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The use of traditional healing remedies for ailments has always been part of human culture. Among the Igbo, disease is generally referred to as ‘aru
mgbu’ (body pain), ‘oria’ (sickness) etc. Apart from recognizing disease as a major problem, they attribute the causes to several agents such as sorcery, breaking of taboos, mystical disease and witchcraft (Okwor, 1997). They therefore devised way for curing diseases that are environmentally induced as they tried to dominate and conquer the environment in which they lived.
Unfortunately, this cultural practice has been widely criticized especially by Eurocentric scholars. This is principally based on the assumption that
traditional healers rely almost exclusively on magic, witchcraft and necromancy (Shu, 1997b:173). Some have questioned the relationship
between African medicaments, its practices and diseases (Iwu, 1981). The traditional healing systems have also been criticized on the ground that
practitioners are illiterates who do not understand the anatomy of human being.

The drugs and herbs administered do not pass through laboratory processes and so may still contain some harmful elements, which can cause more harm than good in the body system. Furthermore, the practitioners do not adhere to the rule of hygiene and administration of herbal drugs may not be on the right dosages because they do not have the technology to determine drug dosage. In spite of all these criticisms, the practice has continued to persist among Nsukka Igbo.
The introduction of western medicine into the third world in the mid- 20th Century with the laudable goal of improving the health and nutritional
status of various populations was welcomed by many. These programmes were however, instituted without much consideration for existing practices and beliefs of the local people for whom they were meant. The fact, however, that traditional healers did not simply disappear with the advent of western medicine, but are rather gaining more prominence even among the urban populace is a glowing testimony to the inadequacies of modern medicine in these parts (Ijeh, 1997:161).


In spite of the rapid growth in the development and spread of modern medicine, traditional knowledge on the use of plants continues to be the most popular alternative to health problems in Nigeria. Moreso, the uneven distribution of health personnel between rural and urban areas has left the rural dwellers with virtually no alternative than to patronize the traditional practitioners.

Even where modern medical services are adequate and accessible to the people, they are sometimes too expensive; hence, they are substituted with alternatives from herbal medicines (Shu, 1997a:148). To effectively address the problems, this report attempts to examine: the traditional healing systems in the study areas; how diseases are diagnosed and the processes involved in herbs procurement, processing and administering of drugs to patients; and the different types of leaves/roots and the specific diseases/illnesses etc.

Examples shall be drawn from Enugu- Ezike, Edem-ani, and Owerre-ezeoba to drive home our viewpoints. These areas have long history of traditional health care practices, and they are renown in traditional medicine. The three towns have practically similar cultural traits and trait complexes. Their ritual practices/performances are similar; and there are little variations in the terminologies used for diseases/herbs. Therefore, these communities truly represent Nsukka culture area in general, and will also offer valuable insights into the healthcare systems in the core Nsukka culture.

Studies in Traditional Healthcare Systems

The World Health Organization (1978) defines traditional medicine as “the sum total of the knowledge, skill and practices based on the theories,
beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintaince of health as well as in prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of physical and mental illness” (c.f. Muanya, 2009:17). For Mume (1973), it is “an art, science, philosophy and practice following definite natural, biological, chemical, mental and spiritual laws”.

A traditional healer can therefore be described as a person who is recognized by the community in which he lives as competent to provide health care by using vegetable, animal and mineral substances and certain other methods. These methods are based on social, cultural and religious backgrounds as well as the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs that are prevalent in the community regarding physical, mental and, social well being (Sofowora, 1982).
Traditional medicine first began when man started to create and manipulate symbols as well as develop systems of belief (Atando, 1973:2).
However, some 3,000 years B.C. man was well aware of the medicinal properties of some plants growing around him. The seeds of the Opium
poppy (Papaver ominiferum L.) and castor oil seed (Ricinus communis L.) excavated from some ancient Egyptian tombs indicated their use in that part of Africa as far back as 1500 B.C. (Shu, 1997a:150).
Many researches have been conducted on various aspects of traditional medicine by scholars and the like, using individual societies as case studies. Ugwu’s (1998:1) unpublished work on “Traditional Healthcare in Nsukka: An Ethno-archaeological Approach” argued that traditional healthcare refer to all the actions or cares outside the orthodox healthcare, needed by individuals and communities for the purpose of promoting, maintaining and preserving health. Ugwu (1998) identified the kinds of diseases associated with Nsukka people to include malaria (Iba), boils, infertility, swollen breast (Ezhi-era), Apollo (Eye – disease), snake bite, swollen legs (Odema), swelling 


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