Health and Healing- Global Discourse and Traditional Healing

Debra Hayes


Illness and healing have been invariably intertwined since the dawn of man. It is, therefore, comprehensible that symptoms and patterned arrays thereof, the "strange phe-nomena" we now classify as illness, has compelled peoples through the ages to categorize, explain, understand and dispel it (Malinowski: 1955). Accordingly, each culture and so-ciety has formulated myths, belief systems, adaptive strategies, specialized cultural knowledge, and healing techniques. Within the twenty-first century, midst modernity, globalization and the age of information, these healing techniques are no longer confined to the regions of their origination and cultural enclaves. Rather they are interdependently mixed and utilized by various populations throughout the world.

With the rise of Western science and modern medicine and the institutionalization of both these disciplines, traditional and indigenous healers and medicines subjugated cate-gorically within the world system. Medical professionals and their associative organiza-tions classified them as primitive, archaic, superstitious and religious and virtually dis-counted their applicability. Consequent of James Reston's experience with traditional medicine in Beijing and his subsequent introductory articles in the New York Times, the global conversation was reinitiated and subsequent inquiries propelled it.

The World Health Organization has since been challenged by the daunting task of bridging worlds, investigation and inquiries, cultural and regional interpretations and in-ternational mediation at the institutional level. Meanwhile indigenous and traditional healers have responded to local and international patients, regardless of culture or ethnic-ity, opened healing villages and engaged in collaborations. Both of these have served in-termediaries. In the wake of pandemics, infectious diseases, cultural disparities, and the consequent rise of chronic and difficult conditions, anthropologists and scientists have sought the expertise of herbalists and the traditional/indigenous healers for dissimilar rea-sons. Insufficiencies in research and health delivery methods, misunderstandings and misapplications run rampant. Yet, one thing remains clear$mdash;the need for more than the mere alleviation of illness--"true healing."

Health and Healing- Global Discourse and Traditional Healing

Within every continent, every nation, region and province, on every level of governance and class, people of the world are actively engaged in a conversation. Through experien-tial and participatory means, via research, the quest for information, as a patient or a healer, persons are confronted with the challenges of illness and the restorative rewards of healing. Although this discussion and mediation of this seemingly unknowable terri-tory originated within antiquity it has continued through present times. It is therefore not surprising that man seems perpetually caught within the web of science, magic and relig-ion, for each plays a role within the human experience. As Malinowski (1955:44, 99) noted, each facet of the triad sometimes intersects. Within the realms of illness and heal-ing, this has never been more apparent. Many scholars, scientists, medical doctors, pro-fessionalized traditional medicine doctors and practitioners, anthropologists and philoso-phers have studied them well and healers of every curative nature have engaged in rituals which blur the defining lines between them. Modern medicine has struggled to stay within the lines of science (Brady: 2001: 5, 6), as defined by the scientific method, the evolvement of clinical trials and the limits of evolving disciplines including but not lim-ited to microbiology, pathology, and biochemistry. Through its (Brady: 2001: 5, 6) medi-cocentric institutions, it has actively sought cultural brokers to engage patients in its eth-nomedicinal practices and tried to dispel evidence-based practices as "quackery."

All the while, the engaging dialogue and consequent hybrid discourse continues. As wit-nessed through my years of fieldwork within the U. S. and in China primarily among an international patient population at a traditional Chinese Medicine hospital, supplemented by global health research and interviews, illness is a powerful, life-altering, transforma-tive experience. After all, infirmity, by its very nature, is a venture into liminal existence (Chrisler and O'Shea: 2000: 334; Goffman: 1963; Turner: 1969:125). Instantaneously, it leads those afflicted from the familiar to the unfamiliar, unanticipated, uncertain, and somewhat "unknowable" ordering of life, events, and circumstance (Angrosino: 2004: 67). Its consequences seemingly bound to its presentation affect not only the individual but also the society and culture in which it occurs (Hahn: 1995:5; Loustaunau, Sobo: 1997:17; WHO: 2005). It is, therefore, comprehensible that symptoms and patterned ar-rays thereof, the "strange phenomena" we now classify as illness, has compelled peoples through the ages to categorize, explain, understand and dispel it (Malinowski: 1955). Accordingly, each culture and society has formulated myths, belief systems, adaptive strategies, specialized cultural knowledge, and healing techniques (Baer: 2003; Feyera-bend: 1975; Loustaunau: 1997: 10; Malinowski: 1955). Through time, sickness has both shaped and altered kinship roles (Setoff: 1993), societal expectations (Cockerham: 1978: 110), and rituals (Malinowski: 1955), economic and ecological strategies (Baer: 2003: 15, 28, 38) and further defined each culture's medicinal acceptations and practices (Atler: 2005: 3; Penn: 2000).

