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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Medicines and Symbols
Author:Bourdillon, M.F.C.ISNI
Year:1989
Periodical:Zambezia (ISSN 0379-0622)
Volume:16
Issue:1
Pages:29-44
Language:English
Notes:biblio. refs., ills.
Geographic terms:Zimbabwe
Zambia
Africa
Subjects:Ndembu
Shona
traditional medicine
public health
medicinal plants
Health and Nutrition
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Traditional medicine
medicine
Shona (African people)
Traditional culture
External link:http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/africanjournals/html/itemdetail.cfm?recordID=1355
Abstract:There are disagreements about the status and efficacy of indigenous African medicines. On the one hand, traditional healers are undoubtedly successful in helping people to overcome a variety of illnesses. On the other, people often assume that indigenous medicines are inferior to modern Western medicines. This article examines indigenous healing practices, focusing on the Shona of Zimbabwe and the Ndembu of Zambia, but the arguments have a wider application. Knowledge of herbs has always been important in indigenous medicine. Although some indigenous medicines may well have chemically effective ingredients, many of these medicines are symbolic rather than physical in their efficacy. Comparing indigenous and Western medicine the author critically reviews a number of perceptions of the differences between the two systems, such as the notions that indigenous medicine treats symptoms only, whereas Western medicine treats disease, and that indigenous African medicine has no coherent theory of the body. He concludes that traditional practitioners have skills in manipulating social and psychological states with which modern practitioners in Africa are unable to compete. However, in the field of chemical drugs, the modern scientific tradition is clearly superior. Notes, ref.
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