Undoubtedly, it is beneficial for the catalogue information for the sake of preserving knowledge. When confronted with any situation, it would be great to have all of the relevant information possible to help make a decision. Particularly when yourself or a loved one is ill, being able to have access to a database with medicinal practices from around the world is of great value. But is it not possible for the documenting of this data to pose significant problems in the societies they are native to?
Could knowledge of a new medically beneficial plant lead to increased rates of deforestation and the loss of other potentially helpful botanical resources? Might the introduction of a substance into a new culture bring about an increased risk for abuse? Will regaled medicine men lose their revered status? Could ethnographers disrupt hierarchies in a society by placing excessive emphasis on the importance of this information, and thereby who provides it to them? The following will focus primarily on botanical resources, and this includes use of venom and other similar practices.
Where anthropologists are concerned, there is no such thing as knowing too much. This applies to all aspects of a culture, including knowledge of medicinal and nutritional resources. Herbs and other plants are used extensively in the treatment of both general and specific ailments(Bennett, 2000: 93). By expanding the threshold of common knowledge, we empower individuals to make informed decisions about the way they live their lives.
It should be noted that it is important not to impose one's own values on the culture at hand; whether or not they choose to adopt "Western" ways, documentation of the way things are and were, should be preserved. Some traditions may be traced back farther than we could imagine, deep into the intuitive knowledge of the animal kingdom. When monkeys are injured they sometimes chew the leaves of the plant, Ilex mitis, and apply them to their wound; the healing effects of these plants are incredible(Rasoanaivo, 1990: 422).
Tags: Medicinal practices, healing effects, medicinal and nutritional resources
[...] Some of this knowledge has come from extensive chemical testing; most comes directly from the men and women that traditionally use these plants in healing. “With a growing sense of urgency, scientists are stepping up efforts to scour the world's shrinking tropical forests for plants that may lead to chemical breakthroughs in anticancer and anti-AIDS pharmacology.” (Rasoanaivo, 1990: 423) Practices associated with natural health vary as much as any other aspect of cultures, as do the reasons these practices are implemented. [...]
[...] (1994: pg 1.) Wild Poppies are used throughout Belize and Mexico to treat nervousness as well as insomnia, active ingredient was papervine, a proven, effective sedative.” (Arvigo, 1994: 23) The Plains Apache implement the flora Matelea in treatment of pneumonia, Lygodesmia for eye infections, and Ipomoea for a bone medicine. (Jordan, 1928: 113) Although members of a particular group may not understand fully the chemical workings of the medicine, it is important that they know it has some healing power. [...]
[...] A majority of those working as healers in whatever sense of the word, believe in autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and the fair distribution of finite resources. (Joralemon, 1999:106) As with anything, there are exceptions to these traits; shaman have made agreements with spirits to use their abilities to harm others, as the spirit wishes, in exchange for the power to heal. This generally contradicts the idea of nonmaleficence, but the harm is not inflicted on those being served by the shaman. [...]
[...] There are few instances of universally accepted morals and problems can arise in interpretation; some may consider it detrimental to tell someone they are about to die when it will decrease the quality of their life, while others would feel a moral obligation to provide a full disclosure to a patient. Overall, there is a responsibility to document the available information regarding medical treatments and search in hopes of new treatments, while maintaining cultural values and discretely limiting public access to particular aspects of sacred knowledge. [...]
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