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August 7, 1972

Magical Medicine: A Nigerian Case-Study

Author Affiliations

Mayo Foundation Rochester, Minn

JAMA. 1972;221(6):606-607. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03200190050029

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


The modern physician in Africa often experiences great frustration in the face of his patients' continued reliance upon traditional practices and practitioners. Dr. MacLean's monograph should help him understand what he is up against.

Based upon interviews, questionnaires, and first-hand observations that the author carried out in the early 1960's, Magical Medicine surveys the various forms of medical care available to the inhabitants of Ibaden, Nigeria. The author outlines the beliefs underlying traditional concepts of health and disease, and describes how illness might be interpreted in the daily life of a Yoruba family. She presents data regarding Ibaden's hospitals, beds, Westerntrained physicians, traditional practitioners, etc. (Unfortunately, eight years and the Biafran war have brought important changes in the factors she attempted to measure.)

The remainder of the book catalogues various folk remedies and the conditions for which they are prescribed; class differences in the use of traditional practices; and reasons