“The Wogesha Will See You” Traditional Ethiopian Medicine, Then and Now

Tadias Magazine

By Dr. Worku Abebe

New York (TADIAS) — Traditional medicine has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the sum total of all knowledge and practices, whether explicable or not, used in the diagnosis, prevention and elimination of physical, mental or social imbalances and relying exclusively on practical experience and observation handed down from generation to generation, whether verbally or in writing.” This system of health care is also known as folk medicine, ethnomedicine, or indigenous medicine. In some countries, including the US, the terms complementary or alternative medicine are used interchangeably for traditional medicine.

It is generally accepted that traditional Ethiopian medicine is the outcome of long and dynamic interactions among African, Greek, Arabic, and Hebrew traditions. These interactions, combined with the variations in the country’s unique ecology and diverse ethnic groups, make the traditional medical system in Ethiopia very rich and complex. Records show that the existence of such a health care system can be traced back to the period prior to the 16th century. Although the expansion of modern medicine appears to influence some aspects of the traditional system, traditional Ethiopian medicine remains rooted in magico-religious beliefs and empirical knowledge from the natural environment.

An estimated 80% of the Ethiopian population relies on traditional medicine. Socio-cultural appeal, accessibility, affordability, and effectiveness against a number of health problems seem to foster its widespread use. Consistent with the increasing global interest in alternative medicine, the demand for traditional medical therapies in Ethiopia is on the rise. In 1986 over 6,000 practitioners were registered with the Ministry of Health. More recently, the Ethiopian Traditional Healers’ Association, which was established in 1987, reported a membership of 9,000 healers. A few experts estimate the number of traditional medicine practitioners, vendors, and collectors in the country at more than 80,000.


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5 Responses to ““The Wogesha Will See You” Traditional Ethiopian Medicine, Then and Now”


  1. 1 mesfinf Jan 5th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Hello DR Asqual
    Long time no see – think of Seattle?
    You are filling a highly needed but sorely lacking spot in the aspect of the Ethiopian life in the US and urbanized Addis. I am not a doctor, but I read a lot in this area and have gained some knowledge. As such I have long thought of doing something like this – educating us on the need for a life style change. I have witnessed the enormous amount of red meat, alcohol and refined grain products that is being consumed on a daily basis in Ethiopian restaurants and accross the dinning rooms of Ethiopians. The generation that came to the West running away from persecution in the seventies and eighties, the middle class in Ethiopia that supports the family, these groups are eating and drinking themselves to death. The ailments you listed are abundant among these groups. There are a few who are open about it and looking for a medical care and there are those, the majority I am sure who for whatever kind of pride are not admitting it even to themselves and thus are not doing anything. Your article will definitely help and will save some from untimely death that comes from the kind of lifestyle you detailed in your writing. Please continue to expand these kinds of articles as it is highly educational and beneficial. If somehow you can also manage to translate it in Amharic, that will even reach a wider audience. Good job and God bless.

  2. 2 hirut Dec 2nd, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Hello DR Asqual, i read your article it is very nice we can learn a lot from this. I just want to add one thing about eating raw meat here in the state could be even more dangers because of the animals not been feed natural food, we can get all kind of disease like cancer. I do not eat raw meat I even try to buy organic milk and egg. Maybe you can talk about this so you can explain it better. I am talk about the injection given to the cows and chickens.

    Thank you.

  3. 3 Unknown Dec 25th, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Wogesha is a CRIME!
    I’m a doctor working in Ethiopia and I’ve seen plenty of children DAMAGED by Wagesha.
    Children that will not be able any more to use their hands, because of tight bandages (Volkmann Syndrome) that Wogesha applies.
    Wogesha is ignorance.
    If Ethiopia wants to develope, this practices shoulde be made illegal.

  4. 4 Ethiomama Feb 9th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Traditional medicine is making a big comeback in the west, as a result of people realising that conventional medicine treatment does not heal holistically. I am also not a doctor, but have been studying alternative medicine for the past 2 years, and have found great simiarities in cultures all over the world. Basic dietary traditions and organic foods are also becoming very popular as people are slowly realising that globally traded foods are full of toxins and chemicals which later can cause cancers. So, what does the tradtitional healer have to offer that is much better than the doctors ? Natural herbs as opposed to chemicals that the body cannot get rid of. This ancient knowledge that has been ridiculed, mainly by big pharma-companies for profit, is something that we as ethiopians need to profit from and preserve. The traditional healers also have a harmonious understanding of nature, and understand the importance of keeping things in balance. I hope that we will stop becoming consumers for western companies, be it medicine or other imported products, and really come to value our treasures.
    Blessings and stay healthy

  5. 5 fozzi Mar 7th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Good Information, It’s helpful I was doind my Assigment basd on Alternative med in Ethiopia.

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