Management of diabetes and hypertension among Zulu traditional health practitioners: A study of focus group interviews


Introduction: On the African continent, the rising cost of Western medication that is accessible for the treatment of both diabetes and hypertension encourages people to rely on traditional medicine assisted by traditional health practitioners to mitigate the effects of these chronic conditions. This study was carried out to explore Zulu traditional health practitioners’ perspectives on managing both diabetes and hypertension. Methods: Five focus group discussions sessions were held in June 2018, using a semi-structured interview guide. Discussions were audiotaped and the content was thematically analysed. Sixty-seven traditional health practitioners (39 females and 28 males) were purposely selected from the three geospatial locations (urban, traditional or tribal, and farm areas) in uMshwathi (UMgungundlovu District) and Emnambithi/Ladysmith (uThukela District), KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Results: The majority of Zulu traditional health practitioners regarded diabetes and hypertension as the same condition, since one (having diabetes) leads to the other (hypertension).The following symptoms – weight loss, sweating easily, shortness of breath and eyesight problems – were the most commonly reported clinical features for both diabetes and hypertension by Zulu traditional health practitioners in this study.Although many traditional health practitioners were secretive about the recipes used in their practice, a few indicated using herbal mixtures containing Aloe vera and Allium sativum (garlic) for the management of both diabetes and hypertension. Conclusions: Some similarities exist between Zulu traditional health practitioners and orthodox conventional medicine in terms of the description of clinical features of diabetes and hypertension. Ethnopharmacological preparations consisted mainly of two medicinal plants, Aloe vera and Allium sativum, for the management of both diabetes and hypertension by Zulu traditional health practitioners. Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2019; 33(4):219-228] Keywords: Diabetes,hypertension,polyherbal formulations,herbal mixtures,traditional health practitioners