History of Folk Medicine Essay

Pages: 6 (1710 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 19  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Medicine

Life before Tylenol and Prozac: A History of Folk Medicine

Brief Course Description

This course will provide an overview of the history of folk medicine from the earliest civilizations to modern times. Topics covered will include: Religious aspects of folk medicine; 'witch doctors' and 'medicine men'; Plants and herbal medicine; Animal parts for human healing; Modern natural remedies and What physicians and clinicians have to say about the validity of folk medicine.

Five Essential Questions

What are the earliest examples of the use of folk medicine?

This question is important because it will show the students what a long and rich history folk medicine has, dating back thousands of years before Christ.

Question #2: What part does religion play in folk medicine?

An essential part of understanding the history of folk medicine is understanding the religious rites, rituals and beliefs that tend to accompany it. Answering this question will provide insight into both the religious and the cultural factors that have contributed to various folk medicine practices throughout history.

Question #3: What types of ingredients have been used in folk medicine?

The importance of this question lies in its ability to provide a deeper understanding of the various (often bizarre) ingredients that comprise different folk medicines, and how they were expected to function as instruments of healing.

Question #4: What is the place of folk medicine in modern times?

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Many people think of folk medicine is being relegated to the distant pass or remote tribal cultures. However answering this question will show students that many folk medicine practices, such as herbal healing and aromatherapy, are still very much alive and well today, even in the United States.

Question #5: What do modern physicians and scientists have to say about folk medicine?

This question lends itself to a level of critical thinking for the students as they will not only be learning what professionals' expert opinions are, but will also be asked to either agree or disagree with them and explain why.

TOPIC: Essay on History of Folk Medicine Assignment

Why This Course Is Important To Me

I have dual interest in history and medicine, as well as a fascination with the strange and bizarre. This course will allow me to combine these passions, while at the same time, imparting knowledge and wonderment upon people who had no idea that hyena dung was once used to treat a sore throat or that ancient Egyptians put bat blood in their eyes to prevent blindness. I feel that this course will be both informative and a lot of fun, which to me, provides the most winning combination for effective learning. In terms of dimensions of freedom, this course is aligned with both my professional and personal goals to promote free thinking, and the creative expression of ideas.

Source List


Book #1: Jarvis, D.C. Folk Medicine. Edison, NJ: BBS Publishing Corporation, 1996. ISBN-10: 0883659409, ISBN-13: 978-0883659403

This book is like the modern folk medicine "bible." It relays Dr. D.C. Jarvis' extensive research into folk medicine in the Green Mountains of Vermont. I plan to use this book to demonstrate that folk medicine is still a very common practice today in America (not to mention around the world).

Book #2: Black, William George. Folk-medicine: A Chapter in the History of Culture. Bel Air, CA: BiblioBazaar, 2009. ISBN-10: 1110353928, ISBN-13: 978-1110353927.

The value of this book for this course lies in its extensive coverage of ancient tribal medicinal practices, with a strong focus on religion, spirituality and astrology. It also addresses the important place that folk medicine holds in the study of civilizations.

Book #3: Porter, Roy. The Popularization of Medicine (Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine). London, Routledge, 1992. ISBN-10: 0415072174, ISBN-13: 978-0415072175

This book will provide both sides of the medical professionals' and scientists' point-of-view. It includes historical texts written by physicians that promote particular folk healing practices, as well as commentary by modern clinicians who call these techniques "quackery." The students will get to see both viewpoints and make their own decisions accordingly.

Book #4: Rosenberg, Charles E. Right Living: An Anglo-American Tradition of Self-Help Medicine and Hygiene. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2003. ISBN-10: 0801871891, ISBN-13: 978-0801871894.

The focus of this book is on American folk medicine in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It is a compilation of articles written by scholars in history, medicine and pharmacology. This will provide students with a multitude of perspectives and experiences related to this era of folk medicine.

Book #5: Imperato, Pascal James. African Folk Medicine: Practices and Beliefs of the Bambara and Other Peoples. New York, York Press.ISBN-10: 0912752084, ISBN-13: 978-0912752082.