Understandably then since antiquity, illness and injury has compelled all who endured them either directly or indirectly to seek the alleviation of suffering for those afflicted (Malinowski: 1955). It has inspired many more to explore its causes and its effects. Still others have been motivated to heal, to treat, to build upon the knowledge and experience of people and generations prior (Wang: 2007). Across time and space, illness and healing have coauthored each other, concomitantly evolved and adapted, (Hahn: 1995:5; Loustaunau, Sobo: 1997:17; WHO: 2005) moderated by cultural knowledge and beliefs, circumstance and geography and the mythological origin stories of the peoples them-selves. In spite of these differences, however, people today actively seek medicinal prac-tices and healers beyond the realm broadly and generally available to them, especially within the United States. As Hans A. Baer (2001: 43) stated:

Biomedicine's [also signifying Western or modern medicine's] dominance over rival medical systems [in America] has never been absolute. Within the upper class of the world system, Western medicine has been a pre-domininant subsystem or "ethnomedicine."

As Baer (2001: 43) further contends, " In the United States, it has been primarily pro-moted by the upper- and upper-middle-class European Americans (Hahn and Kleinman 1983: 306)."

Given the spheres of influence and historical dominance of regions and Peoples through-out the world, established through colonialism and neo-colonialism, unequal develop-ment and trade agreements, perpetuated inequalities and subjugation of belief systems and cultural practices through global institutions of governance, it is therefore under-standable that Western medicine has reached nearly every corner to some extent (Baer: 2002). Despite the numerous non-governmental organizations, the increase in western medicine physicians and the healthcare workers, the World Health Organization (WHO) 2002 report stated that eighty per cent of the world population uses traditional medicines/ indigenous healing methods and folk practices defined as "Complementary and Alterna-tive Medicine" within the United States and that a mere twenty per cent uses modern medicine.

Debra Hayes paper - Developing TM

Within a more recent NYT (Empowered Doctor: 2007) report, however, detailing CAM use in the US, the number of patients who used traditional and/or alternative medicine at least once during the year rose to seventy-two per cent. The reasons for this substantial increase within five years illuminate not only the effects of globalization and the inter-weaving of beliefs and practices as suggested by Erika Brady, but also the fundamental human belief that health as defined within the WHO Constitution (Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006) is:

[...] A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

While modern medicine sees illness as biological event and narrowly isolates its variables to scientifically explain the variations, many patients within my field studies and those who merely investigated "alternative" options have expressed growing concerns (Hayes: 2006). As detailed by each one of them, the affectations and presentation of infirmity within their lives have not merely applied to their physical beings. Rather, they have also extended into the social, spiritual and psychological realms of being (Chrisler and O'Shea: 2000: 328-333). Illness by any definition is a distinct human experience. As such, it en-compasses all levels and spheres of existence and serves as a rite of passage (Turner: 1969: 96; Van Gennep: 1909). It negotiates (Turner: 1969: 121) marginal existence, transformation and reintegration into society in role and status. (Hayes: 2006) Whether this "rite" is complete or incomplete as acknowledged by the cyclical nature of chronic, debilitating and terminal diseases, which truncate various rites within the "Rite of Passage" itself, the limits and norms of society determine the stages within them (Turner: 1969: 96; Van Gen-nep: 1909). However, the experience of illness and healing itself must more accurately reflect the optimal state of being, as defined by the WHO (2006; Jia: 2002).

In light of the definition of health established and confirmed by the World Health Or-ganization Constitution, Western medicine as it stands institutionalized presently satisfies only part of the requirements and methods necessary to attain health. More importantly, through (Bradshaw, Healey, and Smith 63-64) the institutional "Mc Donaldization" of healthcare, in which every specialist, doctor, health care worker etc. has a very special-ized and limited role, many more patients see physicians more precisely as medicine dis-pensaries rather than as diagnosticians and/or healers. More simply, for those who hold this viewpoint, medical doctors embody the messenger but NOT the medicine. Patients must effectively "heal themselves" through medicinal applications and the resultant side effects and associative healthcare must also be "managed" by the individual.

