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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Traditional Healthcare Beliefs in Africa

The concept of spirituality and religion is prevalent in numerous African families’ and society’s traditional healthcare beliefs and practices.  

The African belief system is represented by a strong hope or faith in “Spiritual Powers”. These are most times connected to historical African cultural practices. Despite the introduction of western health care and treatment; a huge number of Africans opt for traditional and spiritual forms of healing or a combined form.  


Based on research and surveys, there are various kinds of traditional/spiritual treatments. Patients get to choose which healing process to practice; which is dependant on the type of illness and their family’s concept of spiritual and healing powers.  

Widely practised healthcare consultations in Africa include:

  1. Herbal Clinics – provided by tested herbs.
  2. Spiritual Centres – provided by native doctors/juju priests, pastors etc.
  3. Traditional Healthcare – a combination of spiritual and herbal treatments.
  4. Physical Healthcare – provided by physicians.
  5. Mental Healthcare
  6. Psychological Healthcare – provided by psychiatrists, social workers. 


Within mainstream religious (Christian/Muslim) households, a patient can ascribe their illness as a punishment from God for committing sin. Treatment could be accompanied by a visit to a local church or Imam for prayers, “deliverance and cleansing” processes. Sometimes, patients are accustomed to methods that are considered harsh which includes:

  • flogging
  • abstinence from food or certain kinds of food in general
  • solitary confinement
  • and a multitude of prayers from members.  

In the traditional belief society; patients regard their illness as a curse from witches, bad omen (juju/voodoo); or wrongful doing against the gods or ancestral spirits.

Here treatment is usually accompanied by the use of natural substances, prayer rituals. Other practices believed to restore balance and peace within the patients’ livelihood are sometimes used as a treatment aid.

Some of these practices are considered diabolic as they could most times include:

  • animal sacrifice
  • hunting for certain animal body parts as a form of offering or ingredient for a mixture.   

While some Africans opt for spiritual comfort, some others believe in local herbs produced by traditional herbalists or “Healers”. These forms of treatment are not widely tested; they have, therefore, been proven by believers to restore the good health of mind and body 

On the other hand, herbs provided by certified herbal clinics have been tested and proven to have unique, natural and far much more conducive health benefits over western medications produced in laboratories.  

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The concept of spirituality and traditional healthcare has been tagged by some scholars as a poverty mindset. The notion is supported by a claim that the majority of believers have limited access to decent education and urban culture.  

However, this practice cannot be overlooked and completely condemned; as some Africans who believe and practice western healthcare also combine spiritual and traditional healing, as there have been profound series of success stories. For some, (including Pan-Africans) it is a method of staying true to their origins, culture and tradition as they believe that Africans had a unique and arguably better livelihood before colonisation and westernisation.  



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