Traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

. Practices known as traditional medicines include herbal
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy...

, Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

, Siddha medicine
Siddha medicine
The Siddha medicine is one of the oldest medical systems known to mankind. This system of medicine originated from south Indian Tamil traditional medicine, as part of the trio Indian medicines - ayurveda, siddha and unani. This system was very popular in ancient India...

, Unani
Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine also spelled Yunani Medicine means "Greek Medicine", and is a form of traditional medicine widely practiced in South Asia...

, ancient Iranian medicine
Ancient Iranian Medicine
The practice and study of medicine in Persia has a long and prolific history. The Iranian academic centers like Jundishapur University were a breeding ground for the union among great scientists from different civilizations...

, Islamic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

, traditional Korean medicine
Traditional Korean medicine
Traditional Korean medicine developed with the influence of other traditional medicine. Its techniques in treatment and diagnosis are both similar and unique to other traditional medicine...

, acupuncture
Acupuncture is a type of alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of solid, generally thin needles in the body....

, Muti
Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika. The word muti is derived from the Zulu word for tree, of which the root is -thi...

, Ifá
Ifá refers to the system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá. Yoruba religion identifies Orunmila as the Grand Priest; as that which revealed Oracle divinity to the world...

, traditional African medicine
Traditional African medicine
Traditional African medicine is a holistic discipline involving indigenous herbalism and African spirituality, typically involving diviners, midwives, and herbalists...

, and other pseudomedical knowledge and practices all over the globe.

It may include formalized aspects of folk medicine
Folk medicine
-Description:Refers to healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to a limited segment of the population in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience.All cultures and societies...

, i.e. longstanding remedies passed on and practiced by lay people.

The World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

 (WHO) defines traditional medicine as:
"the health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises, applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being."

In some Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

n and Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n countries, up to 80% of the population relies on traditional medicine for their primary health care
Primary health care
Primary health care, often abbreviated as “PHC”, has been defined as "essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost...

 needs. When adopted outside of its traditional culture, traditional medicine is often called complementary and alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

. Herbal medicines can be very lucrative, generating billions of dollars in sales, but adulteration or counterfeit herbs can also be a health hazard.

The WHO also notes, though, that "inappropriate use of traditional medicines or practices can have negative or dangerous effects" and that "further research is needed to ascertain the efficacy and safety" of several of the practices and medicinal plants used by traditional medicine systems. Core disciplines which study traditional medicine include ethnomedicine
Ethnomedicine is a sub-field of ethnobotany or medical anthropology that deals with the study of traditional medicines: not only those that have relevant written sources Ethnomedicine is a sub-field of ethnobotany or medical anthropology that deals with the study of traditional medicines: not only...

, ethnobotany
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants....

, and medical anthropology
Medical anthropology
Medical anthropology is an interdisciplinary field which studies "human health and disease, health care systems, and biocultural adaptation". It views humans from multidimensional and ecological perspectives...


Classical history

In the written record, the study of herbs dates back 5,000 years to the ancient Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ians, who described well-established medicinal uses for plants. Ancient Egyptian medicine
Ancient Egyptian medicine
The medicine of the ancient Egyptians is some of the oldest documented. From the beginnings of the civilization in the until the Persian invasion of 525 BC, Egyptian medical practice went largely unchanged and was highly advanced for its time, including simple non-invasive surgery, setting of...

 of 1000 BC are known to have used various herbs for medicine. The Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 also mentions herb use and cultivation.

Many herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 were described by ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka
Charaka, sometimes spelled Caraka, born c. 300 BC was one of the principal contributors to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India...

 and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC. The first Chinese herbal
Chinese herbology
Chinese Herbology is the theory of Traditional Chinese herbal therapy, which accounts for the majority of treatments in Traditional Chinese medicine ....

 book was the Shennong Bencao Jing
Shennong , which names mean "Divine Farmer", but also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains , was a legendary ruler of China and culture hero reputed to have lived some 5,000 years ago...

, compiled during the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 but dating back to a much earlier date, which was later augmented as the Yaoxing Lun
Yaoxing Lun
Yaoxing Lun , literally Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs, is a 7th century Tang Dynasty Chinese treatise on herbal medicine.-See also:*Pharmacognosy*Chinese herbology*Compendium of Materia Medica*Traditional Chinese medicine...

(Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs) during the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

. Early recognised Greek compilers of existing and current herbal knowledge include Hippocrates
Hippocrates of Cos or Hippokrates of Kos was an ancient Greek physician of the Age of Pericles , and is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine...

, Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, Theophrastus
Theophrastus , a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young age, and initially studied in Plato's school. After Plato's death he attached himself to Aristotle. Aristotle bequeathed to Theophrastus his writings, and...

, Dioscorides and Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...


Roman writers included Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

 and Celsus
Aulus Cornelius Celsus
Aulus Cornelius Celsus was a Roman encyclopedist, known for his extant medical work, De Medicina, which is believed to be the only surviving section of a much larger encyclopedia. The De Medicina is a primary source on diet, pharmacy, surgery and related fields, and it is one of the best sources...

