Cultural Anthropology/Health and Healing: Wikis

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

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Theoretical Approaches in Medical Anthropology

There are three theoretical approaches to understanding human health. The first is the epidemiological, or ecological, approach. This approach examines the way culture and the natural environment interact to create patterns of health or disease. The second is the interpretivist approach. This approach looks at the way cultures use symbolic meaning to describe and understand health and disease. The third is Critical Medical Anthropology. This approach focuses on how economics and politics affect human health.

Epidemiological Approach

Epidemiology is the study of factors effecting health and disease among populations and is considered a fundamental aspect of public health research. Epidemiologists use various forms of investigation and analysis to examine the relationships between human disease and the environment and ultimately to determine the causes of a particular disease. This approach can be utilized by anthropologists to examine the cultural patterns that may affect the prevalence of a particular disease. Cultural factors that may contribute to disease include, but are not limited to, eating habits, work, sexual activity, social interaction, and medical practices. Yet, even with all these factors included, epidemiological studies can never prove causation; meaning that it can never prove the exact factor that caused the disease or health problems. It can only associate a factor with a health issue.

Interpretivist Approach

Cultures throughout the world use different systems of meaning to describe and respond to illness. Anthropologists who study these differences with symbolic meaning employ the interpretivist approach to medical anthropology. This approach looks at illness from an emic perspective attempting to understand health and disease relative to a particular culture.

Birth Care in Norway

One example of effectively using the Interpretivist approach is the examination of birth care in Norway. Since 1991, Norway houses the largest number of refugees from Somalia due to their civil war. A large amount of these refugees are infibulated women. Medical anthropologist R. Elise B. Johansen examined the cultural understanding of childbirth in Norway in an attempt to understand why Somali immigrants are at a higher risk for birthing complications. Birthing practices in Norway emphasize the natural process of birth and rather than favoring an obstetrician and medication, they favor midwives. Health care professionals have little part in the birthing process, as anything more would be disrespectful the woman in labor. The problem with integrating this approach with Somali women who are infibulated is that midwives assume that the Somali women too would want as natural of a birth as possible, without being defibulated. The midwives fail to open up a dialect about possible birthing options all together. This not only leads to severe pain while giving birth, but it also can lead to medical complications. This lack of dialogue has lead to misunderstanding of how the Somali women want to give birth- mainly, the misunderstanding that a Somali woman would not want to be defibulated. It also leads to a high incidence of birthing complications. Had the midwives opened a discussion with the Somali women, they would have discovered that many Somali women wanted to be defibulated and further more, did not want to be refibulated. By examining the systems of meaning surrounding birth in Norway, Johansen was able to determine that the challenge lay in complex interpretations of such cultural elements as gender, nature, health and gender equity [1]. Through her interpretivist approach, Johansen was able to understand the medical issue of birthing complications in the context of a specific culture. This study also shows how even attempts to be culturally sensitive can misguide us and increase social confusion. These problems are key reminders of the importance of education and dialogue when attempting to bridge cultural gaps.

Critical Medical Anthropology

Critical medical anthropology focuses on how economics and politics shape the overall status of human health. Critical medical anthropology addresses the disparities in the quality of health and care in the presence of social inequalities. Social divisions based on race, ethnicity, gender and class can influence access to health care and susceptibility to disease. Critical medical anthropologists acknowledge these social factors when looking at the prevalence of a particular disease and ways to prevent it. In a 1998 study of inner-city Hispanic children, critical medical anthropologist Merrill Singer found that food insecurity and hunger were prevalent conditions. By identifying variables associated with these conditions, Singer was able to determine risk factors for food insecurity and hunger that could be used by policy makers to improve food programs and public health policy. Critical medical anthropologists have worked hard to draw attention to some of the shortcomings of western biomedicine in combating health issues such as hunger and malnutrition and to find ways to improve public health.

Other Theoretical Approaches

Medical Anthropology draws upon many different theoretical approaches. It pays attention to popular health culture as bioscientific epidemiology as well as the social construction of health knowledge, and the politics of science. Medical anthropologists study the health of individuals in the background of larger social formations, and how environment affects humans and other species. They also study cultural norms, social institutions, politics and globalization.



