Indigenous medicine needs recognition – Professor Gibson

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Windhoek

The effectiveness and importance of the use of traditional medicine around the world are overlooked and therefore such medicine lack recognition as being as useful as scientifically tested pharmaceutical modern medicine, a visiting South African professor told a public lecture.

Being unscientifically tested and approved, traditional medicine therefore remains unrecognized to have the right and consent to be used freely and to be widely available to those who need it.  This was stated at the public lecture held at a resort in Windhoek on Tuesday night, presented by Professor Daina Gibson from the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

The lecture was about “Medicinal plants as players in the health system.”

“There have been controversies between professional medicinal doctors failing to recognize the use of traditional medicine, describing it as being unfit for use, as bio-scientific tests have not been conducted on them,” stated Gibson.

She added that traditional medicine should be given recognition to be used in cases when there is a lack and shortage of modern medicine but warned that traditional medicine should not be used simultaneously when using pharmaceutical medications.   

Those with the know-how should pass on the knowledge to others in order to preserve the ancestral knowledge, although it is very difficult to know those possessing indigenous knowledge as such individuals usually keep this knowledge to themselves.

Gibson gave the example of Chinese and Indian medicine as being useful, urging that they should be brought on board to share the knowledge on how they pursued their traditional medicines so that others could learn and follow the same route.

“There should be policies and regulations that will see that such things are preserved and given a platform where they can be practised freely. Traditional medicines don’t have side effects as they come natural, thus we should protect and preserve them through planting more of the species used instead of harvesting everything,” stated the Western Cape university professor.

The Directorate of Traditional Medicine, African Traditional Medicine Day, National Drug Policy of 1996 Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Act (No 72 of 2008), Traditional Health Practitioners Act (22 of 2007), Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council in 2013 and Draft of National Policy on African Traditional Medicine were listed as some of the structures, policies and regulations followed in South Africa. Gibson said traditional medicine practices in the Western Cape are prevalent to such an extent that they harvest and trade in approximately 700 tons of traditional medicine around the world and 100 tons in South Africa.

Gibson is a trained anthropologist specializing in medical anthropology.

She has previously published national and international journals on hospital ethnography, transformation of the South African health care system, ex-combatants and trauma; gender sexuality and reproductive health; masculinity, gender based violence and tuberculosis.

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