Role of Modern Traditional Medicines in Andean Societies

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This Essay endears to reflect on any literature in-depth on some of roles of Traditional medical interventions in the provisions of health care rural Bolivian societies. In American Bolivian states such as Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, traditional medicine plays critical and important role in health care provision of indigenous societies. This is particular with those societies that are based in rural settings and those that are beyond government reach.

The use of traditional medicine have been over the years has been seen a critical in supplementing the modern medicine. These medicines have been found to be effective particularly when there are serving the intended purpose because this intervention has been found to have the least side effects to the users. In fact most of the traditional medicines are not only cheap compared to the modern medicines but can be accessed with much ease.

This paper looks at the use of traditional medicines in the Bolivian societies. The papers start by looking at the brief background on the use of traditional medicine across the globe. Most societies across the world have been found to have some form of traditional medicine. Within the background the paper traces the use of traditional medicines across a number of societies. Subsequently, the background shades light on the efficacy of the traditional medicines based on varying testimonies and confessions on the use of these medicines.

The paper will then give a thorough review of literature on the use of traditional medicines. Within the literature, the paper looks at the varying account on the use of traditional medicines. The paper looks at different communities and how they view the use of tradition medicines and some of the beliefs that have been developed consequent to the traditional medicines. The reviewed literature cuts across the globe but then it narrows down to the use of traditional medicines in Bolivian societies.

The paper will then critically analyse the literature reviewed with particular emphasis on the use of the traditional medicine in Bolivian societies which have been found to treasure traditional medicine compared to the generic medicinal. Subsequently, the paper addresses the other side of using traditional medicine as is perceived by the Bolivian society. While the Bolivian societies have been believed to put prime value to the use of traditional medicine, there are certain communities that have been found to view the use of traditional medicines with a lot of scepticism and suspicion.

The paper will wrap up with a conclusive remark recapping the discussion and giving an overall position on the use of traditional medicine both within the Bolivian societies and the world as a whole. In the conclusion an evaluative statement will be made on the prospects of traditional medicine within the medical fraternity and the path to be taken towards improving the efficiency of the use of these traditional medicines within society. Subsequently, the conclusion will give some caution on the use of these medicines; ranging from the side effects to the cost effectiveness of the use of these drugs.





Background of the Study

Traditional medicines have the longest history in the treatment and the prevention of ailments. In Africa and Asia, an estimated 80% of the population have been found to use traditional medicine according to the reports by the world health organisation. Traditional medicines have been largely depended on in both Africa and Asia for primary health needs. These traditional medicines have been found to be generating sufficient revenue for the sellers of the medicinal.


Babb, D., et al Use of traditional medicines Psychology, Health & Medicine, May2007, Vol. 12 Issue 3, p314-320

In this article Babb et al asserts that traditional medicines have been found to treat a conglomeration of infections conditions that are chronic. In china for example anti-malarial medicines were developed from artemisinin annua from which artemisinin. This plant had been over the years used as a treatment therapy for a number of ailments. The plant is found to have been used in the past 2000 years (Hedigan, p 765). The good side off the use traditional medicines have been dogged by the influx of counterfeits traditional medicines into the market. Some of the poor qualities of traditional medicines have flooded the market most of which are genuine yet very adulterated traditional original medicines.

The popularity gained by the traditional medicines has prompted various governments in the development of policies and legislations governing the use of traditional and herbal medicines. An estimated 100 countries have over the year developed such legislation imploring to the cardinal role that is being played by the traditional medicines.  The execution of traditional medicine has been a product of skills knowledge and practises. Experiences, theories and beliefs have been very central in the development of traditional medicine and the designing of the requisite prescriptions.

Though modern medicines have made numerous advancements in the treatment and prevention of diseases caused by virus and bacteria, these diseases were over the years treated through the use of traditional medicines without much struggle. The difference that is sticking is that the modern medicines have always had to undertake diagnosis and treatment thereof. Diseases such as diphtheria and whooping cough have been dully eliminated by the modern medicines. Nevertheless, traditional medicines had contained the diseases altogether.

While it is worth it appreciating the benefits of modern medicines, it needs to be equally appreciated that he utility of these modern medicines has only been inexistence over the last 100 years yet the traditional medicines have  lived the test of time assisting in the treatment and control of diseases. In his support for this Hedigan (Hedigan, p 765) asserts that it is these qualities of traditional medicines that make the medicines remain very critical in the treatment of the diseases. While traditional therapies lacked to some questionable extent the physiological connection between the diseases and the intervention, their efficacy was informed by the capsizing level of the ailment.


