Traditional Medicine and Field Work
Four Norwegian master students participating in interviews with local healers togheter with professor Drissa Diallo (to the right).
Being a comprehensive knowledge system, traditional medicine encompasses the utilization of substances, dosages and practices based on socio-cultural norms and religious beliefs as well as witnessed experiences and observations of a specific group. This knowledge is handed down from generation to generation in order to diagnose, prevent or eliminate a physical, social or spiritual imbalance.
In Mali, the Department of Traditional Medicine (DMT) is a collaborating centre of the WHO research for traditional medicine. DMT has as one of their primary objectives to assure that traditional medicine is complementary to conventional medicine, assuming that the medicines can be produced from local resources, especially from medicinal plants.
A healer showing his plant based remedies.
To obtain information about the traditional use of medicine plants, the healers are interviewed. Prior to the interviews the healers are given information about the project, its participants and goals. The healers are asked if they are using the plants in their practice. When a healer is using a plant, information about indication, plant parts used, methods of preparation and details of administration are collected. The interviews are performed in the local language with staff from DMT as interpreters. The conversations with the healers are built on trust with the common goal of increasing the knowledge on medicinal plants and improving the health situation in the country.
DMT has carried out many phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological studies on medicinal plants with the ultimate goal of providing effective and non-toxic medicine to the population. From this work seven improved traditional medicines (ITMs) have been recognized as essential medicines in Mali and are being sold alongside conventional medicines in pharmacies.
1. Diallo, D. and B.S. Paulsen, Pharmaceutical research and traditional practioners in Mali: Experiences with benefit sharing, in Responding to bioprospecting (From biodiversity in the South to medicines in the North), H. Svarstad and S.S. Dhillion, Editors. 2000, Spartacus Forlag: Oslo. p. 133-144.