This article arose out of an attempt to quantify the risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases, in particular Hepatitis B and HIV, through the practice of making incisions (umgcabo) and punctures (ukutshobha) in the skin for the purpose of introducing medication (muthi) into the human body. The intention was to examine means of containing the risk. It soon became apparent that the practice of these therapies was inextricably bound up with legal and economic issues arising out of the impact of colonialism on Zulu medicine. Any endeavour to contain them would first have to address these fundamental issues. The article takes a step in that direction by (1) examining in detail some of the practices of diviners and herbalists in their historical context and (2) showing how colonial and post-colonial legislation has affected traditional healers and their clients in rural KwaZulu/Natal.