1. Ethno-nosology - Refers to the cross-cultural systems of classification of health issues.[2]

2.Culture-bound syndromes - Psychological conditions and physical symptoms that only occur (or are only meaningful) in a specific culture.

3. Disease/Illness Dichotomy -Dichotomy is the division of one thing into two parts or a subdivision into halves or pairs. In medical anthropology, the two aspects of sickness are divided to better care and heal those in need. Disease and Illness are two very different things in the medical field that are responded in different ways. Diseases are the biological and psychological malfunctioning of the body physically. Illnesses deal with the psychology of the human where the psychosocial experiences bring on the sense of illness or disease.

4. Diagnosis/Divination -A diagnosis is the act of identifying or determining the nature and cause of a disease or injury through the evaluation of a patient. Divination is the seeing of future events or somehow gaining unknown knowledge through the supernatural.


1. Acupuncturist: One who inserts needles into various points on the body in order to relieve pain or to relax certain areas of the body. Although acupuncture skepticism among western medicine practitioners is somewhat common , it is still quite popular not only in its original country of China but also in many western countries.[3] [3] When acupuncture originated in China, it was founded on the belief that illnesses were caused by an imbalance of qi energy in the body. Qi energy is considered a universal energy that flows through lines in the body called meridians. The acupuncturist would insert a needle into points along the meridian in order to stimulate the blockage or imbalance of energy. Some modern Western medical scientists believe there is an alternative explanation to the idea of qi energy. They believe that success in acupuncture is due to the needles stimulating the nervous, endocrine, and lymphatic systems. In my experience with acupuncture, the needles are inserted in areas of the body that one would not normally associate with the problems they are experiencing. The placement of the needle in places other than where the patient is experiencing the pain causes hormones to relieve pain and thus relax the body. [1]. [2].

Needles being inserted into a patient's skin.

2. Bonesetter: A person who treats or sets fractures, broken or dislocated bones. Bonesette originated from ancient Egyptian and Asian Cultures. Bonesetters are typically used to aid the healing the process of the bones, which will allow them to heal properly. This is essential in say athletes, where bone fractures or breaks are serious to their careers.

3. Chiropractor: Chiropractors treat problems with the musculoskeletal system many times by manipulating the spine. It is a natural, drug free way of healing the nervous system and general health. Some practice methods such as water therapy, light, massage, ultrasound, acupuncture and heat.

4. Surgeon: Surgeons have been around since the development of practitioners, and have evolved from such roles as "bonesetters." A High profile position, many of today's surgeons go through extensive schooling of usually 8 or more years. A vast array of surgeon jobs is seen from plastic surgery to brain surgery these men and women are the top healers and medical professionals of our time. [3]

5. Dentist: One whose business it is to clean, extract, or repair natural teeth, and to make and insert artificial ones; a dental surgeon. This business is especially important in cultures in where physical appearance is of significant importance. From the perspective of a middle class American, most Americans today receive good dental health care. Most people go to the dentist every six months for a cleaning or dental examine to check the health of their teeth. [4]

6. General Practitioner: A medical practitioner who provides primary care and specializes in family medicine.

7. Herbalist: A person who uses herbs (plants and plant extracts) as their way of healing and alleviating illness. Although the American health care system is based on more modern treatments; herbalists have the potential to make a tremendous contribution to America’s primary care crisis through health promotion, disease prevention, and affordable, ecologically sound treatment alternatives.[5] I do agree with this statement, but with my own herbalist, she recomends to go to a biomedical physician if you have any serious illness.

An Iraqi doctor examining a little girl

8. Midwife: A health care profession where providers give prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend the birth of the infant, and provide postpartum care to the mother and her infant. Midwives must be certified as such but do not need to be certified as a nurse, they are most commonly used in uncomplicated, low risk pregnancies.
Midwives spend time with the mother during her pregnancy, they are there to support the mother and encourage her to trust her instincts, ultimately letting nature take its course. Many medical doctors in this case would use preventive testing and medical technology such as ultrasounds and pain medication to monitor the birthing process. These techniques are usually unnecessary in uncomplicated deliveries, midwives will perform these if necessary but cannot do so without a doctors supervision.
In the past midwives were not obligated to have the extensive formal training they are today, they traditionally learned through apprenticeship and did not know how to fight infections. This resulted in a higher death rate of a mother and her child with midwives than with doctors. In order to give midwives the medical training they needed a school for certified American nurse-midwifery was founded in 1932.

