WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 131-134

Unintended consequences of regulating traditional medicine

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA, United States of America

Correspondence Address:
Sonya Davey
University of Pennsylvania, 3901 Locust Walk, Philadelphia PA 19104
United States of America
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206758

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has the noble goals of advancing traditional medicine and simultaneously promoting the regulation and professionalization of traditional healers. However, such regulation has the unintended consequence of withholding power from traditional practitioners. This review explores this concept through a historical analysis of traditional medicine in both India and Zimbabwe. During the post-colonial period in both countries, traditional medicine contributed to the creation of national identity. In the process of nationalizing traditional medicine, regulations were set in place that led to a rise in the university-style teaching of traditional healing. This period of professionalization of traditional healers resulted in certain types of traditional medicine being marginalized, as they were neither included in regulation nor taught at university. Since then, the current era of globalization has commoditizedtraditional healing. Private industries like ZEPL and Dabur have rapidly and vastly altered the role of traditional healers. Consumers can now buy traditional medication directly from companies without visiting a healer. Additionally, disputes over patents and other intellectual property rights have led to important questions regarding ownership of certain plants traditionally known for healing properties. Through regulation and commercialization of traditional medicine, healers have lost some of their independence to practise.

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