Herbal medicine in Africa transcends clinical wellness; it is an element of the African culture, history, and religions. It is home to the ancient practices in medicine in use today, from the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians over 3000 years ago, and people document it under the African Traditional medicine (ATM).
African traditional medicine a common term for all forms of native and peculiar medicine practices in Africa, and it has roughly three categories intertwine with each another;
Traditional healers tackle illnesses strangely orthodoxly because rural Africa believes that ailments are multi-dimensional (extends beyond the physical realm). They treat and diagnose with both physical & spiritual means like; divinations, incantations, exorcism, African herbs, and spices.
Herbalism in Africa
A traditional herbalist can provide healthcare to the patient using African herbs/spices though they have different modes of diagnosis and administration. Natives expect healers to be knowledgeable, competent, experienced, and reliable.
Although cloaked in much secrecy, the practice of African Herbal medicines that colonials once tagged as ‘primitive’ has now become a source of intense research and potentials. Most western medicines are a partial or full product of phytochemicals (the art of using herbs in drugs).
Africa’s traditional medicine using herbs is extremely ingenious if you consider that;
Healers/herbalists are literarily sage in selecting the helpful herbs and spices.
Herbal medicines still provide healthcare that sustains millions of people in Africa.
Surprising discoveries are coming forth about the therapeutic effects of these African leaves.
Some Popular African herbs/leaves and spices
Different parts of a plant are useful for herbal medicines in Africa, depending on the method of application on the body like; oral ingestion, topical application, smoking/snuffing, vaping the steam, and edibles.
The parts can be the;
Leaves, stems, flowers, etc
Fruits and seeds
Gum, exudates, and nectars
Some of the herbs are;
This medicine comes from the exudate from the bark of the Arabica plant, and it is helpful in the treatment of ailments like; bronchitis, bleeding, diarrhoea, and respiratory infections. It is also a natural emulsifier for mixing various pills, or you can add it to soft drinks as edibles. Treatment fungal, bacterial infections, burns, and leprosy are other ways this herb is helpful.
Aloe Ferox (Cape Aloe)
People mostly use this bitter herb for aiding muscle growth and development; it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that can prevent muscles problem. It falls under the Aloe Vera plant family and is more peculiar to the Southern parts of Africa. This African herb also serves as a laxative during treatments.
Healers make use of this herb as; a therapy for weight loss, a cure for diabetes, and high sugar levels in the blood. The presence of this herb in the body helps to block sugar cravings (sugar cravings are the biggest contributor to the many weight battles people face). Its Hindi name (gurmur) translates to ‘destroyer of sugar. ‘
The extract from this plant fruit is becoming increasingly popular in stores; people mostly ingest it as a supplement together with proper dieting and good exercise. There are lots of credits to its efficiency for weight loss.
Centella Asiatica (Pennywort)
The efficiency of this herb has earned it a reputation bordering on legendary (mostly dismissed as folktales). It is an African spice useful in treating ailments like asthma, rheumatism, eye diseases, leprosy, and helpful in cognitive functions like memory boosting, curing epilepsy, and related conditions.
People ferment the shoots and flowers of this plant to make a tea that has medicinal benefits to the digestive and excretory system. The plant is surprisingly free from caffeine and is even useful in the cure of respiratory ailments like catarrh and pulmonary tuberculosis. In its modern-day use, pharmaceuticals prepare the tea by mixing with rooibos as well as other dried fruits and leaves.
This perennial plant is common to the western regions of Africa, and it helps to reduce the stubborn brown adipose tissue that leads to weight loss. You’ll spend more calories consuming this African spice than you will get from eating it, and this can lead to weight loss. People also take this herb as a stimulant to aid cognitive functions.
This plant can survive in aridest environments, which makes it rampant in the Kahalari region and the desert regions. This plant is useful for curing allergies, diabetes, blood diseases, and related disorders. It is also useful topically to cure heartburns, boils, gastrointestinal disorders, skin injuries, and ulcers.
This plant is common to all parts of Africa; people boil the plant leaves in water into a tea called ‘cerasse,’ and with the juice extracts from its pulp, seeds, leaves, and bark, healers use it to cure diabetes.
Liliaceae (Gloriosa Supcrba)/ Ewe aje
This plant is most popular in the western regions of Africa; healers use its tubers and leaves to create concoctions and ointments to cure external infections like gonorrhoea, head lice, and some bacterial infections.
Amaranthaceae (Amaranthus spiosus)
Popular to yet the western regions of Africa, the whole of this plant is useful in making edible medicines to cure ailments like abdominal pain, ulcers, and gonorrhoea. This herb is a popular medicine in the rural regions of Africa where healers do little of conventional diagnosis.
There is enough scientific proof of the use of this plant as an effective weight loss therapy; it was initially used by hunters in the desert regions to cut down their appetites in drylands. This plant serves as an African herb for preventing excessive weight gain.
Despite the many drawbacks to the use of herbs and spices as a medical remedy in Africa, it remains the most popular form of healthcare even amongst urban folks. Some of the many reasons why people prefer Africa traditional medicine are;
It provides a ‘holistic’ cure:
Africans don’t view ailments purely as physical disorders. African herbs provide total cures (body, spirit, and soul).
It is easily accessible.
In most African countries, the population outnumbers conventional doctors by a ratio of as much as 5 000/1, while traditional healers have a reasonable ratio of 250 people per healer.
Finally, Poor documentation of the potency of the medicines, primitive research of traditional healers, and insufficient regulations of the use of these herbs are the most significant limitations to the development of herbal medicine in Africa.