Traditional Medicine

Due to the fact that the development of many African countries was prematurely stunted by the infiltration of western colonialism, it is true that nations that are able to provide help to Africa are technologically more advanced. This does not mean however, that non-western epistemologies have no value. Non-westernized ways of thinking often serve as a balance to allopathic treatment efforts. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, hypnosis and naturopathy are all means of health care stemming from alternative modes of thinking.

Traditional medicine refers to the methods of protecting and restoring health that existed before the arrival of modern scientific medicine. Traditional medicine in general, meets the needs of the local communities in which it is practiced. Knowledge, practices and remedies are handed down from generation to generation keeping with the needs of the specific culture and community.

Though traditional medicine is often stigmatized as being nonscientific and illogical, these healing practices are effective and the closer relationship with patients also yields a more preventative rather than reactive approach to health. Dr. Dancing Lion explains that true healing practices do not inflict harm during treatment. Accounts of unsafe practices can often be attributed to superstitions and media images rather than traditional knowledge. In many African societies it is believed that AIDS can be cured through intercourse with a virgin. Traditional medicine is not based in these types of superstitions, illness are treated instead with prayer, herbs and spinal manipulations.

The three main elements of the healing process included prevention and protection, diagnosis and eventually resolution of problems. Dr. Dancing Lion and many other traditional healers learn the use of herbs and animal products to diagnose problems. This also consists of consultation of the spiritual world (calling upon the ancestors) and performing ceremonies. As an ordained interfaith minister and spiritual counselor, Dr. Dancing Lion brings about healing by reestablishing a harmony between the systems of the body, mind and universe. Through prayer and manipulation, the healing arts "respect all parts of a being".

The naturopathic approach taken by most traditional healers may prove to be extremely beneficial in the treatment of people living with AIDS. The typically noninvasive and therapeutic qualities serve to bring about a balance between the systems of the body and spirituality. Inherent in this approach is a deep cultural understanding of the history and psychology of the people whom it serves. It highlights the aspects of the healing process which allopathic medicine often underemphasizes. A non-antagonistic relationship between alternative treatments and western scientific medicine may better serve the needs of infected and uninfected individuals by being both holistic in counseling the mind and spirit and effective in the prevention and treatment of dis-ease.

The iZangoma's apprentices dance in a cultural celebration in Soweto.

Approximately 70%
of South Africans have been estimated in having consulted traditional healers.

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