9. Oneself: Healing of ones self is usually used to heal spiritually, mentally or emotionally rather than physically. When it is used for physical purposes, this usually means that other health care is not available for the individual.
Some cultures have individuals who are designated specialist in healing. Others such as the Subanun in Mandanao have no assigned healers, they are all active participants in the health of their kin and neighbors and are called upon to aid each other.
Cancer is usually considered a disease that the power of oneself can heal. Positive thinking or having a positive, powerful attitude is believed to help heal.

10. Psychiatrist: A Psychiatrist a doctor who is certified in treating mental illness.[6]They are also authorized to prescribe medications to their patients. Like a psychologist, psychiatrist treat illness by methods of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy. A psychiatrist is unique in that they are required to obtain medical certification as a doctor, whereas a psychologist, who has many of the same responsibilities as a psychiatrist is not. [7]

11. Shaman: A shaman is a practitioner of shamanism, is a mediator between the human and spiritual worlds. They are known for their ability to cure illness and to pass between the supernatural and natural worlds so as to provide answers for humans. Shamans are said to be able to use divination and to tell the future. Shamanism is used most commonly in Central Asia. [2] [4]However, many cultures all over the world have a Shaman. Some cultures in South America and even cultures in Canada have a Shaman. Occasionally, as many Shaman as possible from the Americas, all from different cultures, will come together and practice various ceremonies together. Such as the "sweat hut" ceremony. The Shaman of a culture in Ecuador spoke of these Shaman "conventions." [8]

12. Massage Therapist: A doctor who uses body pressing movements across another body to relieve stress as well as reduce side affects of cancer treatments; although the validity of its effectiveness is questioned though many stand by its success rate firmly. Its said to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, as well as anxiety and fatigue. Further more it releases toxins stored in the muscles and is a therapeutic way of healing for those that can afford it. [9]

13. Faith Healing: Faith healing involves the placebo effect, which is a form of medication with no actual medicine in it. However, the patient can still "feel better" when they take the treatment, even if it is not directly affecting the body. This is because "the patient has a certain belief in the treatment...the patient's belief leads him or her to expect that, following this treatment, he or she is likely to get better..." Consequently, he or she will quite literally mentally heal themselves. [10]

14. "Physiotherapist" A health care professional who issues services and help to those in need of rehabilitation as a result of old age, injury or disease. The main goal is to promote the utmost range of movement and functionality of the body. Often a patient will meet with a PT and receive a diagnosis based on patient history and physical examination. After which a program based on the patients needs will be issued and followed through with. PT programs vary based on patient needs. [11]

15. Naturopath[5]: A health care provider who follows a natural approach to healing of the body using natural remedies and the body's vital ability to heal and maintain itself. Naturopathic philosophy favors a holistic approach and minimal use of surgery and drugs.[12]

Healing Substances

Cultures use a variety of different substances for healing. Some cultures rely on drugs to induce a state of healing, while others put their lives in the hands of healers such as shamans to regain health. In many cases, people rely on both medical pluralism and medical syncretism. Medical pluralism refers to the employment of more than one medical system or the use of both conventional and complementary and alternative medicine, while medical syncretism is the fusing of traditional and biomedical practices. There were several healing methods mentioned during cultural anthropology 201 that serve as a prime example of various healing substances. It is important to note that in many cases the state of healing that is accomplished in one culture may not be able to be accomplished in another due to differing perspectives on how the substance is meant to affect a person. For example, there is a vast difference between the use of drugs for recreation and their use for healing. In some cultures it is believed that during drug use a person reaches a heightened state in which they are able to begin healing, whereas in other cultures this heightened state is used for pure enjoyment.