As a result, patients feel disconnected. Not only is the "disease" that afflicts them charac-terized as an outside entity, some opposing or unknown cause, diagnosed through labora-tories and technology but also treated through external medicine(s) to stop the symptoms or via methodology/surgery to treat the symptoms. The unintended and unexpected con-sequences of these affectations are not the concern of the specialist. More often, these aspects of the human experience are some other specialist's area. For a person with a chronic condition diagnosed or caught within the extensively, long drawn out process of diagnosis for many autoimmune diseases (AADA), who lacks the physical energy and often times the psychological/spiritual stamina, this system is alienating, devaluing and dissatisfactory. Yet, it reflects the Western culture from which it arose and responsibili-ties of individualism.

In sharp contrast, the more recent and subsequent rise of pandemics highlighted by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the spread of HIV and AIDS, and the con-current evolution of drug-resistant forms of malaria, tuberculosis (TB) and pneumonia-- (Eisenberg: 1995; Benson) diseases previously "conquered" by modern medicine less than fifty years ago, once more bring the world together through working committees at the WHO, distant research centers, etc. The aforementioned conditions, most especially the drug-resistant forms have called into question the legitimacy of the current medical strategies and essential medicines. They have effectively pointed to both the ability to reach patients and "heal" them, or lack thereof. More importantly, these diseases have also reminded us of the consequences and rewards of globalization, as each nation com-mitted itself to (WHO: 2006) international public health as both a collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility."

Additionally faced with the unforeseen chronic and difficult conditions that are bi-products of modernization and its associative lifestyles, the 2005-2006 World Health Conference in Thailand deemed Chronic Illness the focus of its attention. It, therefore, recognized that these conditions are persistent, often times incurable and affect an expo-nentially increasing number of persons and societies worldwide (WHO: 2005). In fact, people who suffered with chronic and debilitating illnesses not effectively managed or cured by modern medicine compelled people to explore options (Hayes: 2006). Most cer-tainly, the exchange of cultural knowledge, beliefs, adaptive strategies and tales of ex-perience that travel across geographic borders with ease and increasing speeds, midst the age of information and globalization, not only save lives but also inform policies, re-search and fulfill the requirements of (Brady: 2001) relational legitimacy. Through the WHO 2005-2006 Thailand conference and the spread of infectious diseases, nations and Peoples of the world realize more interconnectedness. The difficulties nations and socie-ties face are no longer isolated instances. Rather, they are topics of exploration and inves-tigation. Meanwhile, the question becomes, "How can we effectively manage them and concomitantly accomplish this?"

Pressing Questions of Modernity

Indeed, this invites more questions than answers. As addressed but not absolutely defined within the WHO 1978 Alma Ata Declaration "Health for One" traditional healers and practitioners have a role in healthcare.

[Health] should be sustained by integrated, functional and mutually supportive referral systems, leading to the progressive improvement of comprehensive health care for all, and giving priority to those most in need;
Relies, at local and referral levels, on health workers, including physicians, nurses, midwives, auxiliaries and community workers as applicable, as well as traditional practitioners as needed, suitably trained socially and technically to work as a health team and to respond to the expressed health needs of the community. (WHO:1978)

  1. Who can be called a medical professional?
  2. What is the "medicine" and how can we effectively gauge healing?
  3. What are the accepted standards of practice and when should any of them be applied?
  4. Are different levels of expertise and specializations equally represented, and respected?
  5. How can we work together to ensure each person, regardless of race, culture, linguistic or ethnic background, religion or belief the gold standard of health in accordance with the WHO definition of health?
  6. In the age of globalization and international travel, migrant populations and workers, can we merely outline regional protocols of care? If so, whom is not served?
  7. If Western medicine is the primary modality supported, how many persons are not ef-fectively treated? Given the cultural health disparities and differences in efficacies, is this unimportant?
  8. Why aren't there more internationally integrated teams of medical doctors and healers?
  9. If western medicine is dominantly supported and unduly used as a tool of compliance, is this not colonization through devaluation and subjugation?
  10. Given the cost-effectiveness of traditional/indigenous healers, why aren't these meth-ods and herbal formulas on the essential medicines list as alternatives?
  11. Given the number of healers and modalities, why is there insufficient data and defi-ciencies in understanding the complexities?
  12. Why isn't medical and/or socio-cultural anthropology an integral part of any health-care system?

