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Epilepsy and traditional medicine in Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso)

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Millogo A, Ratsimbazafy V, Nubukpo P, Barro S, Zongo I, Preux PM. Epilepsy and traditional medicine in Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso).

Acta Neurol Scand 2004: 109: 250–254. © Blackwell Munksgaard 2004. Objectives –

To contribute to a better knowledge of how epilepsy is perceived by traditional healers in Burkina Faso; what means they use to treat it, and how they think about modern treatment. Material and methods –

Individual interviews with 65 traditional healers chosen at random from members of the Reelwende Association. Results –

All traditional practitioners were of male gender. Most of them were above 50 years of age, and 75% had more than 10 years’ experience. Epilepsy was considered to be contagious by 44% of the traditional practitioners, and hereditary according to 40% of them. Roughly, 15% of the healers think that the problem is localized in the head of a person and 7.8% think that they have worms in their head. Thirty-one per cent of them diagnose epilepsy if there is a combination of ‘convulsions, sudden fall, dribbling and amnesia’. Another 15% require a combination of ‘convulsions, amnesia and dribbling’, the remaining 54% make the diagnosis based on one symptom or various combinations of two symptoms of ‘grand mal’ (generalized tonic clonic) seizures and most claim they have a treatment for it. For a quarter of them, therapeutic-means include concoctions of herbs or roots, baths and infusions. During the fit, 31% of the traditional practitioners think that nothing should be performed. According to 75% of them, traditional and modern treatments are complementary. Conclusion –

Notwithstanding important differences in culture and religions (Muslim, Christian and Original), there is great similarity between the knowledge and beliefs about epilepsy reported from other parts of Africa and those presented by our study-group, suggesting an ancient origin of the concepts. Further study is needed to find out how other facets of epilepsy (e.g. complex partial seizures, absences) are perceived and how these are being treated. Ways need to be found to raise awareness about epilepsy without interfering with religious and cultural beliefs.

Keywords: Epilepsy in Burkina Faso; healer's practices; practitioner's knowledge; traditional medicine; traditional treatment of epilepsy

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: National Hospital Souro Sanou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso 2: Institute of Neurological Epidemiology and Tropical Neurology, Limoges Cedex, France

Publication date: April 1, 2004

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