouldn’t be good for you. So, coming full circle and seeing where now, here we are, I’m so thankful to be alive. People are embracing natural health and healing. There are more juice bars all over. And young people have embraced it and are taking it to another level, where I know more of our people, people of color, and people in general on the planet will be healthier because the young people have embraced the fact that food is a medicine, and that herbs are a medicine.
Adio’s daughter and business partner Makini
Adio: Makini actually helped me. We started Quintessence Health & Wellness together. And that has meant so much to both of us. I have lived it up to now and she grew up seeing me live it—meeting Dr. Sebi and being around him plenty of times over the years. She didn’t all the way understand or get the message but was just following. But now, for her to come out as a leader, as a young person who realizes that yes, if I take different herbs and supplements, I can get rid of ailments that I might have, from simple ailments like a cold to something more extreme like the flu.
What is the mission of Quintessence?
Adio: The mission is to empower people of color so that they will know that in our ancestry we have the tools to heal ourselves.
What are those tools?
Adio: When you talk about Quintessence Health & Wellness, one of the tools is access to our library, which has over 300 books from Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean and the U.S. of Black healers and doctors, health practitioners, raw foodists. So, the library is there and it’s an in-house library. You actually have to use the books there. But you can go through all these books and find any information you need. We have books by the leading practitioners of color from the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Adio: I’m beginning to get into it. Because I had six children, that’s why I didn’t try to practice. I’m in my 60s now, but I didn’t try to practice sooner because I wanted to make sure my children were in the place they needed to be. Now that they’re grown I can, which is why there’s Quintessence Health & Wellness. I’m doing it anyway because when you’re helping people as far as people who come in and want to use the library, people have all kinds of questions. That is what the work is. It’s about helping people. I’m letting people decide if they want to take the steps to do it.
Sea moss gel is popular with young people
Adio: The only thing we [Quintessence] supply is gel and dry sea moss to different businesses. Sea moss gel is big and it’s really big with young people because they’re using it in their smoothies. They’re using it in their soups. They’re making dishes from it, food dishes. As a matter of fact, we do make a sea moss pie, a key lime pie, which is made with sea moss.
Restaurants are onboard with sea moss
Adio: I actually have been going to Tassili’s Raw Reality Café. That’s one of the biggest, largest raw food places in Atlanta, Georgia. And I’ve given talks there about sea moss. The owner is someone who used to work with me and spun off from there. And she’s doing like a million dollars in business at the restaurant now. Sea moss has 92 of the trace minerals found in the body. I know for a fact that sea moss can cure someone of rickets, as long as you drink the sea moss, at least 32 ounces, every day for a year. Sea moss will clear up your skin. If you could see my skin right now, my skin is pretty. And one of the reasons is that I’ve been drinking that sea moss every day, and I’m also taking it in a powder form daily. It promotes the growth of your hair, even if you have a bald spot somewhere. If you start using it regularly, you’ve got to drink it every day. You gotta drink at least 32 ounces. Your hair will come in. It helps your nails grow. Sea moss is also a cell proliferant, which means that it helps cells grow. Sea moss is just wonderful. You can use it externally if you have a wound or if you cut yourself. And you can also use it internally. You can use it on your hair, your skin, you can bathe in it. It’s also good for radiation. If you’re doing radiation, drink sea moss. Sea moss is definitely good for that.
Why is sea moss good for that? How does it help?
Adio: It helps based on the nutrients that it’s putting in your body. It’s putting magnesium, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C. It has iron. It has protein. It has amino acids. We’re actually promoting the purple sea moss, which comes from Tanzania, actually the city Zanzibar in Tanzania. And the thing about the purple that comes from there is that it’s coming from the Red Sea. And the Red Sea, if you check into it, is mineral rich. There are so many different types of sea life there, in the Red Sea. And it’s filled with all types of minerals and nutrients. Even the color, the color lets you know that it’s good for the heart. It’s good for women as far as female organs and their menses. And it’s all based on the nutrition that’s in the ocean in that particular area. Sea life is overflowing. It’s corpus chrondus, which grows in the Caribbean as well.
“If you want your bones strong, you have to go to the sea moss, and it will strengthen your calcium cells.” — Dr. Sebi in Seven Days in Usha Village: A Conversation with Dr. Sebi
Food as medicine
Adio: There is a way out. There’s a way out from bad food and wrong choices. You only need to realize that food is your medicine. Food is a medicine because it’s all about what’s on your plate, and it’s your own hand that picks up the banana or the apple or the soursop or the kale or the avocado and puts it on your plate. So, that’s all you have to remember.