Cassidy, C., Moffet on the similarity of response to active and sham acupuncture Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Mar2009, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p209-210

The difference between the traditional medicines and the modern medicines would perhaps give sufficient insight into the reasons behind the modern traditional medicine development. Whereas the traditional medicines had therapeutically no basis, the traditional modern medicines, like modern generics have a lot of therapeutically supported ground and explanation linking intervention and the treatment therapy.

It needs to be appreciated too that reference to traditional medicines has always been used o make reference to practices that have not been very common in the modern medical practices. In retrospect while the present physician will make reference to their practises as traditional, this is meant to mean the frequency of applying the well prescribed practises in the medical field. Another of the major sticking difference between modern and traditional medicine is the way the practitioners define diseases. Traditional medicine and modern medicine seem to view the aspect of health and ailments differently.

Traditional practitioner placed a lot of emphasis on the social, spiritual and psychological conditions of the patient. These conditions were put central in the quest by traditional medicine practitioners in their treatment therapies. Modem medicines largely concern itself with the identification, the curing and the subsequent prevention of new cases. Traditional modern medicine amalgamates the diagnosis and the subsequent intervention fir the treatment of the diseases.

It has been over the last two decades argued that the dissatisfaction in the use of modern medicines has resulted into the desire to embrace the use of traditional medicines. Though the sudden change in the approach calls for the disguise of the practice to traditional modern rather than traditional medicines as it were, the preference for this therapy has been increasing over time. The outcomes of the interventions have always informed the overall approach to the interventions. However, the diversity in the meaning of the term outcome has equally given sufficient insight into the difference between modern and traditional medicine.


Kumar, K. J.,  Satyendra P., Risking alternative and complimentary medicines in the name of standardization Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, Jun2006, Vol. 12 Issue 5, p419-420

In this journal Kumar argues that the dissatisfaction has been precipitated by the overall outcome of the form of the interventions. It is argued that there little evidence that is gathered from the patient’s part on the efficacy that forms the larger part of the outcome.  Modern medical practitioners simply compare the one treatment with the other being done in the form of the efficacy of the control and elimination prospects.

The treatment of HIV and AIDS is one of the striking diseases that have had to invite the intervention of the various interventions traditional and modern. For instance, studies do indicate that one cadre of drug would be better than the other towards keeping the patient with AIDS living. But then this leaves behind the notion that illness, health and dying could not have any other definition beyond biomedical experiments that are determined though the studies. The concerns of the patient from HIV and AIDS are there treatment and not the length of their lives thereafter.

The major strength of traditional medicines transformed to modern traditional medicines is that the practices concern itself with the social, psychological and the physiological wellbeing of the patient. The traditional medicine practitioners will prescribe the therapy and go ahead to ensure that the patient’s social state supports the healing process. The medicines and the interventions adopted by traditional practitioners are natural and environment friendly implying that the side effects of the interventions would be minimal. This is because it is relatively easy to have the have the natural and biological components of the intervention into the body than it is for the generics.

The foregoing discussion forms the central basis for why the Bolivian societies have a lot of preference for the traditional medicines than for the modern generic medicines. While there are cases where the Bolivian societies have had some preference for the generics, they have always preferred to have modern medicines combined with traditions medicines. Subsequently the Bolivian societies have made a lot of progress in ensuring that the medicines adopted by the medical systems are inclined towards the traditional that modern generic. This preference has a number of roots and resultant causes.


Literature Review and Perspectives on Use of Traditional Modern Medicines In Andean Societies


According to Broom et al (Broom, et al, p 233) the history of the use of traditional medicine has lived through the generations and therefore has a wealth of experiences. Though the challenges that have been faced by the practice have been insurmountable, the efficacy of these medicines can not be questioned. The main challenges have not basically lied in the efficacy of the treatment but in the biological and physiological link.

Traditional medicines have been adopted internationally with numerous diversities. Neimark (Neimark, p 52) supports Bloom’s arguments that different cultures have had their own approach to the use of traditional medicines. The main shortfall of the intervention has been the lack of the internationally specified standards for the exercising of the practices. Each culture seems to have developed its own standards. The practise has existed devoid of specific evaluative methods and a procedure which tends to make the practice less international.

Watson (Watson, p 126) states that the Bolivian societies have developed tentative national policies that govern the use of traditional. While there are many nations without regulations that govern the use traditional medicines this gesture by the Bolivian societies have put the Bolivian societies on the spotlight over their efficacy inn the use of traditional medicine. The Bolivian societies have been able to develop frameworks for the regulations of the use of the products, inherent practises and the regulations that govern the practitioners conduct. Traditional modern medicines take a herbal products as dietary supplements, food or herbal medicines. The disparities in the regulatory framework form the basis for the diversity in the utility of the traditional modern medicine products.

