November 06, 2019 in Culture

Nigerian Traditional Cultural Practices and Health Implications

The aim of this paper will be in the discussion of the varieties of Nigerian traditional cultural practices related healthcare. For example, it will cover the role of cultural practices and the effects they have on the health of human beings. On the same note, the paper will also cover the Nigerian cultural views on health, illness and healers plus also their attitudes towards the traditional form of medical practices. The instance is due to the fact it becomes essential to conduct an investigation into the hazardous traditional practices among these people towards their health in particular. Such cultural practices being referred to here are the cleansing rituals, cases of dry sex, female genital mutilation and also the aspect of male circumcision. As much as these practices have their objective of maintaining or perseveration of a community’s system of culture in place so that it keeps on progressing to the incoming generations, the fact is that they are dangerous to society as a whole. In this case, Nigerians despite having great values to their traditions, it remains that there some of these traditions that are indeed harmful to their health as well.  

Traditional Healing Methods

Nigerian people have their way of understanding the aspect of health and illness, the signs, and symptoms of the illness as well as its desired treatment. In this regard, this cultural belief dictates their attitudes and behaviors in embracing any form of change that tries to persuade them to accept any other form of medication if not their traditional ways. On top of this, their traditional beliefs are also another contributing factor in determining their attitude towards their medicine. For example, may Nigerians believe that that their medicine is from God and as a result also believes that the healing power of the same medicine is the divine power of the same God. Likewise, during the administering of the medicine, the healers first conduct a prayer over it due to the belief of the medicine being from God. 

Apart from the divine medicine working with God to heal a person, religion alone among the people of Nigeria is also capable of causing healing to a person. In this regard, people believe in religion being the major source of spiritual and emotional support to them. The reason is that religious beliefs and customs among these people have a direct relationship to the outcomes of the health of people such as the historical contexts with the support of the cultural traditions. A good example, in this case, is where the aspect of worship or prayers acted as deliverance from sin as well as well as the salvation of the body.  As much as Nigerian population comprises of various religious aspects such as those who lean towards the Christian ideologies and those for Islamic beliefs, the reality is that the traditional cultural practices related to health still prevail among them. In this regard, the majority of the population has a lot of respect for sacrifices offered to the ancestors and spirits where in this case they fully believe that failure to offer such sacrifices will lead to them not earning protection from harms from these spirits.

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Beliefs about Disease and Health

Most of the Nigerian people have strong beliefs in the power of juju or charms, in other words, shrines and some, other objects believed to be sacred in their nature. In this case, they appease these spirits through sacrifices to the ancestors, witchcraft, traditional religious healers, and angered spirits despite their varied faiths such as either being a Muslim or a Christian. On top of this, the people have strong belief in the supernatural forces as the major cause of illness among them. For example, Nigerian people believe that a spirit that is provoked has the powers to cause sickness to the offender due to his ill motive actions in the society. In this regard, people believe that these same ancestors if annoyed can cause disruptions or total disturbances’ in the society.  For this reason, they deserve special treatment all the time such as appeasing them with sacrifices so that they remain happy all the times. Likewise, an individual that belong to part of the Nigerian society should refrain from doing wrong things so that he or she remains healthy in his or her lifetime. Meanwhile, Nigerian people also have a strong relationship with their gods and spirits. The cause of this relationship may be due to the critical forces that exist in every living creature or being altogether. An example, in this case, is the instance of a person leading a full, harmonious living either him or her and the environment or opts to remain with her health condition. Contrastingly, the bad behaviors that a person may or poor deeds may end up causing interruptions to this harmony since it angers the spirits who in turn punishes this person. Added to this, the people of Nigeria also believe in offering sacrifices to the spirits of the ancestors as the power of protection to them from these spirits. In this regard, people believe that through offering these sacrifices, they curse the evil spirits and, as a result, remaining to be safe or protected from them altogether. Added to this, cases of disorders and illnesses are according to this people are products of spiritual forces under the guidance of sorcerers, wizards, angered ancestors, or evil spirits. Not forgetting, the Nigerian communities also believe that people don’t just suffer from diseases. To them, supernatural spirits are the major causes of diseases among people bacteria and viruses are just but secondary causes for the same. 

Elsewhere, it is also worth to note that religious influence and cultural traditions among the Nigerian people is also another key factor with regards to choice of treatment. For instance, most of these people whenever one is sick normally go for consultations with traditional healers over the possible treatment for the disease. Similarly, the choice of Nigerian people may on treatment does not only rely on their cultural beliefs and traditions but also depend on their economic potential in affording these traditional healthcare treatments from the diviners who provide them. On the other hand, Nigerians believe that diviners and healers are the specialists in health since they have the power to identify the cause of misfortunes and illness among people. On top of this, these healers also offer prescription on the desired medicines and also conduct certain rituals with the aim causing healing to the affected person from cases of evil spirits. 

As much as the Nigerian traditions aim at the personification of evils, in most cases people put the blame on witches as those responsible for causing illnesses and as resulting making them weak in their lives. In this regard, people tend to seek for their protection through following traditional rituals or obeying sacred objects or features. For instance, what seems to be so funny is that the African slaves who might also have been from Nigeria as well also carried with them their traditional beliefs and customs to foreign countries such as Haiti, Cuba, and America?  In this case, they ended up establishing themselves into some religious sects such as Voodoo and Santeria. 

The Role Played Traditional Medical Practices

In Nigeria, the traditional medicine practices rotated mostly on food taboos where in this case its aim was to control the human dietary habits. In this regard, the instance ensured that people refrain from eating specific foods and drinks citing some reasons associated with religion, culture and health. On top of this, they also provide the directions on the manner of preparing such foods.


Indeed, the future of the Nigerian traditional practices with regards to healthcare is bright regarding its provision, coverage, and economical benefits. However, to realize the increase in health coverage, there is needed to incorporate both traditional health care practices with the community-based health care practices so especially in those studies that revolve in traditional medicine. In this regard, it will lead to the availability of more drugs to people and, as a result, leading to the development of a healthy society among these Nigerian people altogether. Likewise, the instance will also lower the cost of importation of medicines, increased revenue in the country and also the creation of employment opportunities to people in the country altogether. On top of this, many people in the country also stand a chance of growing many medicinal plants on a large scale for both research and local medicine production purposes. In this regard, the industrial manufacture of the locally made medicines will need instances such as packaging and marketing thus as acting as a source.

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