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Sunday, June 14, 2015

What is an African Traditional Healer?

African Traditional Healing

There are some 27 million consumers of traditional medicine in South Africa

African Traditional Healer

In Zulu societies, the Sangoma is a highly respected traditional healer and Nyanga is the esteemed traditional herbalist. Men and women take up the profession after a long training period in Southern African society.


The Traditional Healers Organization organizes about 69,000 traditional health practitioners in South Africa to promote African Traditional healing as a holistic healthcare practice. Traditional medicines use herbal, animal, and mineral materials for physiological and symbolic purposes. Twenty seven million South Africans use traditional medicine in one form or another because pharmaceutical drugs are too expensive or traditional methods are considered an appropriate tradition.



The traditional medicines trade in South Africa is a large and growing industry. There are some 27 million consumers of traditional medicine, for many people in South Africa traditional medicine is not considered an inferior alternative to western medicine but a desirable complement or alternative necessary for treating a range of health problems. 

Traditional Healers contribute to the economy by expanding commercial trade in plants and animal parts for use in the traditional medicine practice. The importance of the trade in indigenous plant species for traditional medicine in South Africa is estimated at 40 million dollars a year.


Nyanga traditional herbalist treating an ear infectionDespite the persistence of customary controls on use of many species, the trade in animal parts in South Africa still persists. Indications by the Traditional Healers Organization research journal is that roughly 200 animal species and 550 plant species are actively traded for traditional medicine in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The most popular species traded as traditional medicine are the African Rock Pythons, Black Mambas, Black Rhinos, Dwarf Chameleons, Giant Golden Moles, Hyaenas, Monitor Lizards, Crocodiles and Vultures.



African Traditional Healing

Traditional healing is linked to wider belief systems and remains integral to the lives of most Africans. People consult traditional healers whether or not they can afford medical services. A true healer cannot take part in any action that can harm or negatively influence another person and believes God has the ultimate power, it is a spiritual calling.

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