African traditional medicine is a form of holistic health care system organized into three levels of specialty, namely divination, spiritualism, and herbalism.
Illness is regarded as having both natural and supernatural causes and thus must be treated by both physical and spiritual means, using divination, incantations, animal sacrifice, exorcism, and herbs.
Herbal medicine is the cornerstone of traditional medicine but may include minerals and animal parts.
African traditional medicine has been used by African populations for the treatment of diseases long before the advent of orthodox medicine and continues to carry a part of the burden of health for the majority of the population.
The services of traditional healers go far beyond the use of herbs for physical illnesses. A particular example of the role of traditional healing extends to its use in Mozambique. Traditional healers were found to be invaluable in post-civil war social reconstruction and community rebuilding in Mozambique, particularly in the rural areas. It is doubtful whether modern psychological and psychiatric services would have been appropriate in Mozambique, since traditional healing was highly involved by rendering culturally relevant psychological services that included communication with the ancestors.
South Africa, as a member state of the World Health Organisation, has been set on the path of institutionalizing African traditional medicine.
Herbal medicine was once termed primitive by western medicine but through scientific investigations, there is a better understanding of its therapeutic activities such that many pharmaceuticals have been modeled on phytochemicals derived from it.
The future of African traditional medicine is bright if viewed in the context of service provision, an increase of health care coverage, economic potential, and poverty reduction. Formal recognition and integration of traditional medicine into conventional medicine will hold much promise for the future.