The Peyote cactus is an example of a substance that it used in indigenous cultures in the Americas. It is a small, spineless cactus that is native to the southwest United States, parts of central Mexico, and primarily in the Chihuahuan desert. Peyote gives the consumer an enhanced feeling of deep introspection and insight that can be accompanied by audio or visual hallucinations. These hallucinations have made Peyote a sought after recreational drug leading to it becoming a controlled substance in many countries around the world.[13] With this heightened awareness of self, Peyote users can be healed of any type of spiritual, physical, or other social hindrance. Traditionally, peyote has also been used to heal toothache, pain experienced during childbirth, fever, breast pain, skin diseases, rheumatism, diabetes, colds, and blindness.

A flowering peyote, in cultivation.

More examples of healing substances include magic mushrooms of Oaxaca, similar to the Peyote in which the consumer enters a psychedelic state and is able to allow the mushrooms to heal themselves spiritually and physically. Ayahuasca, a substance found surrounding Amazonian areas is also used to achieve psychedelic healing along with the San Pedro cactus found in the coastal parts of Peru. Coca, tobacco and alcohol can also be considered healing substances and are more prevalent across cultures than the aforementioned drugs.

Coca leaves

Bee Sting Therapy

Bee sting therapy can mostly be found in Asian countries such as Taiwan. The bee sting therapy has been found to help with many ailments from making you look younger to helping with arthritis, all the way to relieving symptoms of multiple sclerosis. There is no proof that the bee sting therapy is the reason for these results, but "...scientists have found potent anti- inflammatory and germ fighting protein." [14] Bee sting therapy is closely related to acupuncture, and some think that bees were initially used in the acupuncture process.


Ethnobotany is the analysis of indigenous plants that are used by a particular culture for food, medicine or other purposes. The study of these plants is used to garner accurate understanding of their medical potential and cultural usage. Someone who is trained in this field of work is called an ethnobotanist. Their job is to travel to different locations in the world for the purpose of studying the relationships between plants and culture. Their knowledge is gleaned from the perspective and information provided by the culture with which the plant is used. Ethnobotanists look for plants which effectively treat disease or relieve symptoms. These plants can then be synthesized into medication to provide treatment for other populations.

Mayan priest performing healing

The roots of ethnobotany can be traced back to an ancient Greek surgeon named Dioscorides. He was the first person to organize plants into specific classifications. Around AD 77 Dioscorides produced the publication, “De Materia Medica”, which consisted of information on all the plants he researched. This botanical reference book compartmentalized approximately 600 plants. It also included facts about the plants such as; what season it was in bloom, how to use it medicinally, its toxicity level and whether or not it was edible. In 1542 Leonhart Fuchs achieved a similar feat when he published, “De Historia Stirpium”, another botanical reference book that catalogued plants indigenous Germany and Austria (the book contained information on about 400 plants). Another important figure in the development of ethnobotany was John Ray. He was the first person to understand and explain the concept of species; he also produced important publications such as, Catalogue of Cambridge Plants, Synopsis Methodica Avium et Piscium and Methodus Plantarum (works were published between 1660-1713). The methods for categorizing plants continued to develop and it reached its apex with a Swedish medical student named Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus invented the classification system known as taxonomy. This system of classifying organisms is still utilized in contemporary times. His book, Species Plantarum, had listings for approximately 5,900 plants. The term ethnobotany was developed by John Harshberger around 1895. Harshberger was the professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent many years traveling the globe researching and cataloguing different regions native plant life.

