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The Discovery of Porcupine Quills for Indigenous Therapeutic Healthcare

It is not common that indigenous knowledge is recognized or given acknowledgement for some indigenous people the use of various tools or medicine are there to heal or diagnose. Therefore, in this article, the unique innovation of using sharp porcupine spines or quills which some indigenous communities use to heal themselves with is discovered. This type of innovation they use, is passed from one generation to the next so that the knowledge does not go extinct.

Lin Barrie(2018) Porcupine Quills, [Photograph].

Porcupines' quills, or spines, take on various forms, depending on the species, but all are modified hairs coated with thick plates of keratin, and embedded in the skin musculature. Old World porcupines have quills embedded in clusters, whereas in New World porcupines, single quills are interspersed with bristles, underfur, and hair. Quills are released by contact or may drop out when the porcupine shakes its body. New quills grow to replace lost ones. Porcupines were long believed to have the ability to project their quills to a considerable distance at an enemy, but this has since been proven to be untrue.

Miracle May(2018) Home Quills [Photograph] Household Quills used for hair decoration

The Purposes Of Quills or Spines For The Indigenous Community Of Shaleng In Bodibe

Porcupine quills have recently inspired a new type of hypodermic needle. Due to backward-facing barbs on the quills, when used as needles, they are particularly good at two things, penetrating the skin and remaining in place. Also the community believes using the quills they flush out evil spirits or illness from a person’s body by punching them with them in the arm, causing the person to bleed. It does hurt but it works because afterwards there will not be pains felt, (Mori, Maggini, and Menchetti, 2014).

Another function of porcupine quills are treating for physical ailments as swollen legs. This treatment involves injection with a porcupine quill. The skin is punctured every 5-10 cm down both sides of the body and at every fifth puncture, the quill is dipped into the bucks of the horn containing muthi. But that is when you have consulted the traditional healer with the muthi (Medicine), therefore if not it is still fine by poking, the legs or area associated with pains, (Attenborough, 2014).

Gustav Mützel (1839–1893) North African crested porcupine, Hystrix cristata L. [Photograph]. wikimedia,


Let us first understand the significance this tool has had on the local people in terms of healthcare and how it has helped cure paralysis and helped children to start walking and how it helped in the field of physiotherapy.

The quills help the cure if diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease which is a motor neuron disease which weakens the muscles and progressively hampers physical function and by poking weak joints such as it creates a substitute receptor which when stimulated by poking sends a signal to the central nervous system, where the brain co-ordinates the response this way through occurring stimulate by traditional healer and through the massaging of the joints with indigenous herbs as well will cause the brain to send signals back to the joint resulting in movement and cure of the disease (Baulieu, 1997:1-32).

Quills have been used by several cultures around the world and now are gaining recognition in the field of medicine. Barbed quills are a point for designing needles that deliver less painful injections. To get around the prickly and potentially painful problem of withdrawing barb-tipped needles, the scientists suggest creating synthetic barbs that soften or degrade after penetration, or placing barbs only on areas of the needle where they would aid entry but not hinder exit because they require significantly less force to puncture skin, barbed shafts do not hurt as much when they enter flesh as their smooth-tipped injections do (Butler, 512:2007).


It turns out porcupine quills are nutritious. Porcupine quills believed are efficacious for toothache medicine namely by burning ashes applied to the aching to the tooth ache. The ashes of porcupine can also treat incoming believed stomach feel bloated with sweep the ashes on the belly. The porcupine quills can be used for African detox.


It is very difficult to find a porcupine quills as the porcupine live in a remote areas, so hunting them is very difficult. Also it is often mistaken for a thorn that is why it is important to go with an indigenous knowledge holder. They are very painful.

This invention is a natural resource that is convenient for the indigenous people in the village of ‘’Shaleng’’ an indigenous community in Sub- saharan Africa as it does not include any costs. It is readily available by nature. It has been used for centuries and passed on from one generation to another. Its healing powers do not have medical side effects; it is a miracle working tool for paralysis and other masculine diseases. Also it symbolizes cultural significance, for example when a woman gets married wears them. It is a marital rites of passage.


Attenborough, D 2014. Attenborough's Natural Curiosities 2. Armoured Animals. UKTV.

Baulieu, E.E., 1997. Neurosteroids: of the nervous system, by the nervous system, for the nervous system. Recent progress in hormone research, 52, pp.1-32.

Butler, K.M., 2007. Re: Needle and dread: Is it just a little poke? Paediatr Child Health 2007; 12 (2): 101–2. Paediatrics & child health, 12(6), p.515.

Mori, E., Maggini, I. and Menchetti, M., 2014. When quills kill: the defense strategy of the crested porcupine Hystrix cristata L



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Miracle May

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