Similarly, Mbikusita-Lewanika  et al (Mbikusita-Lewanika  et al, p 235) assert that there are fewer tests that have been carried out to test for the efficacy and the scientific efficient of the use of traditional medicine products. While there exists evidence that the use of acupuncture has been very effective in the treatment of ailments, the evidence is based strictly on the outcome of the interventions and not scientific proof. This is what has been objected by the scientists and the proponents of modern generic medicines.

In their journal Cocks & Møller (Cocks & Møller, p 387) postulates that some therapies such as massages and herbal medicines have been found to be quite effective in the treatment of ailments. Further experiments on the practices and products are direly needed. Subsequently, requirements and procedures for evaluation and research need to be developed for the purpose of empirical proof of the efficacy and efficiency of the interventions. The effectiveness, safety and the transcend quality of the finished herbal products largely depend resource quality.

Most of the herbal products are collected from the wild plants and some from the cultivated medicinal plants. It has been argued that the expansion of the herbal medicinal demands jeopardizes the existence of the ecosystem. The antagonists of traditional medicines have always argued that this would lead to the extinction of certain plants and herbs.

Cassidy (Cassidy, p 209) also asserts that while it agreeable that indeed the biodiversity would be threatened, the livelihood of the biodiversity is fully dependent on the survival of the human species. The central solution to the challenge would strictly lie n the development of policies that would support human health as it ensures that the biodiversity is maintained. This will sustain humanity and preserve the biodiversity.

The perspective of Tenhunen (Tenhunen, p 315) seems to be different, he states that  the use of traditional medicines in the traditional Bolivian societies was viewed as jeopardising the livelihood of the patients. However, the development of the medicines through the traditional modern medicine initiative has gone a lone was towards increasing the safety of the users and the efficient of treating the intended ailments. Nevertheless, traditional medical practices and medicines would cause adverse reactions and harm if these products or therapies are of poor quality.

If the products are taken with other products it would turn out to be very inappropriate.  It has therefore become imperative to increase patient’s awareness on the safe use of the traditional medicines, communication among the providers and the subsequent collaboration. According to the world health organisation, it is critical that the practise of traditional medicines is integrated into the national health systems. The national policy should equally inculcate the use of the traditional modern medicines within the medical sector and ensure proper supervisions of the implementation process.

Cook, (Cook, S. J., p 95) recommends that policies developed should cater for the subsequent standardization of both the products and the products. Through this initiative the quality and the safety of the user of the traditional modern medicines should be assured. In additions the medicinal used should be based on the existence of the evidences on the practicability and the safety of the interventions. Through these policies, the safety of the user of the traditional medicines will be assured.

The Bolivian societies have been able to integrate the traditional medicines into the medical systems and it is for this reason that this intervention has become very popular among the Bolivian societies. The Bolivian societies have accepted the traditional medicines and practices as part of the medical systems. Primary Medicare has included the use of the traditional medicines as integral part of the system giving prospective users the options of using traditional medicine to modern generic medicines and medical practices.

Andeans have developed modes through which the skills and knowledge of the practitioners have been upgraded to ensure that they measure to the requisite standards (Tenhunen, p 325). This standardization has been able to make the use of the interventions as standards and accepted. Given that treatment and the subsequent healing is partly psychological, the fact that the patients feel secured and assured by the management of their health this contributes to the wellbeing of the patients.

According to Lengacher, (Lengacher, p 1450) the world health organization has over the years adopted a number of resolutions that have been able to bring to the attention the utility of traditional medicines in the treatment and supplementing of modern medicines. WHO appreciates the fact that despite the numerous generic interventions the interventions by the traditional medicine are not on fairly effective but are devoid of treacherous and far reaching side effects as is posed by the generics.

According to the World Health Organization, the world has much dependence on the use of traditional medicines for health care. In additions, the organisation does believe that the work force representing the practitioners in the traditional medical field has insurmountable potential as a vital resource in delivering primary health care services. Besides, the world health organisation recognises that medicinal plants have great import in the health of individuals and societies. Similarly, Puri (Puri, p 332) states that the Bolivian societies had this driving believe that kept them ardently attached to the traditional medicines and still attach much value of the modern traditional medicines.