This insightful book provides a niche view of folk medicine focusing almost entirely on the people of is West Africa. It provides great detail about the medicinal practices and how they interrelate with the cultural traditions of the people.


Article #1: Selberg, Torunn. "Faith Healing and Miracles: Narratives About Folk Medicine." Journal of Folklore Research. 32.1. (1995): 35-47.

This article combines research from folklore studies, medicine, anthropology and other related disciplines. This is important to the course because it will provide the students the ability to examine the topic from a variety of perspectives.

Article #2: Hodes, Meyer B. "Folk Medicine Deserves Our Respect." Medical Economics. 77.5: (March 6, 2000): 119-121.

The value of this article is that provides a pro-folk medicine stance from a modern medical doctor who has witnessed the value of so-called alternative medicines on numerous occasions. Since the majority of doctors and scientists do not believe in folk healing methods, this article will make a good source for the students to see that not all medical professionals are convinced that modern medicine is the only viable option.

Article #3: Applewhite, Steven Lozano. "Curanderismo: Demystifying the Health Beliefs and Practices of Elderly Mexican-Americans." Health & Social Work, 20.4 (1995): 247-253.

This article discusses how folk medicine derived from early Aztec and pre-Columbian civilizations is still practiced today by elderly Mexicans. The aim of the article is to demystify these traditions, which will present a view to the students that is based on a higher purpose.

Article #4: Voeks, Robert. "African Medicine and Magic in the Americas." The Geographical Review. 83.1. (1993): 66-78.

This article's contribution to the course is its focus on the historical and spiritual aspects of African folk medicine. The article also addresses cultural diffusion which is another important topic to this course.

Article #5: Pigg, Stacy Leigh. The Social Symbolism of Healing in Nepal. Ethnology. 34.1 (1995): 957-965

This article goes beyond the technical and explores the philosophical aspects of folk healing. The article focuses specifically on an incident in Nepal, which has the benefit of providing the students with a micro- rather than a macro-perspective.

Additional Sources

Additional Source #1: New Mexico State University. "Ancient Roots, Modern Medicine - Borderlands" Video Documentary. Available online http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=bOIfCGf3VO8&feature=PlayList&p=BC563A276CA474F9&playnext_from=PL

This is a three part series from New Mexico State University that focuses on herbal remedies from Mexico and Southwestern United States. It will be valuable to the course because it provides an entertaining video/audio venue for learning.

Additional Source #2: Hatfield, Gabrielle. Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2004. ISBN 1-57607-874-4.

This encyclopedia on folk medicine will provide a valuable resource for the students seeking to understand certain terminologies and references.

Additional Source #3: UCLA's Online Archive of American Folk Medicine. Web. http://www.folkmed.ucla.edu/

This online searchable database will provides students with access to thousands of articles and texts related to the course topic.

Two Guest Speakers

Guest speaker #1: D.C. Jarvis, author of the book Folk Medicine. Having him as a guest speaker would be an excellent supplement to the book. It would also allow students to ask questions related to his book.

Guest speaker #2: Dr. James Gordon of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. This speaker could provide additional insight into the manners in which modern alternative medicines have been derived from ancient traditions. He could also speak to the validity of different remedies.

Field Trip

A fantastic field trip for this class would be a trip through Jaithai Adventures, where the students and I could "meet and talk with traditional Lanna, Buddhist monk, and ethnic Hilltribe healers in Northern Thailand." We would be able to "learn about 700-year-old healing remedies and rituals, as well as how to experience and help sustain an endangered way of living and 'being'." For more information, visit http://realadventures.com/listings/1023919_Jaithai-Adventures

Reflection Sheet

How did you arrive at writing this piece?

I have always been interested in folk medicine and I think it would make an intriguing prospect for an independent study class.

Name at least 2-3 creative or analytical choices you made and explain your rational behind these choices.

Choice # 1: I chose to focus on all aspects of folk medicine instead of narrowing it down to a particular country or time period. I made this decision because I believe it is important to view this topic as a whole in order to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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