Traditional medicine as defined by Wikipedia comprises
medical aspect of traditional knowledge that has
developed over generations within various societies
before the era of modern medicine.
The world health organization also defines traditional
medicine as the sum total of knowledge, skills and
practices based on the theories , beliefs and experience
indigenous to different culture whether explicable or not,
used in the maintenance of health as well as in the
prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of
physical and mental illness (WHO)
Traditional medicine dates back as as far as the
paletholic age. It’s passed down orally from one
generation to the next, we can’t actually put a specific
date to it. The preparation of herbal concoction, roots,
leaves, stems and bark for the cure and treatment of
illnesses dates back to generation old.
Stories abound of grandparents and great grandparents
who used and prepared this concoction for their family
use and also as practitioners.
It has been said that most Africans depend on traditional
medicine practitioners for their primary health care. its
not a thing of surprise to see bottles of concoctions or
powders in folded paper or leaves in most Africans
homes. A large percentage of older Africans have more
belief in traditional medicine than modern health care,
we could also add a lower percentage of the youth who
hold this belief too.
A trip to any Nigerian market wont be complete without
a sight of a traditional herbal shop tucked by the corner
with a banner if possible boldly declaring their cures,
treatment and herbal solutions.
Advocates for traditional medicine hold the belief that
it’s part of our culture as a people and should be
relegated to the background due to advent of modern
medicine. Some citizens agree with this, for which we
can speculate by high patronage of traditional medicine
practitioners even in the 21st century.
Arguments have gone back and forth on the pros and
cons of traditional medicine.
One side to this argument is the prevalence of fake
practitioners who are just bent on fleecing their ignorant
customers hence the need for a registered body.
Another area of concern is the level of education of
traditional medicine practitioners. Most times what these
individuals know are just the knowledge of herbs and
roots passed down orally from the older generation
without adequate information and knowledge of the
working of the human body.
One major shortcoming of traditional medicine in Nigeria
is when aspects of it’s spirituality are involved. Most
traditional medicine practitioners practice their trade in
conjunction with African voodoo or spirituality. Majority
of Nigerians profess Christianity or Islam as a religion
with a smaller percentage being traditionalists. Clash of
interest and belief do occur within religious lines. The
use of incantations and charms by most traditional
medicine practitioners is a thing most citizens frown at
based on their religious beliefs.
One other major issue arising too is the problem of
safety of the use of these medicines. Most medical
practitioners dislike the idea of use of substances not
medically verified and scientifically researched with
clinical trials to show it’s effectiveness. Others areas are
standards of purity of these substances, dosage, proper
prescription, presence of allergens and toxins,
inadequate research and regulations and adverse effects.
Notwithstanding these numerous issues and concerns,
traditional medicine has won a few points in the medical
ring even on a global stage. According to WHO,
approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United
States have been derived from plants. At least 7,000
medical compounds in the medical pharmacopoeia are
derived from plants. Most active compounds isolated
from higher plants and widely used in modern medicine
today show a correlation between their therapeutic use
and traditional use of the plants from which they are
Herbal products are being manufactured by
pharmaceutical companies, consumer good are produced in
industries and breweries.
Commercial products like
herbal teas, soaps, creams, beer and liquor are available
now in the Nigerian market today.
In the 21st century, health care still remain inaccessible
to a large number of Africans and Nigerians alike due to
relatively high cost and concentration of health facilities
in urban centres
Due to this, they have been calls to integrate traditional
medicine into the country’s national health care system.
With proper research and government regulation, traditional would take the proper approach, and
traditional medicine can still play a vital role even today.