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Open Access Research article

A review of the integration of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine into the curriculum of South African medical schools

Ethel Chitindingu1*, Gavin George1 and Jeff Gow12

Author Affiliations

1 Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

2 School of Commerce, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:40  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-40

Published: 28 February 2014



Traditional, complementary and alternative (TCAM) medicine is consumed by a large majority of the South African population. In the context of increasing overall demand for healthcare this paper investigates the extent to which South African medical schools have incorporated TCAM into their curriculum because of the increased legislative and policy interest in formally incorporating TCAM into the health care system since democracy in 1994.


Heads of School from seven South African medical schools were surveyed telephonically.


One school was teaching both Traditional African Medicine (TM) and CAM, five were teaching either TM or CAM and another was not teaching any aspect of TCAM.


In conclusion, there is a paucity of curricula which incorporate TCAM. Medical schools have not responded to government policies or the contextual realities by incorporating TCAM into the curriculum for their students. South African medical schools need to review their curricula to increase their students’ knowledge of TCAM given the demands of the population and the legislative realities.

Traditional; Complementary and alternative medicine; Medical schools; South Africa