Iboga, a principal component of ibogaine

As stated previously, ethnobotany is the study of how a culture uses its indigenous plants for medicinal purposes. The native plant species and their preparation for use are usually new and different (sometimes confusing) to the ethnobotanist. An example of an idiosyncratic way of healing (pertinent to ethnobotany) can be seen in the religious rituals of the Bwiti. Bwiti is a religion that is practiced by the people of Gabon (a country in west central Africa). This particular creed relies heavily on the use of ibogaine (a powerful psychoactive which is derived from the root of the Tabernanthe ibona shrub). Tabernanthe iboga is indigenous to Gabon and is easily accessible to people of the Bwiti religion. Iboga is most commonly ingested through chewing on the root of the shrub or brewing the plant into a tea. The plant is revered by the Bwiti because of its hallucinogenic properties which cause practitioners to receive revealing visions and deep introspective self-contemplation. Iboga is consumed for religious ceremonies, initiations, coming of age rituals and healing processes. When a person within the Bwiti community becomes ill he or she is fed iboga to get in touch with their imbwiri. The imbwiri is a spirit represented in human configuration which will either cure the individual or provide valuable information on the antidote. Iboga was brought to Europe by French and Belgian researchers in the late 1800’s. By the 1960’s ibogaine (although still rare) had been introduced to many differennt parts of the world. (mainly as a psychoactive drug). The medical potential of this drug was discovered by a man named Howard Lotsof in 1963. He realized that this substance could combat heroin and opiate addiction. It also could alleviate the painful and mentally exhausting withdrawal symptoms. Howard cured his own heroin addiction through this method and introduced ibogaine to his friends who were also habitual heroin users with positive results. As time progressed ibogaine was found to be useful in treating many addictions including unhealthy reliance on cocaine, crack, alcohol, methamphetamine and nicotine. Even though this drug showed potential towards battling addiction it was outlawed in many countries (including the U.S.) because of its hallucinogenic properties. Although ibogaine has been marked illegal there are still underground clinics that provide full treatments serving the drugs medical ideology. Research on ibogaine is still being conducted today and it could eventually become a fully marketable, synthesized anti-addiction medication.

Candlenut Tree

The Kukui or Candlenut tree, is an example of an indigenous plant used by a culture for food, medicine, and other purposes. Native Hawaiians used the nut, sap, and leaves for various everyday uses. The nut, which produces copious amounts of oil, was strung onto palm fronds and used a torch or candle (thus the name Candlenut). The nut was also roasted and sprinkled on food for added flavor, but it was also known to have laxative properties. The sap of the green nut was spread on cuts and cold sores to speed up healing. The leaves and flowers were used for making lei. As a child growing up in Hawaii, my friends and I made spinning tops out of the shell of the nut. Many visitors to Hawaii would recognize the Kukui nut as the black, shiny nut strung on ribbon to make a lei that lasts indefinitely.

Medicinal Marijuana

Used in many cultures as a healing remedy for a great number of ailments. Medicinal Marijuana is legal to possess in a few various states in America with an appropriate prescription showing your entitlement to the plant. California has the greatest number of Marijuana dispensaries and the greatest number of legal cannabis users, however, due to the federal government's lack of support for medicinal marijuana, raids on dispensaries are still common. [15]It also means that an individual who uses marijuana with a legal prescription can be subject to federal punishment even though their state allows for prescription use of the drug. Marijuana has long been sought out as a medicine for patients looking to 'ease the tention'. It is primarily used as a pain reliever of muscle relaxer but it has also been claimed to help with insomnia, glaucoma, and alcoholism. Cancer patients receiving radiation are also given the option to take the plant in order to settle the stomach and promote eating. For patients with Multiple Sclerosis, prominent in the Pacific North West and Northern Europe, Medicinal Marijuana is an effective and viable treatment for pain, muscle spasms, and the reduction of pressure in the optic nerves.

American Ethnobotany and Echinacea

Echinacea; The spiny flower center from which the name derives

There are many plants which play important roles in North American culture through medicine and recreation. One well known example is Echinacea, a popular herbal remedy. Echinacea is native to North America and has long been used by the Plains Indians for its medicinal properties. It is believed to shorten the duration of a cold and treat many of the symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and headache. Recent studies have suggested that Echinacea has little or no effect on the duration or severity of a cold, and it is merely taken to provide some sort of comfort to the sick person. The effectiveness of Echinacea is still a subject of debate , but it remains a culturally important remedy in North American ethnobotany.


