Although it rarely receives the attention it deserves from anthropologists, medical herbalism is perhaps the most widespread and most ancient form of therapy. This book describes in detail one such herbalist tradition, that found in southern Malawi. Offering the first comprehensive examination of medical herbalism in Malawi, this study combines anthropological and botanical insights into medical herbalism. The book is divided into two parts: the first outlines the ethnographic context of the herbalist tradition with discussion of Chewa ethnobotany and the local classification of plants; the various categories of medicine that are expressed in the local culture; the nature and scope of folk herbalism, its practitioners and its relation to biomedicine; local conceptions of disease; and beliefs relating to witchcraft and divination. The second part, which incorporates the researches of a Malawian chemist, Dr Jerome Msonthi, contains detailed information on over 500 Malawian plants with notes on their local names, distribution, botanical descriptions and various medicinal uses.
Brian Morris is Reader in Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and has spent many years working and researching in Malawi. He has written a number of books on the anthropology of religion and the self, which are widely used as teaching texts, as well as Epiphyric Orchids of Malawi (1970) and Common Mushrooms of Malawi (1987). Jerome Msonthi, who collaborated in the provision of data incorporated in Part Two, is Dean of Science at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. He has a life-long interest in the medicinal plants of Malawi, and has published many scientific papers in the field of phyto-chemistry.