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Topic section: African medical traditions
TOPIC SECTION:
African medical traditions
Africa is a diverse continent with numerous medical traditions sh
 Image: he use of bones, shells and pebbles as tools of divination has remained constant in many African medical traditions.
The use of bones, shells and pebbles as tools of divination has remained constant in many African medical traditions.
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
aped by landscape, climate, culture and religion. For thousands of years these traditions have grown and changed in responseto the disease and sickness in e

Today, 8 out of 10 people in Africa use traditional medical systems for much or all of their health care.

ach area. Yet certain features are common to the many African medical traditions taking a holistic, community-led approach to medicine.

The physical and spiritual aspects of your body are equally important according to African medical traditions. Some illnesses only trouble your physical body, which can be nourished with food and medicines. Conflict in your family or community, such as envy or ill will, may also affect your body. Ceremonies involving the whole community may take place to help treat an individual.

African hea
Image: Popular herbal medicines are mass-produced and foil-packed for a longer shelf life and modern look
Popular herbal medicines are mass-produced and foil-packed for a longer shelf life and modern look.
Credit: Science & Society Picture Library
lers often ask ‘why are you ill?’ as well as ‘what is wrong?’ Diviners, with access to knowledge given by the ancestors (a spiritual group of past relatives), can be called upon. In African belief, some illnesses just happen. But if the illness gets worse, or coincides with conflict in the family or community, a diviner can be asked to help find the cause.

Treatment depends on what you, your family and diviner healers believe is the cause of illness. Hands-on therapies might work best. Massage is common, as is using a cupping horn to remove impurities from the body. Plant, mineral or animal-based remedies are made in the home, or by a trained herbalist.

Song, dance and drumming ceremonies are treatments involving the patient and his or her community. Objects and medicines are accompanied by words and gestures to give comfort and meaning.

Today, 8 out of 10 people in Africa use traditional medical systems for much or all of their health care. Traditional healers can belong to government-backed national organisations, and are working with scientists on joint health projects.

 
 
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Topic section: Ayurveda
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For its patients and practitioners, Ayurveda is more than a medical tradition – it is a way of life. Preventing illness is as important as treating it. With roots in the Indian subcontinent more than two thousand years ago, Ayurveda’s influence has since spread to many other parts of the world.  > more

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Topic section: Traditional Chinese Medicine
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Balance and harmony are essential in Traditional Chinese Medicine – good health is believed to stem from the smooth flowing of the cosmic energy, qi (chi). TCM started in China more than two thousand years ago, and is now integrated into health care systems around the world.  > more
 
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