What is traditional medicine? Have you tried treating that ailment that is proving stubborn with orthodox medicine using traditional medicine? Or are you afraid of giving it a try? Now read about Traditional medicine; all you need to know.
Often times, people get scared of using traditional or herbal remedies in the treatment of ailments basically because there is limited scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of plants used in the 21st-century herbalism, which generally does not provide standards for purity or dosage, while others just don’t trust the process enough to give it a try. This article gives an A-Z exposition on traditional medicine.
What is Traditional Medicine?
Traditional medicine refers to the sum total of knowledge, skills, and practices based on theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to a particular group of people and culture and which is used in the maintenance of the health as well as in the treatment, prevention, diagnosis and improvement of medical problems.
Who is a Traditional Medical Practitioner?
A traditional medical practitioner refers to an individual recognized by the community in which he lives as being competent to provide healthcare, by using herbs, animals, or animal parts and mineral substances to provide healthcare.
These methods are based on socio-cultural and religious beliefs as well as on the knowledge and attitude prevalent in that particular community regarding physical, mental, and social wellbeing as they are connected to medical problems and disability.
The difference between an herbalist and a traditional medical practitioner is that an herbalist uses only herbs to provide healthcare while a traditional medical practitioner uses herbs, animals, or animal parts and mineral substances to provide healthcare.
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Traditional Medicine Concepts, Methods and Techniques
Traditional medicine defers orthodox medicines in its concept of illness, the approach of healing and healing methods. In orthodox medicine, the basic concept of illness centres around the result of experiments, and illness is considered to be caused by pathophysiological agents (virus, fungi, bacteria, etc.) and also noxious substances in the environment or food. But in traditional medicine, greater emphasis is placed on the psychological cause of illness.
Knowledge of Pathology in Traditional Medicine
Pathology is basically the study of causes and effects of medical problems. In traditional medicine, pathological investigations are not very fine-tuned due to the lack of training and knowledge required for such examinations. Also, traditional medical clinics lack the equipment required for pathological examinations. However, attempts is usually made by traditional medical practitioners to confirm the cause and effects of medical problems.
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Methods of Diagnosis
There are several methods traditional medical practitioners uses in diagnosing medical problems, some of which are:
- Patient’s observation: this involves observing the patients’ attitude and gestures. This observation may be extended to include the patient’s relatives so as to check whether a particular medical condition is a family trait or not. Also, some traditional healers listen to their patient’s stories and may also inquire about the patient in the community.
- Visual examination on the patient: in this procedure, the traditional medical practitioner examines the color of the eye of the patient, the skin, urine, and even the fecal matter without having direct physical contact with the patient.
- Clinical examinations: here, the summary appearance of the patient, inspection of movable parts, and palpations are carried out by the traditional medical practitioner. Presently in some countries, like Tanzania, China, India, traditional healers are being trained in the use of a stethoscope, thermometer, and weighing balance to aid in diagnosing ailments.
- Biological examination: due to a lack of knowledge of scientific techniques and interpretation of test results, traditional medical practitioners most often use their sense organs and other techniques to carry out a biological examination. Examples of biological examination in traditional medicine are;
- Use of the taste organ (tongue) to check the urine for the presence of sucrose and other sugars present in the urine.
- Use of the olfactory sense (nose) to smell a wound for putrefaction.
- Use of ants to check the urine for the presence of sugar.
- Use of the eye to observe the color of the patient’s vomit, sputum, faecal matter, urine, and palms.
Medical treatments in traditional medicine
- Internal medical treatment: items used in internal medical treatment include;
- Whole plants or plant barks, flowers, seeds, roots, stems etc.
- Exudates of plants such as latex, mucilage, gums, resins, aloes, and oils.
- Animals such as tortoise, snail, chameleon fish etc.
- Animal parts
- Mineral substances such as common salt, kaolin, powdered clay etc.
Note: these items might be used as a single component preparation or a multi-component preparation. Single component contains only: leaves, roots, bark, or seed. While a multi-component contains a preparation of leaf + barks + flower + seeds.
Also note that traditional medicine preparations can also contain other items that are not active ingredients e.g. colorants, flavoring agents, preservatives, and other excipients.
Dosage Forms in Traditional Medicine (internal)
- Liquid dosage forms e.g. infusion, decoctions, syrups, elixirs.
- Solid dosage forms e.g. powders (dry powder herbs), ant-heap earth, kaolin, powdered ginger, powdered turmeric, powdered cinnamon.
- Semi-solid dosage form e.g. crude balsams, resin, latex, aloes.
- Gaseous dosage forms e.g. the steam of volatile oil.
Route of Administration
- Rectal e.g. Enema given to relieve indigestions, stimulate appetite, treat impotence, and other reproductive conditions like infertility.
- Intrauterine mode of administration e.g. certain herbal preparations may be applied to facilitate uterine contraction.
- Sub-cutaneous method of administration using sharp objects to make an incision on the skin and thereafter powdered drugs are rubbed or applied on the incision to allow direct absorption of the active ingredient into the body.
- Inhalational route
- Intra-ocular route e.g. use of the fluid or juice of the plant Atropa belladonna on the eyes to dilate the pupils of the eyes.
External medical treatment
- Application of active ingredients dissolved in oil, fat, honey and wax on the body.
- Use of liquids or liquids squeezed from leaves of plants on the body.
- Application of mineral substance on the body.
- Application of other natural substances on the scalp.
There are meals or diets that are either prescribed or prohibited for certain reasons during traditional medical treatment. These meals or diets may be prescribed or prohibited because of their therapeutic advantage(s) or related harmful effect(s) respectively.
Therapeutic dieting can be prescribed for the following reasons:
- Certain food items may be prohibited to control obesity. Note that a high Body Mass Index (BMI) indicates a tendency towards obesity, and such a condition can predispose a patient or an individual to cardiovascular medical problems e.g. hypertension.
- Some foods may be prohibited because they are incompatible with drug being administered to the patient or because of the medical condition of the patient e.g. in Ajuverdic medicine, milk product or milk are forbidden when a patient has gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea and vomiting.
- Therapeutic dieting is also prescribed after some traditional surgical procedures. For example, okra soup made from the fruit of hibiscus esculentus is usually prescribed after certain traditional surgical procedures such as circumcision, to enhance wound healing.
- Also, certain food combinations are forbidden since such combinations are considered to be incompatible and can lead to indigestion.
Using traditional medicine in the treatment of ailments is sometimes preferred to orthodox medicine since most of its medications are derived from natural sources, making it more tolerable to the body and even less expensive and more accessible compared to orthodox medicine.