Season 1, CHATROOM 3

The Most Ancient Medicine

A bowl of hot chicken soup when you have the flu; a decoction of turmeric, pepper and other spices to fight off infection; such remedies we learn from our grandmothers are still used widely throughout the world.

Folk healing is the most ancient form of medicine. It sprung from common kitchen ingredients — when humans realized that spices, herbs, and foods not only provide nutrition but could help us overcome illness.

India’s medical system depends on the roughly 2 million folk healers to provide medical care in villages far from hospitals and health centers. They use more than 6,500 medicinal plants.

G. Hariramamurthi, a folk medicine expert, has traveled throughout India over the past three decades, visiting more than 12,000 villages. He helps folk healers document their medical practices and treatments, most recently for prevention of Covid-19. In this episode, Hari addresses a question posed to many folk healers: do folk remedies really work?

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 1:12 Food is medicine
  • 1:40 Grandma’s treatment for fever
  • 2:46 How to prevent coronavirus infection
  • 6:13 Using locally available medicinal plants
  • 8:45 Folk healers and India’s health system
  • 10:32 A snakebite in the night
  • 11:52 Where is the proof?
  • 12:32 Social legitimacy keeps folk healing alive
  • 14:53 One knowledge system dominates
  • 15:32 The birth of allopathy came from traditional knowledge
  • 16:15 Five essential elements of living beings
  • 18:44 Use of pepper in traditional medicine and biomedicine
  • 19:32 Whole systems approach vs. microscopic understanding
  • 20:18 The Politics of Knowledge
  • 21:39 Integrative medicine is the future

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Maarten Bode, G. Hariramamurthi, Integrating folk healers in India’s public health: acceptance, legitimacy and emancipation, eJournal of Indian Medicine, Volume 7, 2014, p. 1-20

Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana, G. Hariramamurthi, Local Health Practitioners in India – Resilience, Revitalization and Reintegration, Medicine, state and society- Indigenous medicine and medical pluralism in contemporary India V. Sujatha and Leena Abraham, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, 2012

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