The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview
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account tells us of their intimate knowledge of the natural world and how they exploit this knowledge to cure. Even so, the Mixe sense the limits of such a phytotherapeutic approach; any illness that causes chronic pain and is debilitating calls for supernatural intervention.

Bogin, in his comprehensive review of the evolution of human nutrition, demonstrates clearly that human health is a consequence of culture. He also demonstrates the much less obvious notion that changes in the human diet since the end of the Upper Paleolithic, and especially since the development of agriculture and the consequent reduction in both the variety and the quality of foodstuffs, have led to a general decline in the state of human health. Similarly, Van Blerkom shows how the great preponderance of infectious diseases were transferred from animals, primarily domesticated animals. This argument follows from a comparison of the extraordinarily different disease histories of Europeans and Asians, on the one hand, and Native Americans, on the other; the latter suffered very few infectious diseases because they had no domesticated animals of significance.

In a closer analysis of one West African society, Etkin and Ross argue that diet is tied not only to the maintenance of health but also to the amelioration of disease, as they argue that a number of elements in the Hausa diet can actually affect the course of malaria. The difference between "drugs" and "food" is ultimately one of concept, not of content. The empirical aspect of non-Western curing and healing, as we here exemplify, may have something to teach us.


REFERENCES

But P. P., S. Y. Hu, and Y. C. Kong. 1980. "Vascular Plants Used in Chinese Medicine". Fitoterapia 51:245-64.

Moerman D. 1979. "Symbols and Selectivity: A Statistical Analysis of Native American Medical Ethnobotany". Journal of Ethnopharmacology 1:111-19.

Solecki R. 1975. "Shanidar IV, a Neanderthal Flower Burial in Northern Iraq". Science 190:880-81.

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