What are traditional medicines

In the late 1970s, PAHO proposed understanding traditional medicine as: “the set of all theoretical and practical knowledge, explainable or not, used for the diagnosis, prevention, and alleviation of physical, mental, or social disorders, based exclusively on experience and observation, and transmitted verbally or in writing from one generation to another. It can also be considered a strong amalgamation of active medical practice and ancestral experience” (IIDH, PAHO, 2006). In this sense, traditional medicine is recognized as a system that encompasses a complex of knowledge, traditions, practices, and beliefs structured by its own practitioners: shamans, mamos, traditional healers, “pulseadores”, midwives, bone setters, indigenous massage providers, promoters, etc. It has its own methods of diagnosis, treatment, care, and prevention, and its therapeutic resources include “medicinal” plants, animals, minerals, rituals, diets, among others, which are recognized and practiced by a population that seeks and utilizes them.

This broad concept encompasses a diversity of medical traditions that, over time and cultural encounters, have syncretized various elements or not, but remain rooted in ancestral history, a cornerstone of communities. This allows us to refer to this knowledge and practice as indigenous traditional medicine.

In this section, we will soon be developing a summary of the different medical traditions of indigenous, Afro-descendant, Romani, and other ethnic communities in the Americas region. It will also include information on traditional health systems and models with their specialties, traditional midwifery and herbal medicine, as well as the resources, inputs, products and technologies used by these medicines and the traditional spaces where they are practiced.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial