Despite the doubts concerning its effectiveness and reliability, traditional medicine is still very popular among Nigerians. Most of the information about traditional medicine in Nigeria are based on practical knowledge, observation and procedures passed down from generation to generation. These traditional medical knowledge are used in the diagnosis, prevention and treatments of physical and mental illnesses in Nigeria.
There are different categories of traditional health practitioners in Nigeria, such as native doctors, bonesetters, herbalists, traditional birth attendants, spiritual healers, traditional surgeons, and herbal doctors. The major issues to the use of Nigerian traditional medicine and herbs are their poor quality control and safety.
These traditional health practitioners are often patronised because of the numerous Nigerian health beliefs and practices that the population have come to know. In this article, we will examine the popular traditional Nigerian health beliefs and practices.
Before we begin, I would like to clearly state that, this article does not support or refute some of these beliefs and practices. This is written just to inform you of the common Nigerian health beliefs and practices.
Plant parts used in herbal medicine
One of the most common Nigerian health beliefs and practices is the use of plant parts for creating herbal medicine and treating certain ailments. For example, the roots of many African plants are said to contain powerful medicinal properties. The bark — the outer protective layer of a tree stem – is said to contain highly concentrated phytochemicals with anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties. You can learn about the common Nigerian herbs and their health benefits.
The sales of these plant parts as herbs are very lucrative in Nigeria, because of these claims.
Herbal concoctions for treating numerous ailments
In Nigeria, they are so many herbal concoctions that have been purported to treat manifold maladies. Many Nigerians often patronise these traditional herb vendors who are responsible for diagnosing them and then give them concoctions to treat their ailments based on the symptoms they describe. As you would guess, these herbal concoctions are made from the plant parts, such as the roots, barks, seeds and leaves.
They use these concoctions to treat ailments like malaria, erectile dysfunction, fever, typhoid, pile and body pains.
One of the most common herbal concoctions in Nigeria is called agbo or agbo jedi-jedi. Agbo Jedi-jedi is a widely used local herbal concoction in Nigeria, that is prepared from combinations of water extracts of leaves, bark, roots, and other parts. It has been claimed to treat malaria, typhoid, haemorrhoid, measles, and stomach ache.
Spoon in the mouth when having a seizure or convulsion
Unfortunately, this is still another common health belief that is common in Nigeria. This very common myth is that a spoon (or other objects) should be placed in a person’s mouth during a seizure or convulsion to stop the person from swallowing their tongue.
This myth has been proven wrong by medical experts. Despite what you might have heard, it is impossible to swallow your tongue and choke during a seizure. Although, a child may bite his or her tongue during a seizure, trying to put something in the mouth probably won’t prevent this, and could even injure them.
If you want to prevent the tongue from being bitten during seizures, make sure the patient follows their epilepsy treatment plan. They should also strictly take any prescribed anti-seizure medication and avoid any seizure triggers.
Palm oil is used for treating poison and itching
Palm oil has long been used for treating poison ingestion to induce vomiting. Many Nigerians believe that palm oil reduces the potency of the poison and detoxifies the body of the poisonous substance has been ingested. A lot of people have the belief that palm oil can neutralize poisonous substances and, should be given as first aid to anyone who has swallowed or ingested poisonous.
In Nigeria, palm oil is also used to treat itching and rashes. In this case, the patient takes a bath, and palm oil is administered all over the body.
Incisions are done to remove ‘bad blood’
Traditional health practitioners often use incision of blades to remove ‘bad blood’ on the affected areas on the body of a patient.
This belief is often as a result of the ailment said to be present because of ‘bad blood’ in the body. Therefore the incision is carried out to remove it. This is mostly done in cases of swollen body parts, and the incisions are done so the bad blood can slowly ooze out. They will then proceed to treat the incisions. This practice has lead to a rise in cases of hepatitis in Nigeria because the blades used in the incisions are hardly ever sterilized.
Spiritual practices to treat ailments
Spiritual practices and divination are still one of the common health care practices in Nigeria. Many Nigerian traditional health practitioners use this way of diagnosing diseases. In this case, the “spirit world” is often consulted to identify what causes the disease or to discover whether what can be done to treat the sick person. The traditional health practitioner often makes use of cowry shells, bones, animal shells, money, seeds, dice for consultation, and use herbs or other spiritual methods to heal their patients. Alligator pepper is said to have spiritual health benefits.
This practice still is very popular among Nigerians, especially for illnesses they perceive to be unnatural.