The answers to these questions are incredibly complex. Despite several dialogues and specifications included within the 1978 WHO Alma Ata Declaration, various papers submitted to the policy boards of the WHO, the Intellectual Property Protection branch and the Traditional Medicine branch, indigenous and traditional medicine lies beyond its reach and beyond its complete understanding. Additionally, the WHO like the United Na-tions (UN) was established under the Western powers dominant after WWII (Fuller: 1989: 123). Therefore, the bias tends to fall toward the upper class of the European countries and America. With the consequent rise and fall of other regions and nation-states, the UN and the WHO has been confronted with many of the same inquiries outlined above. However, largely due to the differences in status and the class between the First World states and the Third World states, the upper class with spheres of affluence and the status of the common people and seemingly "marginal" indigenous Peoples, this issue has been most conveniently side-stepped. Moreover, healing modalities outside western medicine have been classified as alternative, complementary, religious and folk because they in-herently contain cosmologies including religion. Because of this and other reasons, the evidence-based outcomes have been difficult to study scientifically.

As Edith Turner (2005) has contended throughout her fifty plus years of field research among the healers, that healing and religion go hand in hand. It is easy to study them to-gether. Turner (2005) highlight that as much as people respect and honour the healers within their communities and cultural enclaves, one must also realize that specific cul-tural knowledge and practices, particularly healing rarely leaves the culture from which it arose and is rarely transferred or respected equally by the "non-members" of its society. Accordingly, persons throughout the world prior to the inventions and rise of mass trans-portation did not often experience indigenous and traditional healing if it existed beyond their societies or beyond the immigrant populations. As Mei Zhan (1999: 455) stated, "Chinese Medicine within the US was often practiced beyond the back doors of card shops, " hidden from the outside realm. As I have also previously suggested (Hayes: 2007), Chinese medicine like other indigenous and traditional medicines has existed within many societies cloaked and disguised within special language, daily rituals and engaged throughout nearly every facet of daily living. (Fuller: 1989: 123) Although tradi-tional medicine, like western medicine is formally performed within spaces far removed from the hustle and bustle of the daily routine for healing, it differs significantly as a "liv-ing" balance is ultimately sought. This balance is not merely limited to the physical body. Rather it extends into the realm of spirituality and society, including the relationships one has with the community (WHO: 2008: 135).

With the rise of the (Baer: 2001; 2002) holistic health movement in the US, however, at-titudes and expectations of doctors and healing began to change. Europe had in contrast to the U.S. always granted greater acceptance and inclusion to holistic practices including homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal medicines. Even today, herbal medicines in Ger-many are always utilized for specific health conditions vis-a-vis western medicine (Hes-seln: 2006). However, one news story from within closed Communist China in 1971 by reporter James Reston would forever change the western world and cast the stone into the international waters for traditional and indigenous healers everywhere. As Americans read the 1971 New York Times article, "Now, About my Surgery in Peking," which de-tailed James Reston's experience with his appendectomy and the acupuncture used post-operatively to relieve pain, it incited curiosity (1973: Davis and Yin). People wondered how this could be. They inquired about how an ancient art could be interwoven with modern surgery, etc. It also fascinated James Reston, so he continued to fuel the inquiring minds in the West with stories about acupuncture anesthesia, documentation of conversa-tions he had with Chinese patients while undergoing brain surgery, awake, without pain.

From all accounts, it was as if the veil of ignorance was lifted. Although many nations, cultures and regions knew of and or integrated some form of Chinese medicine, folk or otherwise, the Americans were broadly and generally unaware of this (1973: Davis and Yin). As Li (1973) stated, "It created quite a stir. It was the first time, it was published in Western media." Accordingly, eight months prior to President Nixon's visit to Commu-nist China, the world was not only fascinated by the culture and people but also with its medicine.

