African traditional medicine is a form of holistic health care system organized into three levels of specialty, namely divination, spiritualism, and herbalism. The traditional healer provides health care services based on culture, religious background, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs that are prevalent in his community. Illness is regarded as having both natural and supernatural causes and thus must be treated by both physical and spiritual means, using divination, incantations, animal sacrifice, exorcism, and herbs. Herbal medicine is the cornerstone of traditional medicine but may include minerals and animal parts. The adjustment is ok, but may be replaced with –‘ Herbal medicine was once termed primitive by western medicine but through scientific investigations there is a better understanding of its therapeutic activities such that many pharmaceuticals have been modeled on phytochemicals derived from it. Major obstacles to the use of African medicinal plants are their poor quality control and safety. Traditional medical practices are still shrouded with much secrecy, with few reports or documentations of adverse reactions. However, the future of African traditional medicine is bright if viewed in the context of service provision, increase of health care coverage, economic potential, and poverty reduction. Formal recognition and integration of traditional medicine into conventional medicine will hold much promise for the future.
Part of the book: Herbal Medicine
Complementary therapies describe a wide range of healthcare practices that can be used alongside conventional treatments to deal with chronic health problems, treat symptoms, or simply to stay healthy. Examples include herbalism, bloodletting, purgation, prayers and incantations, hydrotherapy, diet, exercise, massage, etc. The basis for these practices stems from core beliefs: imbalance of body functions causes illness, the body can self-heal under the right conditions, and treatment should be of the whole body and not just symptoms; religion, spirituality, and culture are very strong underlying factors. The reasons for using complementary therapies are primarily to maintain good health, dissatisfaction with conventional medicines, taking charge of one’s own health, ready availability, and notions of safety. In rural Africa, complementary therapies have been used solely as alternative therapies due to inadequate healthcare. This chapter deals with the African traditional complementary therapies that coexist with conventional medical practices and their advantages and disadvantages.
Part of the book: Complementary Therapies