Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Traditional Medicine

The term traditional medicine (Indigenous medicine or folk medicine) describes medical knowledge systems, which developed over centuries within various societies before the era of modern medicine; traditional medicines include practices such as herbal medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Unani medicine, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, Siddha Medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, South African Muti, Yoruba Ifá, as well as other medical knowledge and practices all over the globe.

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

Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America use traditional medicine to help meet some of their primary health care needs. For example, in Africa, up to 80% of the population uses traditional medicine for primary health care. The WHO, however, also notes that its use is spreading in popularity in industrialized countries. For example, in the United States, 158 million adults use alternative medicine (a field which incorporates traditional medicine but is broader in scope).

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, ethnobotany, and medical anthropology.

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