Confronted with questions it could not answer, the FDA (1973: Davis and Yin) set forth inquiries and generic press releases. Meanwhile, doctors and scientists were sent to China to learn more about this ancient healing art. Yet, America had great difficulty completing this task properly for several reasons including medicocentric views. In the late 1970s few Americans could read Chinese, let alone the Classic Chinese used within the Classic Texts. For the first time in a long time, America was the exotic Other. This public article and the wellspring of excitement and interest that it elicited reinitiated the global conver-sation the West deemed closed with the rise of modern medicine.

Directions in Traditional/Indigenous Healing Inquiry and Research

Notably, traditional healing and indigenous wisdom have been the central focus within several realms and layers of international discussions from the late twentieth century until present day. Besides the inquiry and exploration by scientists, anthropologists, and both governmental and non-governmental organizations, laypersons have sought their exper-tise and guidance. While confronted with the problems and discontents of modernity, pro-fessionals and non-professionals increasingly concerned with the lack of solutions for environmental scarcities, increasing chronic and difficult diseases and global warming, are once more turning toward ancient wisdom for new insight.

A dissimilar yet responsive, intertwined hybrid discourse has arisen to meet the challenge, though not entirely homogenous, by any means. For various reasons, several natives and native nations have once more entered the arena and invited the discussion. Some are anxious to save their lands, promote cultural understanding and continuity, ecologically and economically sustainable living, tribal and ethnic recognition and self-determination (Neizen: 2003). Then there are the healers, shamans, medicine men and women--those committed to the sacred art of healing, (Turner: 2005) who heal because they are called to do so through whatever methods and means available to them. As Rosita Arvigo (1994) highlighted, this is a sacred pact. It is not entered into lightly and the (Turner: 2005) path that leads one to engage in its practices is often as unique as the healers themselves. This is not surprising when we consider that illness and injuries, the circumstances in which they occur and the individualized manifestations thereof reflect both the pathway of the healer and the afflicted. By the very nature of their relationship within the spectrum of human experience, they are inextricably bound in complementary fashion.

Concerns about chemicals and drug interactions, side effects according to the World Health Organization 2002 Policy Perspectives Publication and perhaps the question of legitimacy afforded modern medicine have increasingly compelled persons to explore options like those offered in Huai Hua Red Cross International Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in China, where I studied, taught and conducted field research among a patient community of persons from more than sixty different countries. (Hayes: 2006). Upon the realization that modern medicine and its "International Classification of Dis-eases" (ICD) was approximately a hundred years old, many of my consultants and pa-tients interviewed in 2006 and 2007 contended that older systems had most certainly documented and/or had considerably more experience healing and contained within them collective wisdom (Hayes: 2006). Restoration or the quest for a greater degree of societal participation most certainly motivated people from dissimilar ethnic and cultural back-grounds to cross culturally sanctioned and dominant lines between and among healing communities in order to experience traditional healing not only within their native lands but also within and across indigenous, native and immigrant communities within various nations (Hayes: 2006). The journeys of many patients and their families reflected this, as each traveled a specific path through various traditions and healers including but not lim-ited to indigenous healers in Ethiopia, across the borders of Algeria, Egypt, Singapore, Malaysia, and India. Of course, these life paths in search of "true healing" highlight not only the pluralistic means through which Peoples accomplish well-being but also seek its fulfillment to some degree in accordance with the WHO 2002 Policy report:

Populations throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America use traditional medicine (TM) to help meet their primary health care needs. As well as being accessible and affordable, TM is also often part of a wider belief system, and considered integral to everyday life and well-being. Meanwhile, in Australia, Europe and North America, "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) is increasingly used in parallel to allopathic medicine, particularly for treating and managing chronic disease. Concern about the adverse effects of chemical medicines, a desire for more personalized health care and greater public access to health information, fuel this increased use.

They like all humans confronted with illness and injury since the dawn of time seek "true health."

Throughout the world today, indigenous peoples and traditional healers have actively lis-tened throughout the global conversation and responded to the communal needs, as they have constructed and opened traditional healing villages as a means of cultural revitaliza-tion and economic stimulation for the region. With the rise of difficult conditions and medical tourism, these specialized healing villages exist in many regions including Mex-ico, Belize, Laos, Sierra Leone, and China. Other indigenous healers have also served as cultural bridges and traveled to conduct specialized healing services, as exemplified by Native Americans. Regardless of space or place in which the healing occurs, these heal-ers have allowed "outsiders" access to their once private and sacred realms.

