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May Fruiting Bodies - Her-Story of Medicine






In May, Fruiting Bodies discussed the historical context, cultural significance, and practical applications of medicine. While discussing cultural medicine practices, the group also shared experiences of being our own patient advocates in a patriarchal world where women's health is not throughly researched or advocated. We talked about bridge cultural gaps, promote cross-cultural knowledge, and enhance the efficacy of personalized healthcare to help us access plant wellness and other therapies that work for us individually.


Indian Medicine - Ayurveda 

From John Hopkins Integrative Medicines:

Ayurveda treatment starts with an internal purification process, followed by a special diet, herbal remedies, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation.


The concepts of universal interconnectedness, the body's constitution (prakriti), and life forces (doshas) are the primary basis of ayurvedic medicine. Goals of treatment aid the person by eliminating impurities, reducing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, reducing worry, and increasing harmony in life. Herbs and other plants, including oils and common spices, are used extensively in Ayurvedic treatment. 


In India, Ayurveda is considered a form of medical care, equal to conventional Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, and homeopathic medicine. Practitioners of Ayurveda in India undergo state-recognized, institutionalized training. Currently, Ayurvedic practitioners are not licensed in the United States, and there is no national standard for Ayurvedic training or certification. However, Ayurvedic schools have gained approval as educational institutions in some states.” (The three Doshas (Tridoshas) are Vata, Pitta and Kapha)


Other Resources: 

The Ayurveda Institute - https://ayurveda.com/

Book: Eat, Taste, Heal: An Ayurvedic Cookbook - Thomas Yarema

Books: Vedic literature, composed between 1500 and 900 BCE, Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda, explore philosophical, metaphysical questions and offer insights into the traditions and beliefs of ancient Indian society  Ayurveda is an Upaveda of Atharva or Rigveda according to some schools or is a Panchama Veda. It is also considered as Upanga of Atharva Veda i.e. it is not imposed or added from the exterior but is a part and parcel of the main body of the Vedas. 


Western Medicine - Conventional  

A system in which medical doctors and other health care professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery.  Western medicine is the traditional healthcare you receive in the United States. It's the care you receive when you go to a doctor's office, medical clinic, hospital or urgent care. This type of medical care uses techniques based on scientific evidence. Western medicine aims to eliminate an existing problem.


Resources: 

Book: A Brief History of Medicine: From Hippocrates' 

Four Humours to Crick and Watson's Double Helix - Paul Strathern 

Mayo Clinic - mayoclinic.org 

National Institutes of Health - nih.gov

WebMD - webmd.com

Cleveland Clinic - clevelandclinic.org 


The Rod of Asclepius takes its name from the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicinal arts in ancient Greek religion and mythology. 


The Western medical tradition began in ancient Greek and Rome since 5th century BC, long before the discovery of infectious pathogens and without the concept of infectious diseases. The medical documents of Hippocrates and Galen were handed down and compiled into medical textbooks in the Middle Ages.


African Medicine  

5 basic premises of African traditional medicine:

  • Holistic Approach:

  • African traditional medicine views health as a state of balance between the physical, spiritual, emotional, and social aspects of an individual's life. Healing practices aim to restore this balance, considering the person as a whole rather than focusing solely on symptoms of disease.

  • Spiritual Connection:

  • Many African traditional healing practices are deeply intertwined with spiritual beliefs. Illness is often seen as a disruption in the harmony between the individual and the spiritual world. Healers, such as shamans, sangomas, or herbalists, may use rituals, prayers, and offerings to ancestors and restore health.

  • Community and Family Involvement:

  • Healing is often a communal activity involving family and community members. Support from the community is considered essential for the healing process. This collective approach strengthens social bonds and provides emotional and psychological support to the patient.

  • Use of Natural Remedies:

  • African traditional medicine relies heavily on natural remedies derived from plants, animals, and minerals. Knowledge of these remedies is passed down through generations. Healers have extensive knowledge of local flora and fauna, and they use various parts of plants, such as roots, leaves, and bark, to prepare medicines.

  • Preventive Care and Lifestyle:

  • Preventive care is a significant aspect of African traditional medicine. Emphasis is placed on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including proper diet, regular physical activity, and adherence to cultural practices and rituals that promote well-being. Traditional medicine often includes advice on living in harmony with nature and the community to prevent illness.


Resources: 

Book: African Holistic Health - Llaila O. Afrika

Book: Indigenous African Knowledge Production: Food-processing Practices among Kenyan Rural Women - Njoki Nathani Wane

Book: The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community - Malidoma Patrice Somé


Africa can be traced back to prehistoric times, with some estimates suggesting that traditional medicine practices in Africa could be as old as 40,000 years. Ancient Egyptian texts, such as the Ebers Papyrus (circa 1550 BCE), provide one of the earliest documented records of medical practices and herbal remedies, indicating that traditional medicine has been a vital part of African societies for many millennia.






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