Ethics of folk medicine among the Igbo

John Mark Ogu, Health Care Ethics, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Folk medicine, also known as traditional medicine, is an ancient cultural practice used to contain and manage illnesses and diseases. It is not wrong to say that western/modern medicine developed from folk medicine because medicine was practiced with herbs, divination, and superstition. Some people continue to rely on spiritual powers, divination, and herds in treating ill health. Folk medicine continues to be an integral part of healthcare among many ethnic groups despite the advent of western/modern medicine. Its preference and resilience are based on tradition, choice, inexpensiveness, and easy access. Omenala-tradition is the foundation of folk, and its operating principle is Ọfọ and Ogu. This work looks at the main ethical underpinnings of Igbo folk medicine of South-Eastern Nigeria in the context of Omenala. It concludes that the ethical principle of Ọfọ and Ogu make treatment efficacious, promote patient-healer relationships, and guides healers and patients.