Because of their close relationship to the world they live in, the !Kung hold
a remarkable knowledge of what foods are edible and which plants posses
medicinal or toxic properties.9
Generally, the !Kung are quite healthy and tend to have longer life spans.
The biggest health threats are skin disease and lung
infections.1 While they do use
some medicinal cures from the plants that they have available, the most used
cure is ceremonial dance (as mentioned in the
In recent years, the more "civilized" world has started taking notice of
cultures like the !Kung and their knowledge of the medicinal values of various
plant-life. In fact, pharmaceutical firms took notice that for thousands of
years !Kung have cut off a stem of the Hoodia cactus to stave off hunger and
thirst on long hunting trips. Taking a piece of cactus about the size of a
cucumber, they would munch on it over a few days, eating together so as to
bring back what they caught.0
Through religious rituals and the medicinal use of plants the !Kung have
seen longer life spans and healthier lifestyles. With their knowledge of the
local plant-life (as gained from thousands of years of experimentation from
previous generations and passed down through stories), the !Kung are able to
cure many normal ailments, even without use of "modern medicine". Religious
ceremonies help to bond the !Kung with the spiritual world that permeates their
culture and allows them to feel like they can influence their own fate.
The major conflict regarding medicine with the !Kung is with the outside
pharmaceutical firms. Exploited by these firms, the !Kung are losing out on a
very profitable undertaking due to a lack of knowledge about what they are
losing and what these firms are gaining. Without a knowledge of monetary
systems, the !Kung are freely sharing their medicinal knowledge of the lands
they have explored for thousands of years and the more civilized world is happy
to use that knowledge for it's own benefit.
Symbolically, the religious aspects of medicine is more important than actual
herbal remedies. These religious activities bring the !Kung a sense of
togetherness with themselves, the world around them, and the spiritual world.
They believe that to be healthy and happy, an equilibrium must be kept in all
aspects of life.