Traditional Healing Practices for Child Healthcare in South Africa


South Africa has made significant strides in reducing the under-five mortality rate. However, it still falls short of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal. A crucial aspect of child healthcare in the country, particularly in rural areas, lies in the use of medicinal plants. The North West province, for instance, has been at the forefront in harnessing the healing power of nature for managing childhood health conditions.

A Look into the Indigenous Healing Practices

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Mpumalanga and North-West University Mafikeng Campus explored the use of medicinal plants as remedies against diseases among children in the North West province. The study yielded an inventory of 61 plants used for managing childhood health conditions. The most popular among these were the carpet plant, common yellow commelina, and elephant’s root.

The role of traditional health practitioners, predominantly women, was found to be pivotal in managing childhood illness with these natural remedies. The study also confirmed similarities in Indigenous practices and plant matter for specific conditions across other provinces. These findings underscore the significance of traditional medicine in child healthcare in South Africa.

The Ethnobotanical Investigation of Mimusops zeyheri

Another noteworthy study focused on Mimusops zeyheri, an underutilized indigenous fruit tree in Gauteng Province, South Africa. The research aimed to explore and document the various uses of M. zeyheri. It found that the tree could be a valuable natural resource for combating hunger, poverty, malnutrition, and food insecurity in developing countries.

The most commonly used plant components were fruits and leaves, and decoction was the most popular method of preparation. However, the tree has become scarce in the surveyed communities, presumably due to extensive habitat destruction caused by population increases. The study suggests that M. zeyheri could enhance food and economic security if thoroughly investigated and cultivated on a large scale.

Preserving and Promoting the Use of Medicinal Plants

The use of medicinal plants in South Africa to treat childhood diseases is a testament to the traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous communities. However, these practices are at risk of being lost, and the medicinal plants, of becoming extinct due to environmental changes and urbanization. Therefore, it is imperative to preserve and promote the use of medicinal plants for healthcare in South Africa.

The importance of medicinal plants in child healthcare cannot be overstated. Their potential to treat various childhood diseases, and their role in promoting sustainable development and health equality, make them invaluable resources. With further research and support, medicinal plants could play an even more significant role in child healthcare not only in South Africa but also across the globe.


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