Still others, like Dr. Rosita Arvigo (1994), who apprenticed with don Panti, a Mayan healer, have also established medicine walks, which not only serve as an introduction to the herbal gathering and the environments in which they grow but also served as a re-minder of their fragility. Through participation, one recalls and restores the interconnect-edness of the earth and humans. Of course, a guided tour also allows visitors to listen to the medical folklore and gain a more cultural perspective. Yet, this medicine walk pre-serves and protects the rainforest, which as in centuries prior, gives Mayans so many remedies.

Dr. Arvigo (1994) also lectures and provides training in Mayan abdominal massage. Through her lessons one discovers that the uterus is the center of a woman. If it is out of place, tilted in any way, digestion and menstruation among other systems as defined by western medicine may be affected. Her training for massage professionals and nurses, passes on the teachings of don Panti and casts forth the light inherent within the Mayan Sastun of healing. Additionally, she contributes to research, which has confirmed its benefits for conditions including endometriosis. Through careful assessment, Mayan ab-dominal massage may play a vital role within health care teams and medical missions.

Traditional/indigenous healers also take on apprentices. This is rarely a short-term ven-ture or one agreed upon without sincerity of the apprentice. As evidenced through the ap-prenticeship of Elisabeth Hsu in Yunnan province in China, Dr. Rosita Arvigo (1994) and my own apprenticeship within Huaihua, Hunan Province, China, sincerity of heart and mind is of the utmost importance. It is the most essential quality that serves as the initial and most fundamental ingredient for the establishment of a bond between Master and student and subsequently serves a key ingredient in the art and science of healing. Trust is also invaluable. This is not to say that one cannot ask questions. Yet, trust lends itself to the (Turner: 2005) opening of the mind, the eyes, to letting go of previous con-straints and perceptions and allows the true embracement of lessons and the experience.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention that such actions carry heavy price tags. For healers, as Brady (2001:6-10) details, the transmission of knowledge to an anthro-pologist or a non-native genuinely seeking understanding of the art and science of his medicine, not only cost his immediate family but the subsequent generations. (Brady: 2001:6-10) For anthropologists and apprentices who participate within its realms are in-evitably and most often unforeseeably altered or healed in some way they did not previ-ously anticipate. As investigators, they are obligated to report or unveil how their lens is constructed. By doing so under these circumstances, they risk their reputations. However, revealing the events as they unfold without calibrating the lens through which they view culture skews the complete scope of their research. It is an intricate dance on the tip of a double-edged sword.

Inescapably, the study of healing has led many down its multiple, interweaving paths. Indigenous and traditional healing are perhaps the most difficult to learn or comprehend, because the most significant challenge lies within possessing the ability to see through "native eyes." Embedded within the practice, the routines, the language and rhythm of daily life within healing communities and among healers is the cultural knowledge, which extends far beyond tacit, coupled with the benefits of ancient wisdom and the ad-aptations made throughout the ages (Baer: 2003; Feyerabend: 1975; Loustaunau: 1997: 10; Malinowski: 1955). After all, culture is never static. Healing arises from the grasp of all these aspects. At its best, it is all at once viewing the world in its totality, past, present, future, contained within the moment, connected to the universe as constructed by the Peoples and reaching deep within, opening to give more while seeking the opening within which to plant the seeds or methods of release and/or health.

Based upon the previous passages, the study and investigation of the indigenous methods, whether they are the Sioux medicine wheel, Navajo painting, the needles of acupuncture, horns or glasses inducing suction and circulation, feathers, herbs imbibed, applied or bathed within, massage or manipulation within or any other implement I have not listed here are time consuming. They are additionally restricted by lack of understanding or at-tention to the details, (Brady: 2001) medicocentric views or ignorance of cultural details and beliefs. Nevertheless, the door has opened to both patients and students.

Scientists and botanists also scavenge the globe today looking for the next miraculous cure, despite the technological advances and more informed understandings of biological effects of disease. Admittedly, most of them are simply concerned with verifying whether a particular species or flora has an active compound. As many traditional healers (Xie: 2006, 2007) contend, they completely disregard the complementary compounds each holds, its possible synergistic reactions, its cultural use, the accompanying folklore and tales of experience that accompany them. This is "independent harvesting" (Brady:) Of course, the first 261 western pharmaceuticals were formulated based upon watching na-tives within their lands, noting the evidence-based results and engaging them for similar uses (WHO: 2002; Jia). Notably, too, (Brady: 2001) these pharmaceuticals may lack the true value and/or potential uses due to the methodology engaged-- "selective harvesting;" i.e., extracted from culture and practice without the cultural knowledge attached to them and more specifically deficient of the cultural lens with which to view the condition and the environment.


