Medicines and muthi
The spiritually curative medicines prescribed by a traditional healer are called muthi. They may be employed in healing as warranted in the opinion of the herbal specialist or inyanga. Muthi is a term derived from a Zulu word for tree. African Traditional medicine makes extensive use of botanical products but the medicine prescribed by an inyanga may also include other formulations which are zoological or mineral in composition. Traditional medicine uses approximately 3,000 out of 30,000 species of higher plants of Southern Africa.
Muthis are prepared, and depending on the affliction, a number of purification practices can be administered.
An experienced inyanga will generally seek the guidance of an ancestral spirit before embarking to find and collect muti. The healer, through dreams or during prayers, believes they are advised of auspicious times for collecting the plants. In some cases, symbols and dreams are also interpreted to determine which particular plants to collect for a specific patient and where these plants are located. The healer supplements the perceived advice from an ancestral spirit with their own knowledge, training and experience.