For hundreds of years, many Asian countries have embraced herbal medicine and its bountiful therapies and modalities. It seems that Western culture is just beginning to warm up to the idea of its effectiveness. There is a growing amount of research that speaks to its safety and efficacy. One reason why I love Chinese herbal medicine is because Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulas are well balanced equations designed to treat the patient and not just the disease. The combinations of herbs within a TCM formula contain an abundance of bioactive compounds that work synergistically with each other.
But what about other continents? Asia is not the only continent with a history of alternative medicine. The more I learn, read, and submerge myself with all things TCM, the more I’ve become interested in “folk medicine” in other parts of the world. The National Center for Farmworker Health defines folk medicine as a “mixture of traditional healing practices and beliefs that involve herbal medicine, spirituality and manual therapies or exercise in order to diagnose, treat, or prevent an ailment or illness1.
While February is associated with Black History Month here in the U.S., we must remember and truly understand that African-American history is American history. The African diasporic herbal tradition exists, and its practices are strongly rooted in African cultural traditions, intertwined with religion and spirituality. There are countless examples in American history, but a well-known expert level survivalist and herbalist was Harriet Tubman. It is noted that her plant knowledge aided countless enslaved people fleeing their captors, and even extended her skills to Union soldiers during the Civil War2. I’m excited to learn more about medical practices from my community. Some books I have come across that I can’t wait to read are listed below.
- Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing, by Michelle Elizabeth Lee
- African American Slave Medicine: Herbal and non-Herbal Treatments, by Herbert C. Covey
- African American Home Remedies: A Practical Guide, by Eddie L. Boyd & Leslie A. Shimp
- Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land,
by Leah Penniman, and Karen Washington
- Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black American from Colonial Times to the Present, by Harriet A. Washington