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Who is an African herbal practitioner?
By Godwin Ihesie



Dr. Alexis Carrel (A Pioneer Researcher in Human Nutrition), once said: "A man is literally made from the dust of the earth. For this reason, his physiological and mental activities are profoundly influenced by the geological constitutions of the country where he lives, by the nature of the animals and plants which he generally feeds. This structure and its functions depend also on the selection he makes of certain elements among the vegetal and animal food at his disposal".

This means that the physical body of man is in all respect connected to the place of his birth. Fritj of Capra also noted that:


"Traditional wisdom...sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patients body, but also mind, his self image, his dependence on the physical and social environment as well as his relation to the cosmos." Traditional medicine is the art and science healing the sick, using the techniques and means that are indigenous to the sick patient (s) —Techniques which are traditionally recognized in particular geographical or ecological zone or community or culture — in the believe that it cures and heals or improve the social and cultural well-being of the sick patient.

There is no known tradition that has no system of healing its people. It is a great blessing from our Almighty in every geographical zone of the world. He endowed some people with the ability to administer to the health-care needs of their people — such healthcare system were fashioned according to the level of their spiritual maturity, their religious belief, cultural and the social standing of the people. In many parts of the world, the custodians or the practitioners or the indigenous health-care providers were held in very high esteem in their culture and generally in the ancient world, they were regarded as "medicine-men". However, they are called different names according to the community where they practice e.g.

1. In Tropical Africa, we have the ‘Witch Doctors" who later became the African traditional healers (i.e. the practitioners of African herbs).

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2. The Indians called them the "Aryuvedic Medicine" doctors and they practice "Aryuvedic Medicine".

3. The "Bare Foot" doctors are well known in China —later they became the practitioners of Chinese Acupuncture, Reflexology and Shiatsu.

4. The indigenous people of America call them the "Shamans", but the white Americans still call them the "Medicine men".

5. Europeans called them ‘Herbalists".

These ancient practitioners of traditional or indigenous medicine did not only help to improve the health of their client (within their respective communities), they also helped immensely in preserving the much cherished traditional or cultural values and native wisdom throughout the ancient world which they passed on to the later generations.

Traditional medicine practitioners and faith healers according to the definition given by the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) 88: "Traditional medicine practitioners and faith healers advice on methods to preserve or improve health and treat human mental and physical illness or sickness by herbs, medicine plants and other techniques traditionally used in the community and believed to cure and heal by assisting or stimulating nature, by power of faith and spiritual advice.


The task they perform usually include:

Advising clients on proper behavior and diet to preserve or regain metal and physical health and strength; 

Treating patients by applying traditional techniques which cure through assisting or stimulating nature; Endeavoring to cure sickness by mental influence suggestion and power of faith..." Today, traditional medicine is referred to as "Alternative " or "Complimentary" medicine which covers a large number of varied disciplines that include:

1.Acupuncture which may include:
Ear therapy

2. Chiropractic and Osteopathy

3. Herbalist—including:
Bach Flower Remedies

4.Homeopathy and Tissue Salt Remedies

5.Naturopathy; including:
Fasting therapy
Therapeutic Massage
Nutritional healing, etc.

Other forms of alternative therapies include:

Color therapy
Crystal therapy
Hands—On Healing (magnetic healing, etc.)

Herbalism and its practice is one of the major branches of Traditional or Alternative medicine and the practitioners as at the present day still retain the old name — "HERBALIST".


A modern herbalist, is however, a trained botanic physician or herbal therapist who uses medicinal plants mainly in their organic and unprocessed or unrefined state to treat human mental and physical disorders. He also employs other natural systems of healing in his practice.

A true herbalist is not only a person who has an in-depth knowledge of herbs and their virtue and how to prepare, and administer them correctly, but he is also a person who is familiar with the workings of the Natural Laws, which are inseparable from the Laws of health, he obeys these Laws and cooperate with them in all that he does for the well-being of his clients. He is a person that has a great interest in the development of indigenous and cultural endowments of his people.

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A true herbalist is a person with a deep interest in psychology, philosophy, proper education, all aspects of natural healing and above all, he has an innate burning desire to helping the alleviation of poverty and human sufferings.

Wholesome diet, counseling (psychology), wholesome herbs etc, are his tool which he use to help those that seek his help and advice. These tools are of natural and therefore of the Creator if he uses them correctly and does not abuse them. A true herbal therapist is quite different from the orthodox medical practitioner who uses synthetic drugs, scalpels, etc, as his tools which are the intellect-developed by man.

A modern herbalist is opposed to the present-day system of preventive healthcare, which consists of injecting healthy people with unnatural and inorganic products (drugs) vaccines, serum, chemicals, etc., which are known to have serious side and after effects and sometimes inducing an unpredictable organic and systemic dysfunction. However, a herbal therapist often agree with the orthodox medical practitioners, that in some emergency cases like accidents, or where an advanced tumor or cancer may endanger the life processes chemotherapy, surgical intervention may be absolutely necessary. But he also believe that even in such cases, artificially manufactured drugs should be used sparingly since such therapeutic methods merely removes symptoms and may not address the cause of the illness, also such will not boost up the body’s innate ability to resist diseases or raise the body’s general vitality.