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Essay on Traditional African System of Healing

5 pages
1323 words
Carnegie Mellon University
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The non-western system of healing is one of the most effective of healing common illnesses some of which do not require biomedicines. However, a lot of people have no faith in them because they view them as ineffective. One of these non-western healing systems is the traditional African method of healing, which is based on spirituality and herbs.

A. Description

Traditional African system of healing is a type of substitute medicine that relates to herbalism and African beliefs. Practitioners of this kind of healing claim to cure all kinds of illnesses including chronic diseases. A prescription of herbal drugs which have healing power, spiritual meaning and significance are given after the diagnosis of a disease through spiritual means (Iwu, 12). The practitioners of traditional African medicine believe that infections are as a result of spiritual or social imbalances, rather than chance occurrences.

The diagnoses and the alternative method of treatment are based on the spiritual aspect, which believes that the psycho-spiritual element should be handled before the medical aspect. When diagnosing and giving a cure for diseases, traditional doctors view the patient as the cause of an illness instead of concentrating on the symptoms. The result of the diagnosis is based on the conventional beliefs of the people. Instead of looking for a symptom or a physical cause of an illness, practitioners search for the primary reason behind it which is seen to originate from lack of equilibrium between the patient and the social environment or spiritual world (Iwu, 66). Natural reasons are seen as manipulations from spirits and gods, and they are not natural at all. For example, an illness is said to be caused by the guilt of an individual or the family because of a sin they have committed. The sickness is therefore caused by the anger of the gods due to breaking of the universal moral law.

Depending on the nature of imbalance an individual is experiencing, the appropriate medicinal plant is used which is treasured for its symbolic, spiritual importance and medicinal properties. In traditional methods of healing, various methods of healing like magic and biomedical is used. Malaria is cured by drinking or inhaling the steam of herbal mixtures. Other diseases like migraines, coughs, and pleurisy are treated by bleed cupping method, and a herbal ointment is applied with follow up drugs.

B. Practitioners

The knowledge of traditional medicines does not require formal education. Therefore, most of the practitioners are not educated. The experience is passed on from one generation to the other through oral or stories. However, some practitioners receive their knowledge by interacting with the experienced medicinal men for a long time (Che et al., 53). The practitioners have a deep involvement in the healing process are they conserve the knowledge of the healing by keeping it a secret. A father could pass the knowledge to his son by teaching him about the herbs that can be used and which cannot be used.

Each traditional medicine practitioner specializes in a specific area. There are those who are herbalists like Inyagas of Switzerland, spiritual diviners in South Africa, bone setters and birth attendants. There are those who have more than one specialization like diviners and herbalists. Also, there are those born with the knowledge of the traditional methods of healing especially magic. During their birth, they are born holding three seeds in their hands which is an indicator that they are specialized conventional doctors (Che et al., 52). There are those who gain the knowledge of healing through a spiritual calling. They may experience some mental problem for sometimes, and upon receiving the inspiration, they regain their conscious mind.

An individual is initiated into a secret society before they can be trained on the use of the traditional drugs. This is because the knowledge gained is very vital and it should be passed from one generation to another precisely to avoid any misfortunes that may occur if not passed on clearly. However, there are some areas like herbal medicines which have no restrictions on who should learn it. Most of the African traditional practitioners are old men and women and a few young men. The old women are mostly born as conventional doctors, and their knowledge is passed to their grandsons.

C. Worldview and Integration with Biomedicine

Doctors treating patients who are under traditional African drugs need to be aware of various things. The medications prescribed to the patients are not based on the diagnosis of the diseases but are based on the traditional beliefs. For example, HIV/AIDS is considered as a punishment from the gods due to violating the laws of nature. Therefore, the drugs prescribed to the patients have nothing to do with the disease. Thus the doctor should diagnose the patient again before prescribing the drugs (Hewson, 73). The traditional medicines should not be mixed with other medications given in the hospitals. Some of the herbs used to make these pills are very harmful when combined with other drugs and may even cause death. The patients need to give up the traditional drugs before using other drugs. Additionally, the conventional practitioners believe that social imbalance is the leading cause of diseases.

Most patients seek biomedical drugs only after the traditional drugs fails to work. These patients conceal that they had used the traditional medications before opting for the biomedical drugs (Hewson, 74). It is essential for the medical doctor to warn the patients of the danger of not revealing such information which may include death if the doctor gives them the biomedicines while they are still using the traditional drugs. Finally, the African culture believes that there is no disease without a cause. The cause may be wrath from God or an evil spirit from a neighbor. Therefore, they believe that the diseases can only be treated by the traditional medical doctors and an individual may die if they try to seek other medical attention like the biomedical.

D. Your Community

The nearest African traditional medicine practitioner is in South Africa. However, there is an Alaska healer in Colorado who uses the same principles of healing as those of African tradition medicines (Street, Kabera, and Catherine 67). The practitioner is not able to address the issue of lifestyle diseases that affect my society as discussed above. The traditional medicines are based on African culture which has the assumption that in enemies or gods as the source of their illnesses, which is contrary to my society's opinion of bacteria and fungi as a cause of disease. In such a case, the society may not accept such medicaton.

The distance from our society to the nearest practitioner is vast which makes many people not to access the healing. Also, this type of healing is seen as dangerous and not authorized in most places. Therefore, the practitioners are always hiding in caves or dark places which make it hard to access their services (Street, Kabera, and Catherine 67). Additionally, people are not well conversant with this healing method and its effectiveness which result in people doubting its importance. The practitioners may not have access to the needed herbs to cure particular diseases because most of the medicinal trees that were used in early years have become extinct. During the discoveries of the cure of various diseases, lifestyle diseases were not discovered which it makes hard for the traditional doctor to know the treatment for a disease.

In conclusion, traditional methods of healing are becoming extinct due to the changing environment and the use of biomedicine. However, many people in Africa continue to depend on the African tradition method of healing because they are cheap and effective.

Work cited

Che, C-T., et al. "Traditional medicine." Pharmacognosy. 2017. 15-30.

Hewson, Mariana G. "African Healing and Traditional Healers." Embracing Indigenous Knowledge in Science and Medical Teaching. Springer Netherlands, 2015. 73-87.

Iwu, Maurice M. Handbook of African medicinal plants. CRC Press, 2014.

Street, Renee A., Gaetan M. Kabera, and Catherine Connolly. "Metallic mercury use by South African traditional health practitioners: perceptions and practices." Environmental Health 14.1 (2015): 67.

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