The history of the discipline dates back to the year 2000 at the then University of Natal, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine when a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Traditional Health Practitioners of KwaZulu-Natal and the School. In 2007, a Research Chair in Indigenous Health Care Systems was established by the NRF/DST. This accelerated the growth of research in this field attracting postgraduate students, postdocs and research funding. The UKZN allocated space for the creation of a state-of-the-art laboratory at the Howard College campus. At this stage it had become part of the School of Nursing and Public Health. It is a founding member of the DSI IK-based Research Consortium and chairs its traditional medicine team. Recently, its head was appointed a member of the WHO/AU/Africa CDC Expert Committee on Traditional Medicine for COVID-19.
Its partnerships are continuing to grow with cooperation agreements with the Innovation Hub, the KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Traditional Health Practitioners Business Council to mention a few. International collaboration includes the Athlone Institute of Technology (Ireland), University of Florida (US), University of Missouri (US), Simon Fraser University (Canada), and The Wistar Institute (US).