Magico-Religious Folk Medicine

Magico-Religious Folk Medicine

The magico-religious form of folk medicine has existed for as long as humans have sought to maintain, protect, and/or restore their HEALTH. It has now, in this modern age of science and technology, come to be labeled by some as “su- perstition,” “old-fashioned nonsense,” or “foolishness,” yet for believers it may go so far on the continuum as to take the form of religious practices related to HEALTH maintenance, protection, restoration, and healing. Chapter 6 addresses these belief systems in more detail.

■ Health/HEALTH Care Philosophies Two distinctly different health/HEALTH care philosophies determine the scope of health/HEALTH beliefs and practices: dualistic and holistic. Each of these phi- losophies espouses effective methods of maintaining, protecting, and restoring health/HEALTH, and the “battles for dominance” between the allopathic and homeopathic philosophies have been hard fought in this country (Starr, 1982) over the past century. One manifestation of these struggles is an emerging pref- erence for homeopathic or holistic, complementary or alternative medicine among people from all walks of life.

The Allopathic (Dualistic) Philosophy, the dominant health care sys- tem in the United States is predicated on the allopathic philosophy. The word allopathy has two roots. One comes from the Greek meaning “other than dis- ease” because drugs are prescribed on a basis that has no consistent or logi- cal relationship to the symptoms. The second root of allopathy is derived from the German meaning “all therapies.” Allopathy is a “system of medicine that embraces all methods of proven, that is, empirical science and scientific meth- odology is used to prove the value in the treatment of diseases” (Weil, 1983, p. 17). After 1855, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted the “all therapies” definition of allopathy and has exclusively determined who can practice medicine in the United States. For example, in the 1860s the AMA refused to admit women doctors to medical societies, practiced segregation, and demanded the purging of homeopaths. Today, allopaths may show little or limited tolerance or respect for other providers of health care, such as ho- meopaths, osteopaths, and chiropractors, and for such traditional healers as lay

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midwives, herbalists, and American Indian medicine men and women (Weil, 1983, pp. 22–25). The allopathic health care system, the modern health care system, is further discussed in Chapter 8.

The Homeopathic (Holistic) Philosophy is the other health care philoso- phy in the United States. Homeopathic medicine was developed between 1790 and 1810 by Samuel C. Hahnemann in Germany and is extremely popular in much of Europe and other parts of the world. It is becoming, once again, more popular in the United States.

Homeopathy, or homoeopathy, comes from the Greek words homoios (“similar”) and pathos (“suffering”). In the practice of homeopathy, the person, not the disease, is treated (Starr, 1982). This system has not been “tolerated” by the allopaths, yet it continues to thrive and is used by countless people. It es- pouses a holistic philosophy—that is, it sees health as a balance of the physical, mental, and spiritual whole. Homeopathic care encompasses a wide range of health care practices and is often referred to as “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine.” Complementary, alternative, unconventional, or un- orthodox therapies are medical practices that do not conform to the scientific standards set by the allopathic medical community; they are not taught widely in the medical and nursing communities and are not generally available in the allopathic health care system, including the hospital settings. These include such therapies as acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic medicine. Presently, this situation is changing, and the use of services such as acupuncture is more widespread in modern health care settings.

Table 5–3 demonstrates the health/HEALTH care choices, or pathways a person may follow when an illness occurs. The allopathic system comprises the conventional or familiar services within the dominant health care culture— acute care, chronic care, communtiy/public health care, psychiatric/mental health, rehabilitation, and so forth.

There are two types of care in the holistic system that are classified as complementary. These break down again into two categories, either alterna- tive, or integrative, and traditional, or ethnocultural. Alternative therapies are

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