Use of indigenous and indigenised medicines to enhance personal well-being: a South African case study

Cocks, M.L. and Møller, V. (2002) Use of indigenous and indigenised medicines to enhance personal well-being: a South African case study. Social Science & Medicine, 54 (3). pp. 387-397. ISSN 0277-9536



Official URL:


An estimated 27 million South Africans use indigenous medicines (Mander, 1997, Medicinal plant marketing and strategies for sustaining the plant supply in the Bushbuckridge area and Mpumalanga Province. Institute for Natural Resources, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa). Although herbal remedies are freely available in amayeza stores, or Xhosa chemists, for self-medication, little is known about the motivations of consumers. According to African belief systems, good health is holistic and extends to the person's social environment. The paper makes a distinction between traditional medicines which are used to enhance personal well-being generally and for cultural purposes, on the one hand, and medicines used to treat physical conditions only, on the other. Drawing on an eight-month study of Xhosa chemists in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, in 1996, the paper identifies 90 medicines in stock which are used to enhance personal well-being. Just under one-third of all purchases were of medicines to enhance well-being. Remedies particularly popular included medicines believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. The protection of infants with medicines which repel evil spirits is a common practice. Consumer behaviours indicate that the range of medicines available is increased by indigenisation of manufactured traditional medicines and cross-cultural borrowing. Case studies confirm that self- and infant medication with indigenous remedies augmented by indigenised medicines plays an important role in primary health care by allaying the fears and anxieties of everyday life within the Xhosa belief system, thereby promoting personal well-being.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:indigenous medicine; indigenised medicine; traditional medicine; well-being; Xhosa culture; herbal remedies; African belief systems; self-medication; Eastern Cape; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Research Institutes and Units > Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER)
ID Code:456
Deposited On:20 Nov 2006
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:18
8099 full-text download(s) since 20 Nov 2006
3832 full-text download(s) in the past 12 months
More statistics...

Repository Staff Only: item control page