. Pedanius Dioscorides
Pedanius Dioscorides
Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician, pharmacologist and botanist, the author of a 5-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine and related medicinal substances , that was widely read for more than 1,500 years.-Life:...

 included the writings of the herbalist Krateuas, physician to Mithridates VI King of Pontus from 120 to 63 BC in his De Materia Medica
Materia medica
Materia medica is a Latin medical term for the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing . The term 'materia medica' derived from the title of a work by the Ancient Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in the 1st century AD, De materia medica libre...

. De Materia Medica was translated into several languages and Turkish
Turkish language
Turkish is a language spoken as a native language by over 83 million people worldwide, making it the most commonly spoken of the Turkic languages. Its speakers are located predominantly in Turkey and Northern Cyprus with smaller groups in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo,...

, Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 and Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 names were added to it throughout the centuries. Latin manuscripts of De Materia Medica were combined with a Latin herbal by Apuleius Platonicus
Pseudo-Apuleius refers to the author of a Herbarium or De herbarum virtutibus, also referred as Herbarium Apuleii Platonici; it is a medical herbal of the 5th century....

 (Herbarium Apuleii Platonici
Herbarium Apuleii Platonici
Herbarium Apuleii Platonici depicts 131 plants with their synonymy and instructions for their use in medicines and was first published in 1481 at Monte Cassino near Rome by Johannes Philippus de Lignamine, a Sicilian courtier and physician to Pope Sixtus IV...

) and were incorporated into the Anglo-Saxon codex
A codex is a book in the format used for modern books, with multiple quires or gatherings typically bound together and given a cover.Developed by the Romans from wooden writing tablets, its gradual replacement...

 Cotton Vitellius C.III.

These early Greek and Roman compilations became the backbone of European medical theory and were translated by the Persian Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 (Ibn Sīnā, 980–1037), the Persian Rhazes (Rāzi, 865–925) and the Jewish Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

. Translations of Greek medical handbooks and manuscripts into Arabic took place in the eighth and ninth centuries.

Arabic indigenous medicine developed from the conflict between the magic-based medicine of the Bedouin
The Bedouin are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes or clans, known in Arabic as ..-Etymology:...

s and the Arabic translations of the Hellenic and Ayurvedic
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

 medical traditions. Spanish indigenous medicine was influenced by the Arabs from 711 to 1492. Islamic physicians and Muslim botanists
Muslim Agricultural Revolution
The Arab Agricultural Revolution is a term coined by the historian Andrew Watson in his influential 1974 paper postulating a fundamental transformation in agriculture from the 8th century to the 13th century in the Muslim...

 such as al-Dinawari
Ābu Ḥanīfah Āḥmad ibn Dawūd Dīnawarī was a Persian polymath excelling as much in astronomy, agriculture, botany and metallurgy and as he did in geography, mathematics and history. He was born in Dinawar, . He studied astronomy, mathematics and mechanics in Isfahan and philology and poetry in...

 and Ibn al-Baitar significantly expanded on the earlier knowledge of materia medica
Materia medica
Materia medica is a Latin medical term for the body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing . The term 'materia medica' derived from the title of a work by the Ancient Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in the 1st century AD, De materia medica libre...

. The most famous Arabic medical treatise was Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine
The Canon of Medicine
The Canon of Medicine is an encyclopedia of Galenic medicine in five books compiled by Ibn Sīnā and completed in 1025. It presents a clear and organized summary of all the medical knowledge of the time...

, which was an early pharmacopoeia
Pharmacopoeia, pharmacopeia, or pharmacopoea, , in its modern technical sense, is a book containing directions for the identification of samples and the preparation of compound medicines, and published by the authority of a government or a medical or pharmaceutical society.In a broader sense it is...

 and introduced the method of clinical trial
Clinical trial
Clinical trials are a set of procedures in medical research and drug development that are conducted to allow safety and efficacy data to be collected for health interventions...

s. The Canon was translated into Latin in the 12th century and remained a medical authority in Europe until the 17th century. The Unani
Unani-tibb or Unani Medicine also spelled Yunani Medicine means "Greek Medicine", and is a form of traditional medicine widely practiced in South Asia...

 system of traditional medicine is also based on the Canon.

Translations of the early Roman-Greek compilations were made into German by Hieronymus Bock
Hieronymus Bock
Hieronymus Bock was a German botanist, physician, and Lutheran minister who began the transition from medieval botany to the modern scientific worldview by arranging plants by their relation or resemblance....

 whose herbal published in 1546 was called Kreuter Buch. The book was translated into Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 as Pemptades by Rembert Dodoens
Rembert Dodoens
Rembert Dodoens was a Flemish physician and botanist, also known under his Latinized name Rembertus Dodonaeus.-Biography:...

