Constructing patient and patient healthcare: Indigenous knowledge and the use of Isihlambezo

  • Maheshvari Naidu
Keywords: Isihlambezo, herbal, reproductive health, women, gendered.


This article is an exploratory inquiry and focuses on popular and indigenous constructions of reproductive health and some of the antenatal health needs of pregnant women. By working through the qualitative narratives of 15 pregnant Zulu women and women who have had children and their use of antenatal indigenous herbal medicine, the article reveals the tension and dichotomised positioning between Western allopathic approaches and those considered traditional and indigenous. While drawing the necessary attention to the untested and contested background to some of the (potentially dangerous) pharmaceutical properties of the herbal infusion known generically as isihlambezo, the article highlights that equally urgent, is the acknowledgement on the part of the ‘orthodox’ medical practitioners, of the popularity and wide spread use of traditional medicines such as isihlambezo, and of the importance of the examination of women’s popular construction of reproductive health care. The article argues that the hegemonic narrative of the western biomedical discourse appears to further ‘push’ this faith and reliance on indigenous herbal remedies underground, thus rendering its use invisible against the more visibly positioned and championed Western reproductive health care and prenatal medicines.

Keywords: Isihlambezo, herbal, reproductive health, women, gendered.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1683-0296