Based upon my anthropological inquiries and the works of many others including Edith Turner (1996; 2005), Victor Turner (Turner: 1969), Rosita Arvigo (1994), Dr. Zhengang Guo, Dr. Xie Guang, Dr. Zhengang Guo and Dr. Carlos Quezada, these details calibrate and inform more than mere compounds and biology can dictate. As substantiated through case studies in Chinese history, the separation of active components lends itself to aller-gies (Wang: 2007; Xie: 2005, 2006). Indeed, a little applied anthropology, socio-cultural and medical anthropology would not only extend cooperation and cross-cultural under-standing but also "translate" the cultural views and provide the lenses through which to see the body and its conditions. More importantly, they would provide the means by which the medical doctors and scientists trained according to western standards could more fully understand the methodology, diagnostics and cross-applicability.

Currently, there is no body of knowledge that accomplishes this grand task. The ITTM Institute in Darjeeling, West Bengal India has painstakingly engaged in the translation of Tibetan medicine, data entry and its record keeping (ITTM: 2008). There may be other grassroots projects underway to document the healers and their methodology, but most lack funding. The scientific community has overwhelmingly dictated grants to those trained in Western science for such purposes. I am not stating that it doesn't have a place in the inquiry. Artificial separation of the components which compose the totality of ill-ness and experience not only skews the investigation but also devalues and delimits the applicability and conditions observed and noted, and if applicable, tested. Due to the ex-panse of traditional and indigenous medicines, they are beat explored and analyzed through multidisciplinary teams and/or persons with a gift for cross-cultural communica-tion and enhanced understanding.

A few projects with traditional healers in Africa and the Traditional Medicine branch of the WHO have begun without the full benefit of cultural brokers and anthropology, peo-ple with the ability to "translate" more than mere language and tertiary concepts (WHO: 2000). Research centers connected to these healers, though separated by geographic loca-tion, acculturation and language concomitantly work toward the development of new medicines. It is obviously less than ideal and perhaps much less informative and produc-tive than it could and should be. Nevertheless, it is a step forward. Traditional and in-digenous healing warrants more.

Nearly every moment within some corner of the world, someone steps outside his/her comfort zone, beyond the realm of custom or convention of his/her acculturation and seeks some type of restoration or healing. They seek more than mere alleviation. They seek true healing. The quest and the dialogue continue.


