In traditional African American philosophy, natural illnesses are those brought about by weather, cold air, and similar forces. These illnesses are cured with roots, herbs, barks and teas by an herbalist—an individual skilled in the use of natural therapeutic substances. The materials used by an herbalist are termed medicine or roots.
Illnesses that are caused by hexes or spells can only be cured by magic. Wherever there are Africans, or people of African descent, there is magic. In the Sea Islands, magical medicines use animals parts like feathers, blood, and bones, human substances like hair clippings and fingernails, and other natural materials like leaves, sand, and water to cure illnesses, put spells on people, attract money and love, etc. White slave owners feared and suppressed the use of magic; these practices were kept hidden from them.
In the magic practiced in the Sea Islands and elsewhere among black populations, the conjurer uses his or her own powers, as well as those invested in special words, materials, and objects, to produce illnesses. A person who has been crossed by a conjurer will not recover fully until the spell has been removed. A person who is both an herbalist and a conjurer is sometimes called a root doctor, and the terms roots and root medicine include magic as well as herbs.
In Jamaica and some other parts of the Caribbean magical practices are called Obeah.
In Haiti vodou, or Voodoo, has a long and powerful history.
In Nigeria magic is called Juju, referring to any object that is worshiped superstitiously and used as an amulet or fetish.