 (1517–1585), and from Dutch into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 by Carolus Clusius, (1526–1609), published by Henry Lyte
Henry Lyte (botanist)
Henry Lyte was an English botanist and antiquary. He is best known for two works, A niewe Herball , which was a translation of the Cruydeboeck of Rembert Dodoens , and an antiquarian volume, The Light of Britayne , both of which are dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I.-Life:Henry Lyte was born at...

 in 1578 as A Nievve Herball. This became John Gerard
John Gerard
John Gerard aka John Gerarde was an English herbalist notable for his herbal garden and botany writing. In 1597 he published a large and heavily illustrated "Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes", which went on to be the most widely circulated botany book in English in the 17th century...

's (1545–1612) Herball or General Hiftorie of Plantes. Each new work was a compilation of existing texts with new additions.

Women's folk knowledge existed in undocumented parallel with these texts. Forty-four drugs, diluents, flavouring agents and emollients mentioned by Discorides are still listed in the official pharmacopoeias of Europe. The Puritans took Gerard's work to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 where it influenced American Indigenous medicine.

Francisco Hernández
Francisco Hernández
Francisco Hernández was a football player from Costa Rica. Better known as "Chico", he played his entire career for Deportivo Saprissa, where he was captain and an idol. He is vastly remembered for his quickness, great shooting skills, leadership and sense of team organizement inside the field...

, physician to Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 spent the years 1571–1577 gathering information in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and then wrote Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus, many versions of which have been published including one by Francisco Ximénez
Francisco Ximénez
Francisco Ximénez was a Dominican priest who is known for his conservation of an indigenous Maya narrative known today as Popol Vuh. There is, as Woodruff has noted, little biographical data about Ximénez...

. Both Hernandez and Ximenez fitted Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 ethnomedicinal information into the European concepts of disease such as "warm", "cold", and "moist", but it is not clear that the Aztec’s used these categories. Juan de Esteyneffer
Juan de Esteyneffer
Juan de Esteyneffer was a Moravian German lay Jesuit missionary sent to the New World. He is known for his 1711 work Florilegio Medicinal, which compiled a combination of New World traditional medicine, European materia medica, and 18th-century European medical diagnosis.Esteyneffer was born in...

's Florilegio medicinal de todas las enfermedas compiled European texts and added 35 Mexican plants.

Martín de la Cruz wrote an herbal in Nahuatl
Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

 which was translated into Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 by Juan Badiano
Juan Badiano
Juan Badiano was the translator of Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis ca. 1552, from Nahuatl to Latin. The book was a compendium of 250 medicinal herbs used by the Aztecs. This compilation was originally done by Martin de la Cruz...

 as Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis
Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis
The Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis is an Aztec herbal manuscript, describing the medicinal properties of various plants used by the Aztecs...

or Codex Barberini, Latin 241 and given to King Carlos V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 of Spain in 1552. It was apparently written in haste and influenced by the European occupation of the previous 30 years. Fray Bernadino de Sahagún's used ethnographic methods to compile his codices that then became the Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espana, published in 1793. Castore Durante published his Herbario Nuovo in 1585 describing medicinal plants from Europe and the East and West Indies. It was translated into German in 1609 and Italian editions were published for the next century.

Knowledge transmission and creation

Indigenous medicine is generally transmitted orally
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 through a community, family and individuals until "collected". Within a given culture, elements of indigenous medicine knowledge may be diffusely known by many, or may be gathered and applied by those in a specific role of healer such as a shaman
Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

 or midwife
Midwifery is a health care profession in which providers offer care to childbearing women during pregnancy, labour and birth, and during the postpartum period. They also help care for the newborn and assist the mother with breastfeeding....

. Three factors legitimize the role of the healer – their own beliefs, the success of their actions and the beliefs of the community. When the claims of indigenous medicine become rejected by a culture, generally three types of adherents still use it – those born and socialized in it who become permanent believers, temporary believers who turn to it in crisis times, and those who only believe in specific aspects, not in all of it.

Elements in a specific culture are not necessarily integrated into a coherent system, and may be contradictory. In the Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

, indigenous remedies fall into several classes: certain well-known European medicinal herbs introduced by the early Spaniard colonists that are still commonly cultivated; indigenous wild and cultivated plants, the uses of which have been adopted from the Amerindians; and ornamental or other plants of relatively recent introduction for which curative uses have been invented without any historical basis.

Rights of ownership may be claimed in indigenous medical knowledge. Use of such knowledge without Prior Informed Consent of or compensation to those claiming such ownership may be termed 'biopiracy'. See Commercialization of indigenous knowledge, also the Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity , known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty...

 (in particular Article 8j and the Nagoya Protocol).

See also

  • African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines
    African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines
    The African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines publishes research in all areas of applied medicinal plants, traditional medicine, complementary alternative medicine, food and agricultural technologies, and promotion of healthy use of medicinal products. It is abstracted...

  • Health care provider
    Health care provider
    A health care provider is an individual or an institution that provides preventive, curative, promotional or rehabilitative health care services in a systematic way to individuals, families or communities....

  • Traditional birth attendant
    Traditional birth attendant
    A traditional birth attendant , also known as a traditional midwife, community midwife or lay midwife, is a pregnancy and childbirth care provider...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.