Leaves and flowers of a Neem tree in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Biopiracy is the appropriation, or patent, of indigenous biomedical knowledge by foreign entities without compensatory payment. In other words, it is the illegal harvest of plants used by a particular culture for medicinal purposes by individuals from another culture. The 'piracy' or taking takes place when individuals or corporations patent these plants, the methods of processing plant based substances or the genetic information for their exclusive use and sale. The patent often prohibits the communities that identified the bio active properties, developed processing and extractive technologies and bred the plants, for using the plants for their purposes or selling the plants or plant based products in parts of the world where copyrights are enforced.

A related concept is bioprospecting. This term is sometimes used to refer to biopiracy with a less negative connotation, where the assumption is the patented item had a known use already. Alternately, the bioprospecting company is searching for novel compounds or genes in items that were not used traditionally. Companies can harvest plants or organisms with little to no opposition in some parts of the world, and then patent any part of them that ends up being useful.[16] In the Brazilian State of Amazonas an estimated 20,000 plant samples are removed every year by bioprospectors.

An example of biopiracy is the Neem tree which has been used in India for over 2000 years for medicinal and other purposes. In 1995 a the US Department of Agriculture and multinational WR Grace.[17], patented through the European Patent Office (EPO) the emulsions of Neem tree and is suing Indian firms for using it in products. The Indian government challenged the patent when it was granted, claiming that the process for which the patent had been granted had actually been in use in India for over 2000 years. In 2000 the EPO ruled in India's favour but the US multinational mounted an appeal claiming that prior art about the product had never been published in a scientific journal. On 8 March 2005, that appeal was lost and the EPO revoked the Neem patent rights keeping the tree free of any patent restrictions.[17]

Medical Systems

Naturalistic System

An approach to the explanation, diagnosis, and treatment of illness which focuses on the underlying biomechanical processes behind human disorder. Naturalistic medicine is largely the foundation of the Western model of biomedicine and practitioners rely heavily on the use of imaging technologies and the scientific method to develop treatment plans. Philosophically, naturalists approach human disorder from the perspective that illness is impersonal and that there is always an identifiable source of pathology in the diagnostic process.

Personalistic System

Largely uncommon in the developed world, the personalistic approach to medicine explains human disorder in terms of preternatural sources of pathology (such as spiritual possession or religious transgression). Illness is considered unique to the patient and medical practitioners often call upon supernatural forces to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of disorders.

Modernly, personalistic systems of medicine are most commonly found in small-scale societies. Globally, the personalist approach in decline and has disappeared completely in some cultures. For example, therapeutic shamanism was commonly practiced amongst Inuit peoples and a complex tradition of spiritual healthcare was reported by early ethnographers (see Merkur 85). These traditions are now very rarely practiced and many of the traditional practices have been lost entirely (see Shamanism amongst Eskimo peoples).

Medical Models

Medical models are the explanations of health and illness that are accepted by different cultures. The biomedical model is the most widely accepted medical model by many cultures, including the vast majority of Western culture, but there are multiple other explanations that are accepted by some cultures.

The medical model of disability is a model by which illness or disability is the result of a physical condition, is intrinsic to the individual (it is part of that individual’s own body), may reduce the individual's quality of life, and causes clear disadvantages to the individual.

Some anthropologists believe that the biomedical model is quite provincial. They do not believe that there is enough room for the interpretation of the psychological, behavioral, and social aspects of all of the illnesses. Something called a biopsychosocial[6] model has been proposed. In this there would be more room different aspects of health care.


The term Humoral referes to elements in the blood or other fluids that reside within the body. In medicine,the term humor refers to a fluid substance. The aqueous humor is the fluid that normally resides within the front and rear chambers of the eye. The humors were part of an ancient theory that beleived that health came from balance between the bodily liquids. These liquids were termed humors. If these fluids were not balanced, a person was more likely to become infected with diseases.

Paired qualities were associated with each humour and its season and element,the humors were:

  1. Phlegm: winter, water, characteristics: rational, calm, unemotional
  2. Blood: spring, air, characteristics: courageous, hopeful, amorous
  3. Gall: (black bile thought to be secreted by the kidneys and spleen) autumn, earth, characteristics: guardian, despondent, sleepless, irritable
  4. Choler: (yellow bile secreted by the liver) winter, water, characteristics: rational, calm, unemotional

This theory which was also known as the humoral theory, humoralism, and humorism was devised before the time of Hippocrates (c.460-c.375 BC). Today pathology rests on a cellular and molecular foundation. All of the humors have been dispelled, except for the aqueous humor and vitreous humor of the eye.


