An Ethnomedicine practitioner sees people with all sorts of medical problems and treats them with remedies made from medical herbs, rather than drugs,

What conditions are treated with ethno remedies?

  • Almost anything, apart from acute conditions which need surgical intervention such as appendicitis, victims of motor accidents etc.
  • All types of chronic conditions respond very well.
  • Skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, other autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, postmenopausal symptoms, various allergies, digestive problems, colds, flu, asthma, bronchitis and many viral infections such as glandular fever can improve dramatically with Ethnomedicine and holistic approach. Today many viruses cause a lot of longstanding ill health to the body so it cannot protect itself adequately.
  • Ethno remedies can cleanse and gently rebalance the body’s systems and boost its immune defences.

How do Ethnomedicine Practitioners make a diagnosis?

Ethnomedicine practitioners are trained in the same skills as orthodox doctors, but take a holistic approach to illness. They seek the underlying cause of the specific problems; treatment is focused on recovery of the organ or system thereby establishing homeostasis rather than the “band aid” approach to treating the symptom.

  • The Ethnomedicine practitioner takes a comprehensive medical history of patient. This includes broad questions about lifestyle, social conditions and work environment to mention a few. The greatest single thing that this analysis does is to point out the inherent weaknesses.
  • These weakness lower the resistance of the body and leave a person vulnerable to other problems as well. By this holistic analysis and approach, the ethnomedicine practitioner can get a graphic picture of the client’s circumstance and have a better understanding of what needs attention in the body.
  • The enthomedicine practitioner regards the patient as a “family” member.
  • A diagnosis is a made of illness or abnormal conditions. The practitioner achieves a diagnosis by reading and understanding iris signs and sclerolog. These signs of the eye indicate generic propensity, chronic and acute conditions, a particular constitution and gives insight to the patient’s over-all systemic condition.
  • Facial signs and symptoms displayed by the patient are a crucial indicator of system dysfunction.
  • Pathological tests for blood and urine may also be used.
  • Important, the comprehensive patient history is taken after the diagnosis. The patient now feels comfortable in that the Practitioner.
  • The Ethnomedicine practitioner has a referral network with other specialised modalities.
  • Lastly, the practitioner understands that trust and belief in the patient relationship is important for the total effect in the healing process.

What do we to know about their lifestyle?

It all depends on the person but we might ask them what they are doing to help their body help itself.

Diet is of uttermost importance; are they eating lots whole, unprocessed food with fresh vegetables and fruit. Do they drink enough pure water, are they getting enough sleep, do they do regular exercises, do they make time to relax and unwind?

Life style is also crucial; do they eat a lot of rich food and drink a lot of alcohol, smoke cigarettes, take drugs of one kind or the other? Once they see the correlation in the way live and how their body has to adapt to survive, they are usually ready to make changes to the health.

How Ethnomedicine remedies work (herbs)

They work physiologically with the body. Some remedies have a particular affinity for certain organs or systems and they are used to feed and restore health to those areas. These remedies may suppress or increase the appetite, act as tranquilizers or mild stimulants. Some are diurectics, flushing toxins out act as tranquilizers or mild stimulants. Some are diuretics, flushing toxins out of the body, others speed up the eliminations process in the intestines, some are liver cleansers, others act as natural hormones working on the thyroid or other endocrine glands. Some are anti-inflammatory and soothe peptic ulcers or colitis. Others help the heart and circulatory problems such as high blood pressure, angina (angina pectoris) or varicose veins, etc.

Medicine presented by a trained Ethnomedicine practitioner is effective and safe and it works. These remedies do work, patients too say they wish they had come years ago, they feel much better. These patients are very satisfied; even those with established conditions, which have been on drug regimens for years, or those who have sluggish systems say they feel better. It means the ethno remedies are cleansing, detoxifying and helping the body to balance itself.

How do Ethnomedicine differ from synthetic drugs?

Many synthetic drugs are based on medicinal plant constituents but scientists isolate, extract and synthesize them on therapeutic constituent for large-scale manufacturing. Ethnomeds believe that the active plant ingredients are balanced and work together, so they use extracts from the whole of the plant, which may contain hundreds of different constituents.

The herb Ephedra Sinica is the source of Alkaloid Epherine, used to treat asthma and nasal congestion, but it has the side effect of raising blood pressure. The manufacturers of ethno remedies use the whole plant, which contains six alkaloids, one of which prevents the rise in blood pressure. Synthetic diuretics (drugs which increase the flow of urine), seriously reduce the body’s potassium levels. Ethnomeds use umganu, which is a potent diuretic but it is also a rich source of potassium.

What is the basis of Ethnomedicine treatment?

Ethnomedicine work gradually and gently, helping the body to heal itself and they do not have any harmful effects. Drugs can drastically affect the structure or function of the body and can have bad side effects. Meanwhile the natural remedies do their work well without any side effects. There are very powerful drugs which are lifesaving, part of modern medicine but still with side effects.

Where do the remedies we prescribe come from?

They are supplied by pharmaceuticals specializing in the production of processed traditional herbs.

How long does it take to get better?

Children respond wonderfully well, often in a few days or two weeks, adults respond quickly, but others with hormonal problems may take three to four months, established chronic diseases take what seems to be a long time because the remedies may have to undo years to drug therapy, accumulated stress and unhealthy living.

All entities like normal cellular structures, viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites are a normal occurrence in living bodies. These entities have a symbiotic relationship within our bodies. When our nutrition and lifestyle are not maintained in a proper manner, the once symbiotic relationship turns on itself and comes hostile. Disease results and is addressed by herbal remedies, nutritional advice and lifestyle coaching. Ethnomedicine practitioners have an understanding of these dynamics and are effective with treatments in rural as well as city environments.

Specializations of Ethnomedicine


Philosophy and basic theory of ethnomassage

Since ethnomassage is a specialization within the context of ethnomedicine, the techniques of massage are based on the principle of traditional medicine that the human body is composed of four elements, i.e earth, water,wind and fire. When four elements of the body are in equilibrium, a person will be healthy.

In contrast, if an imbalance in these elements occurs, i.e. if there is a deficit, any excess, or disability in any of the four elements, a person will become ill. In preparing to use traditional medicine therapies, it is significant to start with an appreciation of holism, which is the underlying principal of all traditional medicine.


Ethnomedicine Health Advisor

The Ethnomedicine health advisor is trained as a community worker. The health advisor consults with the community at large on primary health care. The health advisor focuses primarily on environmental, life style nutrition.

As primary healthcare is part of Ethnomedicine, it is based on the principle of traditional medicine that the human body is composed of four elements, i.e. earth, water, wind and fire. When four elements of the body are in equilibrium, a person will be healthy.

In contrast, if an imbalance in these elements occurs, i.e. if there is a deficit, any excess, or disability in any of the four elements, a person is likely to become ill.

In preparing to use traditional medicine therapies, it is significant to start with an appreciation of holism, which is the underlying of all African traditional medicine.

Where it is required, referrals for further diagnosing and treatment will be made to an Ethnomedicine Practitioner.


Educational and Training Standards

EPASA has set standards for educational training, and these are based on educational norms for the Ethnomedicine and general health industry. Accreditation and awarding of course standards of academic institutions offering training in ethnomedicine are approved by EPASA

EPASA authorizes the standards for “continuous professional development” (CPD) through the relevant training institutes. Uniformity of education is an absolute requirement. This uniformity will result in a given standard of acceptable service delivery to the public.

Application will made to SAQA for the registration of the qualification of “Ethnomedicine Practitioner”. Subsequent registration on the NQF as a level 7 qualification will be made.

The various Training Institutions recognised by EPASA will be required to submit an application to the Council on Higher Education for recognition as a Private Higher Education Training Institutes. Such application and subsequent registrations will be required in order to offer a graduate and or a post graduate diploma course in Ethnomedicine. These proposed qualifications await ratification by the THP council.

Private training institutions registered with EPASA

  • Ethnomedicine Institute
  • Translife Training Institute
  • Wellness Centre
  • Roots

At present training is offered only by the above mentioned EPASA approved private schools, in South Africa. These schools are not training qualifications, but rather “upgrade” courses, which are less than six months in duration.

Ethnomedicine modalities integrate with other medically registered professions on grounds of generic knowledge and education pertaining to health, both physical and mental. These courses in anatomy, physiology, pathology and nutrition, African herbs, trance state therapy and others are offered by the institutes mentioned above.

The primary departure from generic knowledge and education is in the African philosophy of healing. All EPASA registered practitioners must have an academic understanding of “trance state therapy” this is order to make a timeous referral to a practitioner who specializes in ethnopsychology.