The world health body has been collaboratively been working with centres situated over the world towards the integration and educating the populace on the importance of traditional Medicare in the treatment of ailment and as a means for supplementing modern medicine. Countries such as Korea, Sudan and the United States particularly in the Andean counties have been able to integrate the use of this medicine effectively.

According to Babb et al (Babb et al, p 319) there appears to be genuine concern over the various traditional practices that now exist amongst practitioners of modern medicine. There is an increasing number of practitioners in indigenous, alternative and traditional medical services. As the some of the diseases, the modern practitioners appears to be equally accepting the fact that traditional medicines can also be remedies for ailments that are posing challenges to the medical fraternity. This realisation is ideally time and was long overdue. This will assist the fostering teamwork among the two categories of approach to Medicare facilitate teamwork within primary health.

There are various reasons for which primary health care has o be included in the treatment of some of the ailments. Most importantly according to the Bolivian societies, the practitioners are well vast with the belief and the cultures of the patients and can ardently undertake interventions. Besides, the practitioners have a wealth of experiences in the field. This makes the practitioners capable of handling any complications.

Kumar & Satyendra (Kumar, K. J., Satyendra P., p 419) goes on to explain that the reasons for the appreciation of the traditional medicines seem to be manifold. The distances that have to be sometimes covered by the practitioners is also a key motivator in the quest by the Bolivian societies adoption of use of traditional medicines. Some of the members of the Bolivian societies are no able to meet the costs of using medical practitioners who apply the modern treatment techniques and therefore making it imperative that they seek alternative medical interventions. This makes the utility of the traditional medical practitioners near imperative and inevitable. The practitioners can hardly be accessed in the rural areas; before these professionals are reached the need for first aid intervention becomes very critical and imperative.

A large percentage of the populace in most of the developing countries according to Tenhunen (Tenhunen, p 330) largely rely on traditional medical practitioners. This includes birth attendants, bone setters and herbalists. Most of the practitioners depend on medicinal plants for the satisfaction of the medical needs of their clients. According to the statistic by the Wold Health Organisation, n estimated 95% of the rural birth worlds over are facilitated by traditional birth attendants. The World Health Organisations data also reveal that 70% of the births in developing and less developed countries’ urban centres are handled by traditional birth attendants.

Traditional medicines have maintained a lot of recognition numerous countries across the globe. Asian countries have been very particular in alternative medicines to traditional medicines. Pakistan and Japan have found the use of the traditional medicines very critical and inevitable despite their efforts in leveraging the role of modern medicines in the treatment of diseases. The statistics produced by the world health body asserts that an estimated 30% and 50% of the medical consumptions are herbal products. This shows that the utility of the traditional medicines is widespread and reliable.

Though the efficacy of the interventions of the traditional medicine is not recorded with certainty, it is argued that in North America, Europe and some of the industrialized countries have an estimated above 50% of their populations using the traditional medicines at least once per year (Chen, p 276). These statistics are a proof of the import that the traditional medical interventions hold.

Legislation on the control of the use of herbal medicinal seems to be evolving away from structured control model. There are varying ways through which various countries are defining the term herbal medicines and medicinal plants. It is in view of this that there are different approaches that have been developed for the licensing, manufacturing and the subsequent dispensing of the medicinal products. This has been done to ensure efficacy, quality and safety of the products.

Herbal medicines seem to be assuming larger vitality primary health care. This has subsequently led to the increase in the volume trade that is related to traditional medicines. Nevertheless, Banda, Y., et al (Banda, Y., et al, p 126) asserts that most of the countries have left the markets of the traditional medicines to chance without relevant regulations and legislations. Most of the products are not registered hence pecking a lot of questions on the likelihood of their safety. The development of stringent procedures for registration and regulation seems to be becoming central concerns for the stakeholders and governments, particularly in developing countries.

According to Burke et al (Burke, et al p 1083) statistics shows that United States has an estimated population of 158 million adults who use complementary medicines. The united states of American commission for alternative and complementary medicines reports that an estimated US $17 billion was utilised in the acquisitions of traditional medicinal remedies in 2000. Of the estimate the Bolivian societies had a whooping 71% of this allocation. This shows that Bolivian societies have much preference for traditional modern medicine than modern generics.

Curiously and appreciably so, Sinclair (Sinclair, p 132) asserts that some techniques of Bolivian traditional medicine have found fashionable utility spas of the United States and Europe. These practices have become part of the holistic therapeutic practices for alternative medicine. This has made research into the use of alternative traditional medicines calling and inevitable. The most common applications of traditional modern medicines have been the use of lodotherapy, aromatherapy, and the utilisation of flower extracts combined with crystals in the restoration of patients natural body balance.