The health and healing system of Haiti incorporates humoral-influenced concepts from West Africa. Their system relies on monitoring and regulating their four humors (hot and cold, dry and wet). Eventually their system was simplified, with the dry and wet humors being omitted. They believe a balance is necessary to maintain good health. The balance is affected by the season, how they live and especially how they eat.[18]

Kallawaya Traditional Medicine

The shamans of the Kallawaya people of the Andes mountains in Bolivia are an example of humoral medicine. They believe that health and illness are effected by the balance of spirit and soul caused by the earth, or the goddess Pachamama. Shamans make use of music, dance, and animal sacrifice to help appease the divine, and cure illness. They also use many herbs, most Kallawaya healers have knowledge of at least 300; alcohol; and ayahuasca, to produce a drug induced state, which through a shamans guidance, can be healing.


Dwanandhari Deva is believed to be the Lord of Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a 5000-year old traditional system of medicine in India that originated during the [Vedic] period of Indian history. [[7]] It is also practiced as an alternative system of medicine in other parts of the world, where yoga, meditation, massage, or healing herbs or foods are used as a supplement to the biomedical model.

Ayurveda is a humoral system, in which blood, chyle, flesh, fat, bone, marrow, and semen are the primary elements. These are divided into air (or spirit), phlegm, and bile, each of which represent a divine force, or dosha. The three doshas are vata (air), pitta (bile) and kapha (phlegm). According to Ayurveda, humans are dominated by one or two of these doshas. Having a balance between the three means that one is in complete health. This balance is achieved through moderation of sleep, sexual intercourse, medicine, and food. Different types of foods are beneficial to people of different doshas. When the doshas are too far out of balance, it can lead to both physical and mental sickness.

Ayurvedic practices include hygienic rituals, ingestion of certain foods and herbs as treatments, and yoga or meditation. Balance between the physical and mental is an important aspect of Ayurvedic healing.

Spiritual Healing

Tanumânasî kapalabhati.JPG

Spiritual healing practices transmit energy to a person in need through means of meditation, prayer, or the presence of a healer, and provide an alternative to standard medical procedures. It is part of the holistic approach to healing, which involves the unification and harmony of the mind, body, and spirit in order to achieve wellness. Because sickness often originates in the mind, spiritual healing can be beneficial in alleviating stress, coping with emotional issues, and increasing overall happiness. The absence of such mental problems can eliminate physical troubles. For example, meditation aids in lowering heart rate, decreasing high blood pressure, and lessening cholesterol levels because it clears and calms the mind to the extent that stress does not affect the physical state of the body.

A popular and recommended act of spiritual healing, is found in Yoga. It has been said by many that it allows and gives a sense of self awareness, benifits to positive mental presentation, and overall stressing personal strength and confidence in living a spiritual healthy lifestyle.

In various cultures, healers who practice spiritual healing believe that human beings are surrounded by healing mechanisms in the form of energy, which maintain a balance and order between mind, body, and spirit. A healing procedure often begins with a healer hovering his or her hands above a patient’s body to uncover areas where energy is blocked and healing is needed. Healing energy is then transported through the healer’s hands and into the patient.

Religion often plays a role in spiritual healing in that people form a relationship with a higher source and are able to channel energy from such a source. This being could be God, nature, or something else meaningful to the individual. It is important to note that if the individual who chooses to form this connection holds full commitment and trust in the higher source, feelings of security, peace of mind, and guidance and are likely to follow, all of which are essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Kundalini Tantric Yoga

