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Herbalism, home gardens, and hybridization : Wõthïhã medicine and cultural change.

Heckler, S. L. (2007) 'Herbalism, home gardens, and hybridization : Wõthïhã medicine and cultural change.', Medical anthropology quarterly., 21 (1). pp. 41-63.


Using the example of the Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ of the Manapiare River Valley, Amazonas State, Venezuela, I challenge the image of the indigenous Amazonian as an expert in herbalism. I argue that the observed absence of medicinal plant use in early Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ ethnography, rather than reflecting researcher oversight, reflects the centrality of shamanism. According to Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ shamanic cosmology, herbal medicines, while useful to relieve symptoms and treat minor injuries, fail to address the underlying cause of illness. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, I find that as the role and influence of shamanism have dramatically decreased, the Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ have turned elsewhere for medical treatment. Biomedical remedies have shown to be effective, thereby encouraging an acceptance of symptom-specific treatments. Biomedicine’s patchy availability, however, has encouraged the Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ to look beyond biomedicine. Several folk healing traditions are being incorporated by the Wo˜ thı¨ha˜ , each with its own herbal tradition.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Wõthïhã, Herbal medicine, Home gardens, Traditional medicine, Piaroa, Herbal, Medicinal, Amazonian, Shamanism, Treatment, Biomedicine's, Reflects, Traditions.
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Publisher statement:Published as Medical Anthropology Quarterly Mar 2007, Vol. 21, No. 1: 41–63. Copyright 2007 by the American Anthropological Association. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by the American Anthropological Association for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink on [Caliber (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,
Record Created:24 Jun 2008
Last Modified:30 Aug 2011 14:36

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