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Natural Therapy Practitioners

A pair of healing hands of a Natural Therapy Practitioner applying healing oil from a brown bottle.

Naturopath Victor Ihesie writes about practitioners who work in the Natural Therapy field.

Natural Therapy Practitioners have developed skills in managing some health conditions with natural elements.

Around the world, they exist in one form or another, but with poor regulations in many low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).

This often leads to abuse of genuine natural therapy practice and innocent people receiving less than adequate care.

Below, let us look briefly at some examples.


Local Herb Seller/Traditional Herbalist.

These forms of natural therapy practitioners and traditional healers are common in many rural and urban communities in many countries.

Therefore, they go by many names.

For example, Yorubas of western Nigeria use these terms “Baba Alagbo”, “Iya Alagbo”, “Elewe Omo”, etc.

In the eastern parts of Nigeria, they go by the name "Dibia"; while in parts of Kenya, indigenous herbalists are "Chepkerichot".

Herbalists are custodians of knowledge about the health benefits of local vegetation.

In many LMICs, they have learnt from their parents and grandparents.

In these parts of the world, most of them are not very literate, lack sophistication and often, use crude prescriptions.


Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA)

TBAs are another group of natural therapy practitioners.

Similarly, they have learnt from their parents and grandparents, through observation to conduct antenatal, delivery and postnatal care.

Most of them lack any formal medical or nursing training, but are highly sought after especially by women in rural communities.

For these women and their families, they are the only source of health care support.

While they can be of benefit as the only health care provider in a remote village, some of their practices can lead to serious health complications.

In some countries, TBAs are undergoing retraining by regulatory authorities with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other development agencies.

It is believed this can reduce the risks associated with their practice, and improve the outcomes for mothers and the newborn.


(Traditional) Bone Setter

This group of natural therapy practitioners manages bone injuries including fractures and dislocations using local herbs, roots and spices.

Common to the source of learning for many natural practitioners especially in LMICs, training comes from observing relatives or via an apprenticeship.

Similar to TBAs, they are also not very literate and there are legitimate questions about hygiene practices among many bone setters.

For instance, there is an increased risk of infections in the case of open fractures they attend to.

Regardless, many of them achieve success and their services are popular among local and urban dwellers.


Acupuncturist

Acupuncture is a typical Natural Therapy practice of Asian origin.

It involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body.

Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain associated with arthritis, tendonitis, sciatica, etc.

Increasingly, it's use is extending to overall wellness, including stress management.


Naturopath/Phytotherapist

A naturopath or phytotherapist is a 'more refined' natural therapy practitioner.

They are a health scientist, or doctor who has very strong knowledge and experience of conventional medicine.

A naturopath studies extensively about both foreign and local herbs.

They bring a high level of refinement to the practice of traditional medicine.

A naturopath usually takes his/her time examining their client.

Next, they ask questions about health history, stress levels, nutritional and lifestyle habits.

They may order laboratory tests and other investigations for proper diagnosis.

Subsequently, they discuss their findings with the patient to formulate a personal health plan.

Naturopaths focus on education and prevention.

They educate their clients before prescribing any remedy or therapies.


Natural Therapy Practitioners' role in healthcare

It is my opinion that there is a place for the integration of natural and conventional (orthodox) health care practices to achieve better health outcomes.

For example, this happens by complementing the positive elements of both and creating the best practice in the provision of health care.

By establishing appropriate care pathways that recognize the need to build an ecosystem of health care to individuals, families and the community, we will achieve best practice.

But it is also very important to point out that human life is precious and demands protection.

While health providers try to keep people in good health, when they fall ill, we should ensure no harm.

Patients deserve to benefit from care using the best available evidence, tools and facilities.

Therefore, it is necessary to examine the evidence for both natural and conventional practice for health.

As a clinical microbiologist, educated through the scientific process, I apply this thinking in providing natural care.

I hope this will influence the conversation toward investments in financing research studies for natural therapies to gather valid, reliable data and evidence.


Conclusion

Until then, we need to apply some form of regulation to the activities of natural care providers as it is with orthodox providers.

This allows quality improvements and referrals to other parts of the health system.

It is important because the population in many LMIC are rural, with limited access to orthodox care.

The first point of contact with the health care system for most people in these countries continues to be natural therapy practitioners.

Instead of considering this mode of care as a drag on our health care system, can we improve it's delivery?

What do you think - share your comments below about natural therapy and what we could do to improve.


Victor Ihesie is a clinical microbiologist and naturopath. Follow him on instagram @ihesie_naturalhealth


Read More:

References

Regulated Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners

Traditional Chinese Medicine


Edited by AskAwayHealth Team

Disclaimer

All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through info@askawayhealth.org


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