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Traditional Healing and Western Medicine


Traditional healing is believed to the earliest form of healing, which laid foundation for the development of the modern western medicine. Therefor it can be seen as the primitive form of the modern western medicine, on the sense the later developed western medicines they based their main premises on the experiences from the traditional healing , and the later modern medicines including Graeco Arabic Medicine and the Chinese Medicine. Traditional healing has been dominated by societies who are mostly nomadic and Agricultural based tribes, and its practice date back as around 6000 B.C.T he principals and philosophy that is involved in traditional healing differ from one region to another and mostly influenced by their resource endowment and the practices within there normal routines of life, although their exist some similarities regardless of the regional differences and these similarities are based on natural laws and on how these natural laws affect the living creatures, which is universal.

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Traditional Healing is quite different from western medicine in the sense that they normally use natural methods of treatment, which include various treatments constituting herbal medicine, nutritional therapy and physical therapeutics. The Traditional healing practitioners are perceived to holistic in nature and understand the relationship that coexist between the mind and the body, on an assumption that a health person signifies both mind and physical health. Traditional healers follows their ethical principals strictly throughout their life and the training of becoming a Traditional healer needs one to get an experience from a traditional healer, thus its some kind of informal training that is passed from one generation to another generation(Einstein,1940).

Traditional healing has been so helpful in keeping the human race since the start of humanity, but it is only of late, after the discovery of western medicine that people have disregarded traditional healing, but this has also been accelerated by the governments of different states. Obviously, traditional healing involve the use of readily and easily available resources that are almost free, which makes it less costly that the western medicine that involve a lot of investments in the provision of medical services and maintain the medical facilities. The almost free resources that are used by the traditional healers excludes them from having economic and political control of any government, thus the western medicine stand a better chance of being advocated by the governments as the recommended healing process hence suppressing traditional healing and fabricating it as just a tribal life, which is a threat to the monopoly of western medicine and governmental power. This suppression limits the application of Traditional healing, making the traditional healers to operate in secrecy and only giving treatment to people they trust of not betraying them to their respective governments. Despite the suppression from government on traditional healing in having autonomy over the medical services, traditional healing is making a slow coming back, but which is sure, even if the number of traditional healers are not as many as their western medicine practitioners.

On an attempt to evaluate on whether the traditional medicine can survive in the world dominated by western medicine it can be argued on the following perspectives as illustrated below:

Traditional medicine is the father of the western medicine in the sense that western medicine paradigm is based on the practices of traditional medicine, as most of the western medicine is just a refined form of traditional medicine but now associated with some sophisticated formulas and equipment,(Debie,1995). Traditional medicine being the primitive form of western medicine, then it means that any new discoveries and development in the western medicine in trying to improve their efficiency, they must go back to the drawing board, which is the traditional healing in understanding the concepts behind the composition of some medicines. Therefore traditional healing can never be wiped out completely just because of western medicine, as it reinforces the western medicine, unless the practitioners in the western medicines decide to be at a static state characterized by the inability to develop new medicine in meeting the everyday changes in medical requirements. Western medicine can never stand alone without the reinforcement from traditional healing.

The absolute surrender from traditional healing is not real practical when considered on economic grounds. The western health services are normally associated with high cost in providing medical services compared to the traditional healing which is extremely cheap due to low cost of the inputs. The ultimate goal of any medical service is to get a heal, regardless of it being expensive or sophisticated, and this places traditional healing miles ahead against the western medicine. Traditional medicine works best for poor communities like the ones in the developing world,because it is affordable to them compared to the western medicine. For example in the year 1978, the World Health Organization advocated the application traditional medical knowledge to safe the health situation in Namibia that was caused by lack of medicine due to inability to afford them,(Debie,1996).The then Namibia government ask the traditional healers to elect members to sit on the Council for Health and Social services professionals,implying that traditional healing is real viable but it is only that it has not been given a chance to portray its superiority but rather suppressed by obstacles on its was to develop.

Traditional healing will hold as long as their exists believes in institutional setups that include religion and culture. Their are some practices which are beyond the interpretation of the science which need divine interventions for them to respond. Western medicine is grounded on science whereas traditional healing is based on the holistic practices and experience from previous practice. The Holistic nature of traditional healing makes it suitable in handling cases related to culture and religion, and more specifically matters of spirits. In both Christian and Muslim religions, there is a common believe of spirits on which there faiths are based on,where the spirits can be classified as either evil or holy(Leobovici,2001). There are diseases that arise from someone being haunted by an evil spirits which can only be treated either by a spiritual leader casting out the evil spirit or a traditional healer doing some rituals to set the victim free from the evil spirits if it was a cultural issue. Therefore traditional healing are inseparable with culture, and it will stay as long the cultural practices of various communities hold. Any attempt to promote culture of any community, it indirectly promotes traditional healing , meaning that western medicine can never outshine traditional healing completely in a setup that is practicing some cultural values , because some cultural complications are beyond the scope of western medicine that is science oriented.

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Traditional healing has proved to be beneficial and specifically in keeping the human race, but its limited to one factor that is threatening to its wiping out. There are no well organized structures of traditional healing procedures that describe the principals governing traditional healing and this put it at a risk of the public loosing confidence in it. The kind of training is surely crude despite how long it might take,because there are no well established training centers with a standard training syllabus in ensuring quality services, as most of its training is informal and a lot of trial and error which exposes the life of a patient to risk.


Traditional healing will survive even if western medicine dominates in medical services. One will never expect development and discoveries in western medicine if there don’t exist the traditional healing which is the foundation of western medicine. Traditional healing makes a lot of economic soundness compared to western medicines , on ares where poverty is an issue like in the developing world. Traditional healing is deep rooted in culture, meaning that any promotion of culture implies traditional healing should exist and it solves complications that are out of reach of the science oriented western medicines. Traditional healing is only limited to lack of a proper institution that shall run its operations in trying to keep standard and efficiency in their operations. The institutions that need to be considered in perfecting the performance of traditional healing should include the proper trainin system other than informal training and institutions which will be ensuring quality services in monitoring the services offered by the traditional healers in the process of winning the public confidence.


Debie, L, (2003). Dealing with Disorder: Traditional and Western medicine in Namibia. (pp 12). Rhodes: Ph.D. Rhodes University Press.

Einstein, Albert (1940). Science and Religion: Nature. 146 (Nov. 9), (pp 605-607).

Leibovici, L. (2001) Effects of remote, retroactive intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients with bloodstream infection: randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 323, (pp 1450-1451).

Susan, N, (1999). AID-Africa-Medicine: African Traditional Healers Part of Army to Fight Aids. (pp 42). France.

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