Holistic Health And African Traditional Medicine Approach, By Walid Moukarim

Treating ourselves or relatives when afflicted with an ailment is a necessity, it is thus wise to seek information on the choices of health care available, to understand their pros and cons, and thus make an informed choice in seeking health and good health care.

The light here is on African Traditional Medicines, be it Islamic, Christian, or Traditional Culture Based.

History has shown African traditional medicine is the oldest and perhaps the most assorted and richest of all therapeutic systems.

Africa is seen to be the cradle of mankind, abundant with a rich biological and cultural diversity marked by regional differences in healing practices, from religious and faith based to the yet unexplainable but workable.

African traditional medicine in its varied forms is holistic, involving the body, the mind, spirituality and the environment.

The traditional healer typically diagnoses and treats the psychological basis of an illness before prescribing medicines, be them spiritual or physical, tropical or oral, to not only treat the symptoms but the cause inclusive, with a view to restoring the patient to good health and healing.

Traditional medicine practitioners in a holistic manner focus on taking the whole person into account when they carry out their health services.

This is centered in the belief and knowledge that optimal wellness is created when the unique needs of each and every person are looked at in depth.

Here we find a holistic health approach that digs deep to find the root causes of health problems you might be having, while having a clear understanding of how interwoven and inseparable the various elements of health are (e.g. physical, mental, spiritual).

While Treating patients, traditional healers holistically offer information, counselling, treatment to patients and their families in a personal manner while having at the fore an understanding of their patient’s environment, cultural and religious needs.

It is important to note that in African Traditional medicine as in Islamic and other traditional medicines, sickness is not limited to the physical body, but is seen as anything that affects the balance of harmony in the mind, body, soul and emotions.

Traditional medicine is the sum total of knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures that are used to maintain health, as well as to prevent, diagnose, improve, or treat physical and mental illnesses [WHO].

Traditional medicine that has been adopted by other populations (outside its indigenous culture) is often termed complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) [WHO]

A holistic health practitioner will usually offer or recommend alternative/complementary health therapies where and when necessary.

These might include things like acupuncture, herbalism, prayer or naturopathy to name a few, depending on the healer’s inclination.

Holistic health practitioner will respect when there is a need for conventional medicine too and they will support an integrative approach.All holistic health practitioners will have a slightly different approach. However, the holistic way to health’, has a number of paths which must all be free flowing to have good health or to be said to be healthy.

These include prayer (religious rituals and to dos), exercise, nutrition, stress control, sleep, thoughts and relationships, to mention a few. When one lane is blocked it will eventually have a significant effect on all the other lanes.

For example, if you haven’t eaten all day your body will be crying out for a “feel better quick” fix, your body will signal with headaches, pinching in the tummy, with loss of a concentration and won’t be able to handle normal work routine.

Perhaps you weren’t able to eat because there was a blockage in the paths of your finances or relationship or stress, in your holistic health cumulative.

Whatever your situation, once the main culprit is found, the whole path way will flow a lot more easily and good health restored.

The holistic health approach is firmly based on the foundation principles of traditional medicines, Islamic (Unani), Ayurvedic, TCM or African Traditional.

All of these medical and health practices far precede the allopathic (western) medicine.

These traditional health providers see medicine as any thing that solves mans problems and see sickness or disease as anything that affects the body, mind, soul and emotional balance. Their knowledge predates writing and has been handed down over the years orally and now both orally and well written.

Their holistic approach to health care and their use of nature’s inputs is seen to be that which gives them the power to cure and not manage disease or symptoms.

The world today is turning to herbal and holistic health, this so evident in the need seen by the WHO to set up the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, based on the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine (WHA62.13)

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 80% of the emerging world’s population relies on traditional medicine for therapy. During the past decades, the developed world has also witnessed an ascending trend in the utilization of CAM, particularly herbal remedies.

Herbal medicines include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products that contain parts of plants or other plant materials as active ingredients.

We find that in the African continent the most common traditional medicine in common practice to all the various religious and traditional healers across board is the use of medicinal plants, primarily because medicinal plants are the most easily accessible health resource available to the community, this is often laced with practices linked to belief and others ancestral.

They too have Specialization in their various fields like the traditional bone setter (a highly priced and sort after personal), mental health, exorcists, those into Hijama (cupping) and so on.

The traditional medicine understanding of the human body is completely different from that of the allopathic medicine, the concept of hot or cold temperament, dry and damp temperaments of the core organs come to play and tell the whole story, where there is an imbalance sickness comes, and is treated with items and methods that compliment the temperament of the ailment and parts of the body affected.

In other climes we have the ying-yang balance, the acid alkaline balance, chi and qi, all generally saying the same thing about the body.

The holistic health care givers have their ways of bringing peace, harmony and good health within their societies, some of their methods “modern science” is just beginning to understand.

Ongoing research has shown how many ailments once thought by allopathic medicine to have no cure, have been treated successfully by use of herbal medicines. With claim of successful cures to Cancer, HIV, Malaria, Typhoid and a host of other ailments.

In some climes a marriage between traditional medicine and allopathic medicine is giving birth to Naturopathic Medicine seeking the best of both worlds.

Walid S. Moukarim



Facebook – @walidsmoukarim


[1] WHO, Fact sheet N134, 2008, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/ factsheets/2003/fs134/en/

[2] A. Gurib-Fakim, “Medicinal plants: traditions of yesterday and drugs of tomorrow,” Molecular Aspects of Medicine, vol.27, no. 1, pp. 1–93, 2006.

[3] V. Chintamunnee and M. F. Mahomoodally, “Herbal medicine commonly used against infectious diseases in the tropical island of Mauritius,” JournalofHerbalMedicine, vol. 2, pp. 113–125, 2012.

[4] Dr. M.I. Jawa (PhD) lectures

[5] Aone Mokaila, 2001, http://www.blackherbals.com/atcNewsletter913.pdf.

[6]A.Gurib-Fakim,T.Brendler,L.D.Phillips,andL.N.Eloff, Green Gold—Success Stories Using Southern African Plant Species, AAMPS Publishing, Mauritius, 2010.

[7] A. Gurib-Fakim and M. F. Mahomoodally, “African flora as potential sources of medicinal plants: towards the chemotherapy of major parasitic and other infectious diseases- a review,” Jordan Journal of Biological Sciences, vol.6, pp.77–84, 2013.

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