Alternative Medicine?: A History by Roberta Bivins

By Roberta Bivins

Hailed as "elegant and interesting" and "a interesting trip from east to west and again back" (Financial Times), this interesting quantity deals a sweeping comparative account of other drugs over 400 years. evaluating the scientific structures of China, India, and the west (both mainstream and alternative), historian Roberta Bivins levels around the centuries and the continents, mapping the transmission of clinical services from one tradition to a different and laying naked the roots of modern day differences among substitute, complementary, and orthodox medication. Bivins makes use of a wealth of illuminating and enjoyable old examples--from horse-racing English earls to determined missionaries in 17th-century Indonesia, and from hypnotism within the British Raj to homeopathy within the American Wild West--to underscore the very important element that the cross-cultural transmission of scientific wisdom and services, even replacement clinical wisdom and services, isn't a uniquely modern phenomenon, yet has an extended and interesting pedigree. someone attracted to meditation, acupuncture, natural supplementations, T'ai Chi, etc will locate during this quantity a wealth of attention-grabbing details on replacement and conventional medicine.

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On the other hand, the label ‘alternative’ expresses an oppositional relationship between the system or practice to which it is applied, and biomedicine. Although this category resists incorporation and assimilation with biomedicine, and therefore escapes a lower status in the biomedical hierarchy of knowledge, it also hinders acceptance into the institutions of medical orthodoxy—the loci of most medical care in contemporary society. So where do the medical systems of other cultures Wt onto this spectrum?

The body image is surrounded by drawings hinting at Daoist practices of internal alchemy (directed at achieving hyper-longevity). 24 introduction: rival systems of medicine 8. ‘Woman smoking a pipe’, nineteenth-century Japanese poster. This image vividly depicts the idea of the human body as a microcosm of the world as it flourished in an Asian context: bodily processes are illustrated by pictures of daily village life: people work at little machines, till and harvest in fields, and appear to speak and pray.

The ‘Jesuit bark’—the bark of the South American cinchona tree—oVers a Wne example of the new medical globalism which was emerging in its place, one in which there was much more rapid exchange and interchange between medical systems and cultures, but also much more rigid intellectual boundaries between them. Cinchona bark (now known to be a rich source of the antimalarial drug quinine) was brought back to Europe in the Wrst half of the seventeenth century. It was a powerful therapy against the fevers that rendered the tropical world so dangerous for Europeans; knowledge of its medical utility was, of course, derived from indigenous medical knowledge.

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