Herbalist slams charlatans

Chipinge herbalist James Gabaza has established a plantation of both indigenous and exotic medicinal plants and trees at his farm in Chipinge. Medicinal herbs extracted from the trees supply the Chipinge Herbal Clinic, which he also owns and runs.

Herbalist James Gabaza selling his herbs to a client at the ZITF.
Herbalist James Gabaza selling his herbs to a client at the ZITF.

“For environmental conservation reasons, I have planted about a hectare of indigenous and natural plants and trees at my farm. Most of the herbal medicine that I use to treat patients at my clinic comes from the farm. I harvest only parts of the plants, mainly leaves, twigs, bark and roots, so that future generations can continue to use them as well,” said Gabaza in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

He is the provincial chairman of the Traditional Medical Practitioner’s Council for Manicaland. His interest in herbal medicine started many years ago when he worked for the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe (NAC) as a district coordinator.

“During my days at NAC, I learnt a lot about most illnesses, especially those associated with HIV and AIDS. When I left NAC in 2007, I decided to establish my own herbal clinic and to pursue herbal medicine. This includes traditional medicine, which treats not only the physical body but the mind as well,” said the 63-year-old herbalist, who has extensively studied traditional healing with various international colleges.

“Several reputable institutions including Anamed, a German-based organization, have sharpened my knowledge of traditional medicine. I have been taught how to identify, grow, harvest and process traditional herbs,” he said.

Thed internet has become a very useful tool for traditional medicine research. “I always move around with my laptop. Whenever I am not sure about a particular herb, I google so that I get to know the medicine in detail,” said Gabaza.

He has established a Herbal Centre at his surgery where numerous healers in the area develop and share their skills as a team – like modern health practitioners do. The centre provides a platform for sharing knowledge on ethical healing.

Gabaza said although traditional healers do not sign the Hippocratic Oath, they should follow good healing practices.

The illnesses he treats include skin diseases, blood and heart problems. The clinic is staffed by three experienced staff members. “We treat all illnesses affecting the human body and mind. Our clients come from as far as Botswana and South Africa,” he said.

Gabaza complained about the mushrooming of unscrupulous healers in the area who he said were cheating patients. “I am worried about some pretenders who are capitalising on the fame of Chipinge healers to dupe people all over the country. These days whereever you go you see sign posts labelled ‘N’anga yekuChipinge’, yet some of these people do not even know the direction to Chipinge,” he said.

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