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Description: We generally assume that all new treatments for medical and psychiatric conditions come from western scientific labs or University based researchers, but is this actually the case? … not entirely.

Sources: Ozy Daily Brief: Dr Prozac meet Dr Vodou

Date: April 5, 2015

Traditional Medicines

Photo Source: Carlos Cazalis/Corbis

Links:    Dr Prozac meet Dr Vodou:

Nature of Things: Jungle Prescription

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research: Paying royalties to Indigenous Knowledge Holders

All treatment breakthroughs come from scientific laboratories of work conducted by University or industry researchers working in Western research setting, right? Well not entirely. In the video and articles link above you will see that indigenous knowledge or what people living closer to nature know about the medicinal qualities of items and substances found in their natural environments can, in fact, be shown to be very effective treatment of medical and psychiatric conditions. The Dr. Prozac meet Dr. Vodou article talks about this and about how collaboration between western physicians and traditional healers not only produces new treatments but also builds on such things as the greater likelihood that patients will adhere to treatment plans when they involve input from a familiar traditional healer.

Ayahuasca is a substance found in an indigenous leaf tea that appears to stimulate the human executive system (frontal lobes and emotion control, centers) and has been suggestively useful in treating addicts. The Nature of Things video clip describes both the traditional drug and the science and treatments which it has engendered. Related to both of these stories is the ethical issue of who should benefit when such treatments are “discovered” by Western science. The third article talks about the provision of royalties to indigenous knowledge holders whose expertise provide the foundation knowledge for new treatments and drugs.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What roles might “traditional” treatments and medication play in our (western) treatment development and application plans?
  2. What steps should be followed with indigenous knowledge based treatments and drugs?
  3. What ethical issues arise if or when we consider trying medical or psychiatric treatments based in indigenous knowledge?

References (Read Further):
Incayyawar, Mario, Wintrob, Ronald, Bouchard, Lise and Bartocci, Goffredo (2009) Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers: Unwitting partners in global mental health, Wiley, Toronto.

McKenna, Dennis J. (2004) Clinical investigations of the therapeutic potential of Ayahuasca: Rationale and regulatory challenges, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 102, 111-129.