Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Why African traditional medicine is still not recognized till today?

Article from AFRIC editorial
Traditional medicine is the oldest, assorted and most common of all forms of physiological and therapeutic medication systems for centuries. It has been and is still being practiced in many countries in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and most especially Africa. Before the existence of scientifically produced medicine, this practice was verbally handed down from parents to progenies under apprenticeship, the veterinary sector, for cesarean sections and minor operations inclusive.

Traditional healers use plant leaves, barks, stems, roots, fruits, liquids alongside some soil samples, charcoal, wood ash, some animal parts such as bones, claws, fur, bile, nectar and old human bones. These are extracted from Wild honey, Acacia Senegal, garlic, ginger, Aloe ferox, Aloe vera, Artemisia herba-alba, Palm wine, Palm kernel oil, Palm oil, Incense, Cam wood, Bitter kola, Miracle king grass, Scent leaves, animal shells and many more; also used to make detergents and washing agents.

It is a more available and affordable health resource to the financially challenged and can also be paid for in kind. These ingredients are available in West African countries where there is thick vegetation that also serve as a habitat for animals. They are processed by boiling, drying, grinding, decanting, sieving, incubating and incinerating. Examples of some multipurpose branded African traditional medicines that can treat from diseases, injuries, do skin to hair care and some used as body lotions, insecticides, perfumes and disinfectants that are sold in local markets today are, African Panasia, Swedish Bitters, Black Soap etc.

Global Conventional Ideas on African Traditional Medicine

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of all the knowledge and practical, whether explicable or not, used in the diagnosis, prevention and elimination of physical, mental or social imbalance and relying exclusively on practical experience and observation handed down from generation to generation, whether verbally or in writing.” The latter also ascertains that African traditional medicine is one of the surest ways to successfully meet up with the demand for total global health care.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has it that about 80% of Africans visit traditional practitioners with almost 250 – 500 patients per traditional practitioner as their primary medical option against about 100 – 150 per University trained medical Doctor every six months in Africa.

There are many associations and organizations formed by African traditional medicine practitioners that are now recognized in some countries even out of Africa such as; The Sangomas in South Africa, National Association of Nigerian Traditional Medicine Practitioners (NINTMP) and PROMETRA in Uganda.


Lack standardization

Many have argued that African traditional medicine is not produced in recognized, scientifically certified and law backed laboratories, reasons which make them denounce African traditional medicine.

Practitioners lack professional training

Most of the practitioners have received little or no training may lack the knowledge of medicine and are consequently perceived not to properly disseminate the knowledge since the practice is based on secrecy, verbal apprenticeship with no professional training facilities.

Toxic plants and ingredients

Most people believe that the production process and prescription of African traditional medicine does not take into account conventional units of measurement and chemical reactions, as a result, their dosage, chemical content, side effects are questionable. Many have also been proven to cause hepatic and renal malfunctions after short term or long term use.

Diagnoses before administration are not scientific

The diagnosis done by the African medicine practitioners is based on speculation and suspicion from the physical state, history or interview conducted on the patient, which could be misleading. This can lead to wrong treatment and wrong dosage since some diseases have similar signs and symptoms.

Severe after effects

Since there is little or no proper diagnoses conducted, defined laboratory checks and certified standard knowledge of all stages of African traditional medicine, some administered out of speculation often end up creating side effects which are misinterpreted for another disease which when further treated, cause damages physiological and lethal effects.

Perception problem

The world actually thinks Africa is underdeveloped, not professional enough and does not have enough to offer in the field of medicine. Since there is a lot of witchcraft, sorcery, divination, rituals and superstition involved; this is not accepted globally.

Microbial contamination

Most often, the production and preservation processes of African traditional medicine are done in dirty environments, using unprocessed wild products and unsterilized equipment which makes the whole process questionable.

Improper preservation methods

Under normal circumstances, medicine should be stored under particular physical and climatic conditions, using containers made of a particular material. This is not often the case with African traditional medicine which makes their viability doubtable.

It is high time African Traditional Medicine practitioners be recognized, their knowledge tapped and scientifically restructured for global recognition and standardization. In this light, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) AND United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) in Developing countries reported that African traditional medicine is very helpful but because it is not monitored and controlled, it is leading to a lot of deforestation in Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, South Africa and many others. Africa Traditional Medicine is fast gaining international recognition and is of great help to millions of Africans since it is affordable and available.

Article from AFRIC editorial

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