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The traditional medicine practitioners common in this country include the Diviners, Herbalists, traditional Birth Attendants, Traditional Gynecologists, Traditional Orthopedic Doctors or Bone Setters, Traditional Obstetricians and Pediatricians. All of them are known as “Native Doctors” and there is no thin demarcation or differentiation among them. A diviner can also be an herbalist and bone setters, a gynecologist can also be a pediatrician and a birth attendant at the same time. Each these practitioners are fully discussed below, so sit back and enjoy the article (You can read about traditional and herbal Medicine here).
Diviners: they are also known as the “Babalawo” who diagnose the cause of illness and proffer or give solution through the “Ifa” system in Yoruba or “Afa” in Igbo. They have the means of looking into the hidden parts of the universe to tell us what the problem is and give solutions to the problems. Some of them do this by the use of cowry shells by pouring it on the ground to discern the cause of the problem. Divination is the body of knowledge which societies have developed over the years. The Ifa system is a form of divination using cowry shells and incantations to invoke the spirit (s) working for the people as believed in the traditional religion.
To be a diviner in the olden days is a gift but it is now a learning process. In the traditional setting, if a person is sick, herbs around the house is first given and the patient is being watched for improvement for some time. If the condition does not improve, he or she will be taken to the diviner who through the “Ifa” system will tell what the problem is and also the solutions. In some cases, the diviner may conclude that the ancestor of the sick person is angry because he has not appeased them for a long time. As part of the solution, the native doctor may prescribe a sacrifice to be offered to appease the ancestors, which may be in form of animals or gift items. The diviner will also prescribe where the sacrifice will be kept which could be T-junction or at the river banks. The diviner may also diagnose the illness as poison, herbs, as solutions, will be given to the patients to either vomit the poison, remove the damages caused by the poison or to heal the sick person.
Herbalist: they are the native doctors who heal with herbs. Herbs used to cure ailments could be in form of fresh or dry leaves, barks, roots, seeds and stems of medicinal plants which could be powdered, liquid or concoctions. They have the general knowledge of the herbs and they know the good and bad ones, their functions, where they can be found, their preparations and workings. Symptoms of illness are used by the herbalists to diagnose the cause of illness and to give appropriate medication. Apart from their knowledge on plants, they also know the activity period and special characteristics of plants, where and when to pluck them. For instance, the “Anonepe plants” in Igbo land which kills everything around it and thus, no living thing or plants survive around the plant. Also, some leaves can only be plucked at midnight so as to be potent and active and some concoctions must not touch the ground. Some native doctors are both diviners and herbalists while some are just herbalists without having the ability to see.
Herbal Dispensers are those who sell herbs to the public. Some go about with packaged herbs or herbs that are processed into liquid forms packaged in different bottles. Some are seen in stalls and sheds in the marketplace, on the streets. These people in shops are mostly women and they have the knowledge of different herbs. Herbs are mixed and prescriptions given due to their knowledge of the diseases. Some herbs are boiled, while some are rubbed on the body or ailing parts. Herbs cure different ailments although they are risky to internal organs due to lack of dosage.
Traditional Orthopedic Doctors (Tod) / Bone Setters: this act is a community medicine and like divination and herbal practice, runs in family and lineages and handed down from generation to generation. They are set of native doctors that repair broken bones that were damaged during accidents. Bones are repaired by using different means, ranging from rituals to physical packaging of broken legs. In this act of healing, magical, religious inclination and physical healing are merged together to achieve good results. There is something magical about the powers of a bone setters and the mode of healing is inexplicable by orthodox medicine. Some patients legs which were about to be amputated in orthodox hospitals are being healed perfectly by the traditional bone setters and such patients are now able to make use of their broken legs.
The healing process is not a learning process but a gift which is believed to be held by a common deity worshipped by the lineage. The deity gives it to anyone that is worthy among members of the family. They are not supposed to charge exorbitant fees for their services. The act has supernatural inclination. For instance, in treating a patient, a chicken’s leg will be packaged alongside the patient’s leg and as the chicken’s broken leg(s) starts healing up, so also the patient’s broken part(s).
Traditional Birth Attendants (Tba), Traditional Pediatricians/ Obstetricians And Massagers: these people are another set of traditional healers, mostly women. They attend to babies and children with health problems such as malaria, stomach ache, teeth problems, and convulsions. They give herbs to make teething easier for babies. They are seen to be kind, good, sensitive and treat other children as if they are theirs. These native doctors are highly respected in the community.
The birth attendants help the pregnant women in delivering their children. Their services are mainly utilized in the rural areas and are likened to the mid-wives in orthodox medicine. They give herbs to the pregnant women during pregnancy to aid safe deliveries, help during labour or delivery, and they give herbs to the mother and child after delivery. The TBAs still monitor and care for the new babies and mothers until they are sure they can survive on their own.
The massagers help the pregnant women to position their babies well in the womb. They use their hands to turn breached babies for safe delivery.
Traditional Gynecologists: Traditional Gynecology is a branch of traditional medicine that is concerned with conditions and diseases specific to women. These native doctors treat women with gynecological problems such as menstrual disorders, miscarriages and also problems related to pregnancy. They give soft herbs to make the bodies of the most pregnant women light and to aid the removal of excess water. This is why Oedema(excess fluid in the body tissue) was rare among pregnant women in the olden days. They also give herbs to reduce the sizes of the fetus in the womb. This is to eliminate problems and to make the babies come out easily during delivery. Herbs are also given to widen the pelvic bones of women with narrow pelvis, so as to enhance smooth natural delivery instead of the Caesarean Section (CS). Also, the gynecologists have techniques of turning babies that are not in the right positions.
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