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Animal cures

Animal cures


Animal cures are still quite popular amongst Zulu people. In Johannesburg, you can find all sorts of animal medicines at places such as Kwa Mai-Mai Muthi Market, Faraday Muthi Mathi and in Durban , the Durban Muthi Market. Izangoma/ Sangomas, muthi and herbs form an integral part of many South Africans.



Mafutas/ Amafuta are of medicinal value due to the fact that animals store excess foodstuffs, steroid hormones, toxins and other chemicals in their fat. The fat also contains photosynthesised compounds and pigments derived from chlorophyll, and this is what makes the mafutas such powerful biochemical agents with therapeutic properties. The fat discarded from glandular organs is different in that it contains phosphatides which are insulating and mainly used in the making of Intelezis (a substance which has psychoactive virtues). For example, the sandawane (red hyena) or the ufudu (tortoise). The fat of cartilaginous fish contains hydroxyl alcohols formed by steroids which is know for its detergent properties. For example, the shaka (shark) is valued for its high Vitamin K content, which has been implicated in electric transport and oxidation of the cell.

Here is a list of some of the animals whose fat or organs are used in the making of medicine:

  • Baboon
  • Beetle 
  • Bull
  • Chameleon
  • Cat
  • Crocodile
  • Eagle
  • Duiker
  • Eland
  • Elephant
  • Fish eagle
  • Frog
  • Giraffe 
  • Hartebeest
  • Iguana
  • Hippopotamus
  • Jackal
  • Lion
  • Lizard
  • Mamba
  • Monkey
  • Owl
  • porcupine
  • Puff-adder
  • Rhinoceros
  • Seal
  • Tortoise
  • Snake
  • Wild cat
  • Weaver bird
  • Wild dog
  • Wildebeest

Examples of uses:


The imamba is admired for its agility and thus its fat is recommended as a cure for vertebral pains and sciatica.

The ingwenya meat is combined with sweet potato leaves to counteract poisoning (Idliso) caused by fungi and mushrooms. The fat is also used to prevent infectious diseases amongst children, but also to contain poisonous substances which can be used in witchcraft.

The infene has a reputation of being cunning, intelligent and agile. Thus his bones are used for the treatment of arthritis. His alertness which protects him from predators in the bush makes him useful to have around the homestead to keep animals away. For this purpose, his skin is burned and the fumes carried around the homestead to mark off the forbidden territory.

The skin of the smaller inkawu is used to prevent the spreading of contagious diseases. Their intestines are cleaned and mixed with red bark to prevent miscarriages and help women who have a predisposition to having stillborn children. The way in which the monkeys cling to their mothers represent the clinging of the foetus in the womb.

Imbhedle are used as ingredients of many medicines. The flesh of the imbulu is used with plants to treat conditions caused by clogged blood vessels which lead to strokes or paralysis. If the clotting affects the right side of the body, the left side of the lizard is used. It is also believed that the skins of the male and female iguanas can be used to strengthen the bonds between husband and wife.

The skin of the indlovu is used to prevent disease as it is strong. The jawbone is used to strengthen tiredness in patients. Its gallstones can be mixed with the fat of the python and applied to the face to attract luck, and if mixed with plant roots they can be used to treat barren women.

The horn of the powerful ubejane is considered to be a magical ingredient that gives warriors invincibility when it is powdered and mixed with the fat of the ingeze is rubbed into the wrist joint. (The origin of the idea that the use of this ingredient can cure impotency lies here.)


There are many other types of Animal Cures the Zulu people use, these are just a few of them.

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