Use of traditional medicine rising

Conventional medicine has many limitations. One of those is its failure to incorporate or understand the spiritual.
And in comes traditional medicine. Traditional medicine refers to health practices, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant medicines and spiritual therapies to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses.  Not only is it considered cheap it is also easily available and does not need prescriptions. And taking traditional medicine is becoming a fad. Where in the past it was only those in the lower strata of the economy who would visit a healer for his or her herbs, the profession now boasts a moneyed and educated customer . And there is no secrecy anymore about its consumption. Take this scene from the Gaborone Taxi Station:
A man in his late 30s arrives and asks the herbalist if he can get his medicine. He could be buying aspirin from his demeanour, there is no discomfort despite the fact that four other people, one of whom is a photographer stand at the 'shop' He adds for added clarity  'ke batla tlhamalala le mojakabomo'. At this point the old woman produces a bag full of herbs and gives three packages to the man.
The packages contain lucky portions, according to the herbalist Elizabeth Madeluka from Senete. They will help one find a job and straighten things when things are not going right in your life, she says.  The man is only one of about 50 people who will visit Madeluka's store today. To the left of Madeluka stands another "herbal shop' at which a middle-aged man takes a swig of monepenepe- a popular all-rounder and painkiller. He pays as he wipes his lips and leaves.
People from all walks of life frequent these herbal stalls. None looks over his or her shoulder to see if someone is following them. In their eagerness to get their packages they are almost oblivious to the usual station melee.

"Traditional medicine has always been an integral part of African life, healing the spiritual and physical ailments of the people," says Madeluka. She is a veteran in herbal medicine, having started her trade in the 1970s.  The spiritual efficacy of traditional medicine is evident when they are used to ward off evil spirits, remove impending danger, accidents, bad omen or misfortune, and to protect one's family. In addition, these 'doctors' provide medicines to improve peoples' probability of success in commerce, industry and public service, and to enhance the ability of couples to have many children. Traditional healers also provide herbs for use in marriage and funeral ceremonies."
But there is often no scientific data to vouch for the efficacy of the herbs. That they also can operate on a spiritual plane is at best laughable to medical science. Thus European missionaries and Western medicine maligned traditional medicine, associated with evil and managed to turn many from using it. Those who used it would visit a traditional doctor under the cover of darkness and solicit for whatever charm he or she wanted. "We used it before the coming of modern medicine and it worked. What people need to know is that the medicine we sell is extracted from plants, " says 54-year old Madeluka, who is a member of the healers club - Dingaka tsa Setso Association.
While she says that stigma associated with taking herbal medicine is fading, Madeluka has a warning for those who still want to keep the fact that they take the medicine a secret. Madeluka says the secretive use of traditional medicine is dangerous as some people could end up overdosing because of the fear of openly consulting the 'experts'.

Another traditional medicine vendor, Gaefele Tsele who has been in the trade for 28 says she has observed that in recent years young people are not ashamed to seek her services compared to 10 years back when her clientele was made up of largely old people. Tsele says she introduced ready made concoctions about 10 years back and people have always felt free to buy and consume it where she operates-in public. The greatest gratification to any herbalist, she says is to see one's patients getting healed. In that case they do not have to frequent her store complaining about the same ailment.
Tsele says that because traditional medicine has not been subjected to lab tests, it would be moot to talk about a middle ground for traditional and modern medicine, "But people should know that there are instances where either of them can work best," he says.

Professor Ishmael Mosesane, from the Chemistry department at the University of Botswana, concurs that in the past people kept their use of herbal medicine secretive, but that the trend is changing. Professor Mosesane who is studying the molecular nature and efficacy of traditional medicine says that less secrecy means lower incidents of overdose. Furthermore these incidents will become much fewer as his department works with traditional doctors in his research.

"This could help us extract active components in the plants and see which of them play a vital role, " he says.
Mosesane who has been doing research in this field since 1992, says the open use of the products also means that researchers now have access to information and they conduct research having better relationships with both the healers and consumers.

With Mosesane's work, the partnership with traditional doctors and the willingness of patients amazing results can be achieved. Perhaps one day, we will have our own Viagra from the traditional 'moporota' tuber whose potency many a man swears by.  Already we hear that there is a growing demand for traditional medicines throughout the developed world; Over 50 percent of Europeans and North Americans have used traditional medicines and 90% of Germans use herbal medicines. Millions more use traditional medicine in the Americas and Asia. Translate those numbers into monetary value and we could soon be raking in billions of Pula in exported traditional medicine.

1 comment:

Pavel said...

Traditional medicine is not only spiritual practices aimed at self-improvement, but the nature’s assistance, that should be easy to see and use.

Post a Comment