Africa is a vast region with an impressive botanical heritage, including a diverse array of herbs. Traditional medical practices are the primary source of medicine for many African people. Up to eighty percent of Africans rely upon traditional medicine for primary health care. Medicine overlaps with religion and folk beliefs, as physical disease is often thought to be the result of a spiritual ailment, resulting in an overall holistic approach to medicine within this continent.
Herbs may be prepared to combat illnesses attributed to supernatural sources. Someone who is sick or experiencing ill fortune is often thought to be a target of aggressive forces, such as witches, sorcerers, ghosts, or unhappy ancestors. A medicine man or priest might be consulted to prescribe a plant remedy in the form of a decoction, infusion, purgative, or emetic for the physical body. In folk belief, incense and fumigants may be made from herbs to drive off evil spirits or to appease the dead.
Many African folk medical systems focus on bringing equilibrium to the body, in terms of heat and cold, sweetness and sourness, dryness and wetness. Herbs with appropriate properties are used to combat the illness. For example, a spicy herb like bushmint (Hyptis pectinate) might be used to treat a cold.
Many patients seek both traditional and Western medical treatments for the same condition, necessitating that health care providers understand the interactions among various treatments. Folk and modern medicine are used to treat the patient on a holistic basis, using the medicinal resources readily at hand. For African healers, the many herbs available for treatment are a rich resource for physical and spiritual well-being.
African Herbal List –