Traditional medicine

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Traditional medicine encompasses a wide range of culturally specific techniques that may, however, have more general applicability than in their regions of origin. It is also quite plausible that certain practices are more effective in their places of origin, the reasons for which may relate to the pharmacogenomics of the indigenous population.

The World Health Organization describes "Traditional medicine [as] an amorphous concept that comprises a range of long-standing and still evolving practices based on diverse beliefs and theories...there is a dichotomous situation of particular forms of traditional medicine being practised in their countries of origin and also in countries to which they have been “imported”. They suggest that the term “traditional, complementary and alternative medicine” (TCAM) is a more appropriate term to describe such traditional therapies globally." [1] Further, they state requirement for the principle of Acceptability in healthcare: "All health facilities, goods and services must be respectful of medical ethics and culturally appropriate, as well as sensitive to gender and life-cycle requirements. [2]

According to the National Library of Medicine, traditional medicine involves "Systems of medicine based on cultural beliefs and practices handed down from generation to generation. The concept includes mystical and magical rituals (spiritual therapies), phytotherapy, and other treatments which may not be explained by modern medicine). [3] The U.K. Parliament, in a report on complementary and alternative medicine, divided disciplines into categories of known, likely to be efficacious complementary treatments, and "...cannot be supported unless and until convincing research evidence of efficacy, based upon the results of well designed trials, can be produced." Within the third category, however, it seemed prudent to divide into "Long-established and traditional systems of healthcare" versus "other". [4]

Major systems of traditional medicine include:


  1. Charlie Changli Xue (January 2008), "Traditional, complementary and alternative medicine: policy and public health perspectives", Bulletin of the World Health Organization (BLT) 86 (1): 1-80
  2. World Health Organization (August 2007), Joint fact sheet WHO/OHCHR/323
  3. Anonymous (2024), Traditional medicine (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Select Committee appointed to consider Science and Technology, U.K. Parliament (21 November 2000), Chapter 2: Disciplines examined, Definitions of the Various CAM Therapies, Complementary and Alternative Medicine