Traditional Medicine in a Modern Era: The Role of Complementary Alternative Medicine as a Healthcare Alternative

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Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


“Western Medicine,” as we know it today, consists of heavy pharmaceuticals and extreme surgical procedures. Colonial expansion in the 1600s brought disease and illness to new parts of the world; in response indigenous people turned to their traditional medicine. This form of healing was novel to the newly arrived and far different from the Western approach. Hence, traditional methods were looked down upon and seen as unreliable. Still today, many cultures across the globe use traditional medicinal methods, also known as complementary alternative medicine (CAM) to heal and combat illnesses. CAM practitioners perceive health in a holistic way, which includes a balance between the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the body, rather than solely the physical. A large part of the foundation of modern pharmaceuticals has come from plants and herbs that are known to possess healing abilities, yet there remains a gap between what is understood about CAM and its significance in today’s medical field. In an attempt to narrow this gap, this project looked at the way that modern American culture has adopted these methods. This practice may be growing in an effort to seek better, less invasive care that can possibly have healthier long-term effects and be easier to attain. The research was conducted at a local Botanical shop in Los Angeles. The data was collected through a series of informal interview and questionnaires given to shoppers at the location. The data collected showed there was no correlation between having access to healthcare and the use of CAM. The interviews showed that the reason for using CAM is due to the quality of care the patients receive from their healer. Furthermore, there was a deep connection between practice and ritual showing that healing and belief must both be at play to see effects.


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