Here Is All You Need To Know About African Witch Doctors.

Here Is All You Need To Know About African Witch Doctors.

When African witch doctors are mentioned, people react in fear sometimes. However, who are they really and what do they do?

What most people call “African witch doctor” is something of a misnomer. The African witch doctor is simply a community traditional healer. People within that sphere approach him for traditional remedies for their various ailments. The African witch doctor has his pros and cons.


Admittedly, though, their methods are quite unconventional and the illnesses brought to them can sometimes be very extraordinary. Even though the efficacy of their methods and medicines are still very much up for debate, they are very popular across Africa. They could be seen even in market places, and some of them travel a lot.


Can just anyone become an African witch doctor?


Can anyone just wake up and become a medical doctor without going to medical school? If the answer to that question is no, then it's the same thing in the African witch doctor's case. They surely don't go to any medical school, but many of them spend years learning herbal medicine from fathers, uncles, or mentors. The gift is passed down from generation to generation.


Over the years, their reputation has taken a hit and patronage has become really low. Most Africans have become unsure and wary, and this is due to a number of factors. The way they are represented in African movies played a big part in skewing people's perception of them and their job specification. Another factor is education and exposure. However, Recent generations have found a surer bet in western medicine and technology.


Pros and cons of the African witch doctor

Pros and cons of the African witch doctor

Like most things in the world, the African witch doctors have their pros and cons, where they fail and where they excel, their merits and their shortcomings. Below are their pros and cons.




  • Still a first recourse for the poor


Despite the decline in their reputation, they are still the first option for poor Africans who find the hospital too expensive. The witch doctor, close to the patient's family in most cases, just goes ahead with the treatment. If the family does not have the money at that moment, they can have the arrangement to pay at a later date.


  • When western medicine fails


It is not uncommon for the ailment in a suffering patient to elude the doctor even after numerous tests. The hospital discharges the patient in the end. At this point, some patients turn to traditional medicine. And, it is only the African witch doctor who can prescribe these medicines. Furthermore, there have been surprising recoveries made in some cases.


  • First-aiders


Because they are closer to home, when a health problem strikes at odd hours, they provide first aid for cases like snake bites, scorpion stings, dislocations and others.



Cons of African witch doctors

  • Over-reliance on one herb


If a herb successfully vanquishes a few different symptoms, it gets recycled over and over again. They deploy it for too many sicknesses. They are known to prescribe a herb or concoction that heals ten ailments at the same time.


  • Their medicines are unproven


Their medicines are largely unproven. Patients have to trust in their expertise and go with the treatments they offer. There's no way to be sure if it works.


  • Things can take a quick turn for the worse


When they get a prescription wrong it's usually at the extreme end of worse. It's usually a very close shave with death. And doctors are left to clean up the mess, without success sometimes.


Read also: Some African superstitions worth believing because they are backed by science

Written by

Lydia Ume