Traditional remedies in children around eastern cape, South Africa

  • YM Dambisya Professor, School of Health Sciences, University of the North, Sovenga 0727
  • G Tindimwebwa Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Transkei Medical School, UNITRA 5117, Republic of South Africa


Objective: To gauge the views of mothers and other caregivers on the use of traditional remedies in the community.

Design: Descriptive study.

Setting: Five health centres affliated to the UNITRA, Faculty of Health Sciences.

Methods: Medical students administered a questionnaire to mothers and other caregivers. Areas covered included how commonly traditional remedies are used, experience with traditional remedies in children, reasons for use, how administered, and problems encountered.

Results: There were 103 respondents, 7.8% rated use of traditional remedies non-existent, 20.4% rated it as rare and the rest said it was common. 57.3% of the respondents had used these remedies in their children, and 83.1% of them said they would use them again. Only 20.7% of respondents reported problems with these remedies, including diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and death. The preparations used were known by only 40.7% of respondents. The remedies were administered by the mother and grandmother in 82.8% of cases; and were mainly given orally, by enema or by scarification. The amount administered varied from spoonful(s) up to 2.5 l. Children of all ages were given traditional remedies, usually for diarrhoea, fevers and constipation, or as prophylactics. These remedies were used because they are effective, available and safe, or due to customary beliefs and pressure from others.

Conclusion: The use of traditional remedies in children is common in communities around Umtata. There is need to study the composition and activity profiles of commonly used preparations so as to develop appropriate management protocols in case of toxicity.

East African Medical Journal Vol.80(8) 2003: 402-405

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eISSN: 0012-835X