American Autoimmune and Related Diseases Association
2006 Accessed on 12/2006-2/19/2006 at:
Angrosino, Michael
1986 Health and Illness in Sociocultural Perspective in A Health Practitioner's Guide to the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Pp.53-64. Auburn Press.
1986 Life Histories in A Health Practitioner's Guide to the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Pp.79-81. Auburn Press.
Arvigo, Rosita with Nadine Epstein
1994 My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
Atler, Joseph S. (editor)
2005 Asian Medicine And Globalization (Encounters With Asia). U. of Pennsylvania Press.
Baer, Hans A
2001 Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender. 1st edition (July 8, 2001). University of Wisconsin Press.
2002 Medical Anthropology and the World System. Westport, CT; Praeger Publishers.
2003 Bradshaw, York W., Joseph F. Healey, and Rebecca Smith. Sociology For a New Century. California: Pine Forge Press, 2001.
Brady, Erika
2001 Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems. Utah State University Press
Barnes, Linda, L.; Sered, Susan S.
2004 Religion and Healing in America. Oxford University Press, USA
Chrisler, Joan C. and O'hea, Erin L.
2000 Gender, Culture, and Autoimmune Disorders in Handbook of Gender, Culture and Health. Richard M. Eisler and Michael Hersen. Pp. 321-342. First Edition. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Clark, Charles S.
1997 Are unconventional treatments joining the mainstream? In The CQ Researcher. February 14, 1997. Volume 7, Number 6.
Cohen, Lucy M.
1973 Gifts to Strangers: Public Policy and the Delivery of Health Services to Illegal Aliens in Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 3, Medical Anthropology: Consensus and Conflict in Health Care Policy (Special Issue). (Jul., 1973), pp. 183-195.
Cockerham, William C.
1978 Medical Sociology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ; Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Davis, Joseph. B. M.D. and Yin, Lillian, Ph.D.
1973 Acupuncture: Past and Present
Eisenberg, David, M. M.D. with Thomas Lee Wright
1985 Encounters with Qi. W. W. Norton & Company
Empowered Doctor
2007 Rapid Rise in "Complementary" Medical Services. Accessed on 3/17/2007 at:
Fuller, Robert, C.
1989 Alternative Medicine and American Religious Life. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Guo, Zhengang, Dr.
2003 FAQ's and General Knowledge. Accessed on 12/2006 at:
Hahn, Robert, A.
1995 Sickness and Healing: An Anthropological Perspective; Yale University Press.
Hayes, Debra A.
2006 Why Foreign Patients Explore Traditional Chinese Medicine in Huai Hua, Hunan Province China. Naperville, IL.; North Central College
Hesseln, Jochen, M. D. , O.M.D.
2006 Interview in Huai hua, Hunan, China
Kaptchuk, T. J and D. M. Eisenberg
2002 Varieties of Healing Pp. 218 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Loustunau, Martha O., Sobo, Elisa J.
1996 The Culture Context of Health, Illness and Medicine. Westport, Ct.; Bergin & Garvey.
Lindenbaum, Shirley, Lock, Margaret
1993 Knowledge, Power & Practice: The Anthropology of Medicine and Everyday Life. Berkely, Ca.; University of California Press.
Malinowski, Bronislaw
1955 Magic, Science and Religion And Other Essay. Garden City, New York. Double day
Martin, Judith, N.; Nakayama, Thomas, K.
2003 Identity and Intercultural communication Pp.147-195, Language and Intercul-tural Communication Pp.196-233 and Nonverbal cues and culture space Pp. 234-262 in Intercultural Communication in Contexts. Third edition (July 25, 2003). McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages.
Ming, Zhu Dr.
2006 The Huai Hua Red Cross TCM Hospital
Accessed on 12/2006-2/19/2006 at:
Patient form accessed at:
Patient case studies:
Mc Curdy, David W.
1995 Using Anthropology in Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. James Spradley and David W. McCurdy, eds. Pp. 415 -427. Ele- venth edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Neizen, Ronald
2003 The Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights and the Politics of Identity. First Edition. University of California Press.
Penn, Nolan E., Kramer, Joyce, Skinner, John F., Velasquez, Roberto J., Yee, Barbara, W.K., Arellano, Letticia M., Williams, Joyce P.
2000 Health Practices and Health Care Systems Among Cultural Groups in Handbook of Gender, Culture and Health. Richard M. Eisler and Michael Hersen. Pp. 105- 138. First Edition. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Pozzilli C., Pozzilli, P., Knapp J. F.
2001 New Concepts in Pathology and Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders (Ernst Schering Research Foundation Workshop / Schering Foundat.Workshop Suppl). First edition. Heidelberg, New York. Springer Verlag.
Turner, Edith
2005 Among the Healers: Stories of Spiritual and Ritual Healing around the World. Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
1996 Hands Feel It: Healing and Spirit Presence among a Northern Alaskan People. Northern Illinois University Press.
Turner, Victor
1969 The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press.
Winkler, Katlin
The McDonaldization of the Healthcare Industry. Accessed on 3/21/2008 at:
Wang Hong Cai, C.M.D., Ph.D.
2007 Interview and Classes on Chinese Medicine at the Beijing Chinese Medicine Research and WHO Center.
World Health Organization
1978 The Promotion and Development of Traditional Medicine
2001 Traditional Medicine: Growing Needs and Potential. Accessed at:
2006 Accessed on: 12/2005-2/19/2006 at:
2006 Traditional Medicine: Definitions. Accessed at:
The Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment practices and herbal therapy, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
2006 Traditional Chinese Medicine Could Make "Health for One" True (Jia)
2006 WHO Constitution
Zhan, Mei
2001 Does It Take a Miracle? Negotiating Knowledges, Identities, and Communities of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Cultural Anthropology. Pp.453-480.