Traditional healers welcome scientific research

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pretoria - The Traditional Healers' Organisation (THO) has welcomed government's initiative of conducting scientific research on traditional medicines.

Speaking to BuaNews at the African Traditional Medicines and Intellectual Property Workshop held in Pretoria, Phephisile Maseko, from the THO, said research must be for the benefit of the public.

"We not objecting or against scientific research. We want to be involved when the research is conducted. We want traditional medicines to be well profiled and recognised," she said.

According to Maseko, research has shown that the majority of South Africans still consult traditional healers.

The Department of Health has confirmed that it is currently engaging with traditional healers in aspects involving the use of African traditional medicines.

"We do from time to time interact with the traditional healers," said the department's spokesperson Fidel Radebe, adding that as government, they do recognize the place of traditional medicines.

Radebe told BuaNews that his department, together with traditional healers, is currently working towards establishing the norms and standards to be followed with regard to traditional medicines.

Deputy Director General at the Department of Science and Technology, Dr Molopo Qhobela, said research and innovation in African traditional medicines have tremendous potential to contribute to the quality of life.

"There is a need to develop strategies to improve the quality of life. Innovation is needed in the health system to ensure quality of life," he said, adding that indigenous knowledge should be protected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines traditional medicine as the health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.

The WHO also notes, though, that "inappropriate use of traditional medicines or practices can have negative or dangerous effects" and that "further research is needed to ascertain the efficacy and safety" of several of the practices and medicinal plants used by traditional medicine systems.