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Africa’s Two Worlds of Healing : Their Challenges


The Western medical healing originated from Africa, from the Nile Valley, i.e., Ancient Egypt, and was stolen by Greeks to Europe. The literature is rich on this. What the West copied from our ancient Egypt is now presented as a Western knowledge and wisdom, and our African indigenous knowledge systems have been inferiorised.

Therefore, to look down upon our own indigenous knowledge system is, automatically, to look down upon our own selves. It is a kind of self-hatred.

There are ailments and sufferings which cannot be cured by Western medicine, and there are ailments and sufferings which also cannot cure by African medicine, and these points to the fact that the two systems need each other on an equal basis. Therefore, we should be focusing on how we marry the two together for the betterment of our humanity.

The West should recognize and respect the African uniqueness of being able to heal both the physical body and the soul, which the West could not.

Secondly, there should be respect for the African indigenously trained traditional healers, as they provide the healing services to people which cannot be provided by the Western-trained doctors. Therefore, there are different methodologies and technologies for each world. The challenge is to integrate the two.

African Healing, which in our context, should be African indigenous healing, is sometimes called Traditional Healing, has been looked down upon as being inferior to Western Healing. Some scholars believe that the bases of Western Healing or any healing that is not traditional, is traditional Healing.  Traditional Healing is known for its Rituals and Technologies which are not accepted/ acceptable in the West. But what we normally find is that both Healing Systems use Herbs though Western Healing is advanced its Herbs usage in terms of prescribing Dosages, how many times etc.

The biggest question is:  Are these the TWO different Worlds or Do they meet somewhere?  The only problem is with us as people where we haven’t done any research in terms of how do we make these work together or even conduct researches together and produce some best healing products?


Traditional/African Healing

As the word say: Traditional Healing we are here talking about Healing which  is still far Traditional in terms of Herbs usages and also  carries no Scientific Sophistications  as in the Western Healing. This is the kind of healing where the father will just take a particular herb because he knows its healing powers and use it for either himself or his kids to cure a certain disease and it works. It is where a person will dream about a certain concoction, and he/she wakes up and uses that and it works from a belief that it has been brought to him/her by his/her ancestors.

There are those who have seen this working and happening. As we speak we have renowned African Healers through their various Indigenous Technologies can diagnose a disease and heal a person immediately based on what they have found.

We currently have diseases where people go to Western Trained Doctors, and told that they have failed to diagnose the cause of the disease. When a person goes to an African Healer he gets healed. There are those who say certain sufferings are caused by ancestors, where if you do not want to obey what they are telling you, you will suffer from an incurable disease as far as the Western Healing can go.

To address these intricacies we need to look into the following:

(i)                  The fundamentals of African /Traditional Healing and its Technologies

(ii)                Can African Healing, work where Western Healing has failed?

(iii)               Can the two work together in terms of Research, Education and Healing?

(iv)              Are there any vast differences between the two or it’s just a matter of allowing one work where its suppose to work and can yield positive results?


Western Healing

There are Trained Medical Doctors with their Medical degrees but on the other side do practice traditional/African Healing. Besides, we always hear that sometimes Nurses in hospitals do advise patients to also take a look at the traditional Healing as an alternative if what they are suffering from is not being treated or doctors seem not to find the cause. Even though there is no confirmed statistics of such, but such things do happen under the blind eyes of the doctors or doctors themselves.

There are many people who still believe that for whatever minor pain ranging from headache to stomach ache or any bodily pain one will have to rush to the doctor for a particular prescription. Some do get some help in that way others don’t and end up being treated by Traditional Healers.


The Challenge(s)

In today’s world of the 21st Century we are faced with a number of diseases whose cause is yet not known. The world is divided into three:

(i)                  Those who do not consult Traditional Doctors at all, but firmly believe in Western Medicine

(ii)                Those who do consult both African /Traditional Healers and Western Doctors but hide when consulting Traditional healers and behave as if they do not at all consult African Healers.

(iii)               Those who consult both Western Doctors and Traditional Healers freely without any problem.


Whilst these are challenges in terms of people, other challenges are that:

(a)   We have to find a way of how these two separate worlds can work together and promote research and education, which will bring what, is of value to the whole healing system?

(b)   Can Western trained doctors refer their patience freely to African /Traditional Healers if they realize that their technologies and tactics do not work?

(c)    Are there a possibility of traditional/ African Healing Institutions work together with Medical Schools in research towards a full understanding of certain diseases?

(d)   Can the government of the day facilitate such discussions so that one day all this become a reality?

(e)    Do we need Institutions like South African Healers Association, Traditional Healers Organisation (THO),                 to start such discussions / engagements (just to mention one of many institutions)?



Therefore, the World Health Organisation (WHO) together with our African indigenous knowledge systems organisations must find a way of integrating their knowledge systems, and acknowledge the existence of the two-world medical systems, and see how to bridge the existing gaps in the healing processes.


Prof V.V.O Bhedlindaba Mkhize
Umsamo Institute/South African Healers Association.
Honorary Lecturer: School of Religion Philosophy and Classics (UKZN)

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