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In Uganda, the rural population is as likely to consult a herbalist as a medical practitioner for common complaints, including diarrhoea, cough, blood disorders, headaches, malaria, and abdominal pains.

The popularity of traditional healers in this country of 22 million people is easy to explain. Accessibility is key. In Uganda, there is one healer for every 200-400 people; trained medical personnel are far fewer – only one for every 20,000 people.

Since healers live in the communities they serve, they’re easy to consult and their services are inexpensive, often free or paid for in kind. There’s also a strong cultural attachment to this form of health care.

A team of Ugandan researchers have been studying how one type of traditional healers – the herbalists – manage common diseases, and are suggesting ways in which modern scientific knowledge may help to improve their traditional remedies.

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