Use of plants in somali traditional medicine

Published in Vol. IV Studies in Humanities and Natural Sciences “Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Somali Studies”, 1983

Authors: Abdullahi Sheikh Elmi, Abdullahi Mohamed Ahmed, Yacoub Aden Abdi


Traditional medicine uses different mehods for curing diseases. Somali traditional medicine could be divided into two main systems: magico-religious and practical treatment and herbalism.

Practical treatment and herbalism deal more properly with organic and physical disorders. Several hundred plants are used in somali traditional medicine and the confidence of the population to it is quite great. Healers do not consider the plant as a simple physical entity. Greater part of herbalists feel that the effect of a plant depends not only on its power, but also on the relationship between the collector and the plant itself.

A multidisciplinary research on medical plants has been conducted by the Somali National University with different aims:

inventory and botanical identification of plants used in traditional medicine; literature survey of the identified plants; verification of efficiency, safety and toxicity of selected plants; pharmacological and toxicological evaluation of isolated active substances; production of drugs based on plants containing therapeutically valuable substances.

This research was conducted considering important the impact and spread of these kind of practices and the identified need of throwing a light on the “jungle” of traditional herbalists. The authors suggest that a policy was made to evaluate the healers and certified their training.  

Material kindly provided by the Roma 3 University's Somali Archive

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