Broom, et al (Broom, et al, p 233) argues that one of the resounding merits of traditional medicines is the fact that knowledge of the use of this practices and medicines is transmitted through the community orally. The family equally plays a critical role until the trainee or apprehendice is able to grasp clearly the procedures and the rules of administering the medicines. This makes this approach to learning not only practical throughout but also very effective. When the allegations of inefficiency in the utility of the medicines are raised the adherents will still use the interventions over time and perhaps disapprove the misconceptions.

Most of the countries with primeval history of traditional medicines have been hunting for the approaches that would used in the modernization their medical heritages. In the People’s Republic of China for example traditional medicine has been practiced side by side in the entire healthcare system. The Chinese government has given equal premium to the development of both traditional medicines and generics supporting these efforts through the support of active traditional medicines research and the promotions of traditional medicines.

Perspective Strength on Strengths and Weakness of Traditional Medicine As Is Used In Bolivia

The use of traditional medicines in Bolivian society has had a number of strengths and weaknesses. The strengths and the weakness have been found to boil down to the very specific herbs that have been used in the preparation of the traditional medicine. However, the advantages that traditional medicines have outweighed the disadvantages and perhaps that is why traditional medicines have become very popular in Bolivian societies and beyond. Different authors find the intervention as having varying merits.

Herbal medicines have been found to have fewer side effects compared to the generic medicines. The traditional medicines have been found to be very ideal for those people who have allergies. Herbal medicines have been found to treat numerous ailments. This ailments are inclusive of physical and mental ailments apparently this treatment don’t develop resistance for they have been used for years.

In the words of Wootton, (Wootton, p 225) herbal medicines have been found to treat ailments that have defeated the efforts of the generic medicines. Most of the ailments that have developed resistance to herbal medicines have been found to be contained or treated through the use of herbal medicines. Herbal medicines find very few exceptions for treatment and therefore becoming universally acceptable.

Tarkan (Tarkan, p 54) states that traditional medicines are less toxic and some of then non-toxic and quite efficient. Generic medicines are capable of giving such results. Traditional medicines are made from various plants with different minerals which can be very handy in the treatment of born ailments. The herbs also contain alkaloid that is effective in the treatment of a number of body complications.

Herbal medicines are less expensive compared to the generic medicines. Besides this traditional medicines have been found to be readily available. This is because the herbs normally grow in very common places and therefore very accessible. The ease of accessibility makes them relatively cheap.

On the other hand there are a number of shortfalls for traditional modern medicines. Most of the forms of herbal medicine have been found to take relatively long to act. There is the need therefore for a lot of patience while one in on traditional medicines. The lack of the patience makes the therapies that are adopted to be counterproductive. Some of the ingredients that are used inn the preparation of the traditional medicine may turn out to be allergic yet this attribute would not be so easily identified before the medicine is used. This makes the treatment a shear flux.

It has already been mentioned that most of the herbal medicines could be very allergic. Given the lack of the regulatory frameworks, this jeopardises the users of the medications.  This lack of government regulation makes quality control poor and hence reduces the safety of the users. The absolute necessity of finding a renowned practitioner of traditional medicine is relatively hard hence resulting into gambling.

In the trial carried out by Akhondzadeh, (Akhondzadeh, p 270) it emerged that traditional medicines are incapable of treating serious injuries such as broken legs. Hence it becomes imperative that the use of traditional medicine is combined with generic or regular medicines. Because the treatment via the use of traditional medicine does not take into consideration diagnosis, the treatment of heart diseases becomes very difficult. Subsequently if the herbs are not correctly identified, this could lead to poisoning.

Herbal medicines normally interact readily with generic medicines. Some of the herbs that are used in the treatment of anxiety such as St. John’s Wort and Valerian would readily interact with some of the antidepressants. It therefore becomes very important that consultation is done before they are used. This seeking of consultancy makes the treatment expensive.


The most critical intervention that needs to be addressed not only by the Bolivian society but the world at large is the passing of legislations that can effectively govern the use of the traditional modern medicines. Besides, those who are practising the use of traditions medicine should be both registered and supported in the furthering of incidental research. Besides, where the interventions appear very effective the government should support these efforts through incentives.

Given, the use of traditional medicines is a relatively welcome move that is able to complement the modern medicines effectively. Herbal medicines, if well administered can be just as effective and therefore the development of a framework within which the practitioners in the Andean regions would be a boost in the prospects of the utilisations of these therapies.