The education, knowledge and skills of our practitioners address the patient’s holistic health needs bringing about healing of the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional disposition, not to exclude, socio-economic, an issues, and spiritual curses. This embraces “healing with a recovery”.

Ethnopsychology modalities are offered by subject matter experts in trance state therapy and ethnopsychology. Translife Training Institute has an affiliation with the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association (IMDHA) U.S.A the courses have been adapted, with permission from the IMDHA to encompass the South African context based on African philosophy of healing.

The training courses are offered on a full- time and part- time basis.

International students attend training in South Africa for this sought after certification. With this IMDHA certification a healer may seek self- employment in United Kingdom and of course in most States of America.

Future Education and Training

Since 1878 African Traditional Medicine was outlawed in South Africa. This is approximately 130 years ago. Notwithstanding these legal parameters, a few dedicated herbalists started an open air market in 1916. This market has grown into a huge industry over the passed 95 years. Today the estimated South African market, in terms of revenue, stands at 2,9 billion rand. The world trade in herbals is estimate at 60 billion US.

Etnmomedicine has proven to be a sustainable modality of health care in South Africa. For hundreds of years people have relied on the African Philosophy and Principles of healing. It is therefore not surprising that this modality resurfaced very strongly with the dispensation of democracy in South Africa. This encouraging and in indication that traditional health practices are here to serve the population in an acceptable and sustainable way.

Traditional medicine, as in many other countries like China and India are taught and practiced at an academic/modern level in their respective countries of origin.

Some foreign traditional systems, at an academic/modern level, like those mentioned above are practiced in South Africa and enjoy full registration under a Statuary Council. Examples of these are, Dr. Unani-Tibb, Chinese Medicine, Ayurvede Medcine, Homeopathy and others. Homeopathy being a derivate of European and German Herbalism.

Ethnomedicine, the academic/modern modality of South African Traditional Medicine is described below in terms of proposed major subjects.

It will be noted that the basic education and training is generic to all health modalities. The post-graduate education is where education and practice remains true to the African philosophy and principles of healing.

Ethnomedicine Practitioner

EPASA awaits the inauguration of the Traditional Health Practitioners Council. Council will deliberate on proposed education and training programs. These programs when ratified will fulfil the requirements of the scopes of practice for the modalities. This will then result in a qualification been registered with SAQA and finally placed on the NQF.

B.Sc. in complimentary medicine (three years, as in Unani-Tibb)


As prescribed by the current faculty


Duration of education/training

This is a 2year post-graduate programme, including a one-year internship with accredited health institutions or registered practitioners in ethnomedicine.

Objectives of the course:

To use a standard criteria for the training and transfer of knowledge of traditional medicine in the field of ethnomedicine in the institutes or health care facilities certified by the commission from Ethnomedicine Practitioners Association of South Africa. (EPASA)

Major subjects:

  • Anthropology/history of ethnomedicine
  • Ethnobotany
  • Material Medica
  • Phytopathology
  • Iridology/sclerology
  • Facial signs and symptoms
  • Nutrition
  • Trance state phenomenon
  • Counselling

One year clinical intern

Research on current topic




  • Trance state phenomenon
  • Analytical psychology
  • Dream analysis
  • Entity attachments
  • Possessions
  • Curses
  • Ethnopsychiatry

In today’s times, many people may suffer from ailments that relate to disorientation with society, family, friends, and colleagues. Others suffer from disorders like “sleep paralysis”, and nightmares, disturbing dreams of a prophetic nature, not to exclude Tokoloshe visitation and curses.

Other clients are said to be bewitched or mad. Ethnopsychiatry uses “trance state” regression to determine the cause (usually not recallable by the conscious mind) of mental or physical illness. The treatment is given by a combination of ethnopsychological methods of healing and traditional African methods of herbs.

Physical brain damage or disease would necessarily be treated by allopathic means. Ethnopsychiatry forms an intergral part of the holistic method of diagnosis and treatment.



  • General massage
  • Runga techniques

Ethnomedicine Health Advisor

Diploma in Health Sciences:

Major subjects:

  • History of Medicine and Ethnomedicine
  • Anthropology
  • Ethnobotany
  • Materia Medica
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathology
  • Trance state phenomenon
  • Nutrition
  • Massage techniques