Chewa Medical Botany: A Study of Herbalism in Southern Malawi

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LIT Verlag Münster, 1996 - Botany, Medical - 557 pages
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Although it rarely receives the attention it deserves from anthropologists, medical herbalism is perhaps the most widespread and most ancient form of therapy. This book describes in detail one such herbalist tradition, that found in southern Malawi. Offering the first comprehensive examination of medical herbalism in Malawi, this study combines anthropological and botanical insights into medical herbalism. The book is divided into two parts: the first outlines the ethnographic context of the herbalist tradition with discussion of Chewa ethnobotany and the local classification of plants; the various categories of medicine that are expressed in the local culture; the nature and scope of folk herbalism, its practitioners and its relation to biomedicine; local conceptions of disease; and beliefs relating to witchcraft and divination. The second part, which incorporates the researches of a Malawian chemist, Dr Jerome Msonthi, contains detailed information on over 500 Malawian plants with notes on their local names, distribution, botanical descriptions and various medicinal uses.


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Chewa Plant Classifications
Herbalists and Biomedicine
Chewa Conceptions of Disease
Divination and Witchcraft

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Page 17 - Manganja are an industrious race; and in addition to working in iron, cotton, and basket-making, they cultivate the soil extensively. All the people of a village turn out to labour in the fields. It is no uncommon thing to see men, women, and children hard at work, with the baby lying close by beneath a shady bush. When a new piece of woodland is to be cleared, they proceed exactly as farmers do in America. The trees are cut down with their little axes of soft native iron ; trunks and branches are...
Page 46 - To put it another way, a culture itself amounts to the sum of a given society's folk classifications, all of that society's ethnoscience, its particular ways of classifying its material and social universe.
Page 24 - The native pharmacopoeia, though exercised with superstitious practices, comprises many efficacious remedies for all kinds of diseases; and when the time comes for it to be investigated thoroughly and extensively, it will probably add some invaluable and quite unforeseen data to our own store of medical knowledge. Native doctors are notoriously reticent. For years, in German East Africa, Europeans have tried in vain to find out the...

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