A popular form of spiritual healing is found in Kundalini Tantric Yoga, practiced in various parts of India and the United States. Kundalini energy refers to dormant or spiritual energy within the body that we are usually unaware of. Once Kundalini energy is activated through deep meditation and yoga, the nadi system, referring to channels of Kundalini energy, is activated as well. This creates a connection between the seven levels of chakras, or centers of consciousness potential that reside along the spine. Each chakra corresponds to a set of desires connected to a certain element. The goal of Kundalini Tantric yoga is to free oneself from such desires as energy moves higher and higher along the chakras, opening them until it reaches the seventh chakra, called the Sahasra Chakra, located at the top of the cranium. A person can move energy through his or her chakras through tantric yoga, a form of yoga in which one seeks to free the mind of desires through various breathing exercises, contemplation, and meditation. When the seventh chakra is finally opened, a person is said to achieve full consciousness and liberation from the slavery of desires. Through the spiritual experiences one has encountered with the opening of each chakra, the result is inner harmony and overall happiness, which are significant aspects of living a positive, healthy lifestyle.

On a religious note, Hindu mythology offers an explanation for the movement of Kundalini energy throughout the body as one practices Tantric yoga. It is said that the serpent goddess Kundalini Shakti resides at the base of the spine, coiled up around the first chakra. As energy is activated and released through Tantric Yoga, she awakens and rises up the spine, opening the chakras along the way and energizing these conscious potentials. When she reaches the seventh chakra, she is united with her spouse, the God Shiva. Shiva is a symbol of change and the destruction of old habits. Their union leads to the liberation of the individual practicing the yoga, turning them into an “individual of the universe.”

Western Biomedical Model

Cell culture vials.

This is the most popular medical model in medicine today and can be found all across Western societies, as well as others. It looks at humans as scientific organisms in order to discover methods for curing diseases and treating illness. This model focuses mainly on physical processes, such as physiology and biochemistry, disregarding social or spiritual factors. Under the biomedical model, health is defined as the absence of pain or disease, and the body is thought to be able to be fixed with scientifically based treatments.

It should be noted that the Western approach to biomedical theory and practice is constantly adapting in response to new scientific and philosophical revelations regarding illness.The model focuses on the treatment and cure of disease through science, and does not promote disease prevention. In recent years, naturopathic medicine (once largely considered at odds with orthodox biomedicine)has gained recognition as a viable facet of treatment for a wide variety of disorders.

Ethnographic example: The biomedical model has been critical in the development of our country. One of the many influences it has had was treating tuberculosis, a life threatening infectious disease. In 1880, after studying the disease scientist could confirm it was contagious. Even before antibiotics this helped to dramatically decrease the number of people that died by using quarantining and sanitizing methods. In the mid 20th century, when antibiotics were discovered, an effective cure for the disease was developed. Many strains have become resistant to certain drugs however, and the medical field has been forced to develop several ways to fight the disease.


The term immunization refers to rendering an organism immune to a specific communicable disease (1). Immunizations work by trigering the human body to produce antibodies that will help fight a particular disease. The antibody response is created by injecting a small amount of either a dead or live virus, (depending on the virus) into the person recieving the immunization in order to initialize a immune system response to the virus (2). Therefore in the future if the person who was immunized was exposed to the virus, he or she would already have the antibodies to fend off the virus. Along with the introduction and transmission of many new complex diseases, population growth and the globalization of medicine has brought about the eradication of many previously devastating disorders, including small pox and polio, through wider availability of immunizations. Many parents in Western countries routinly schedule immunizations for their children to prevent them from contracting a specific communicable disease. While many vaccinations are routine and readily available only in developed nations, the continued globalization of medicine will eventually have a dramatic effect on the improvement of health care in developing countries. < (1). ref:> < (2). ref: href="">Source: How Do Immunizations Work?</a>

Globalization and Health

Epidemiologic Transitions

New Infectious Diseases 
A disease that emerges within a population that is new or the number of infectious cases within a population or geographic area rapidly increases. Since 1940 over 300 new infectious diseases have been discovered, some of the most well known being severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Many drug-resistant strains of diseases are becoming more common and 71% of these new infectious diseases start in the wildlife. As globalization increases, infectious diseases will continue to affect a larger and wider population. [8]
Medical Plurism 
The integration of biomedicine and other forms of health care. Examples of medical pluralism include taking antibiotics and vaccines upon acute trauma or infection, as well as relaxation rituals to decrease stress and improve mental health. Medical pluralism includes involving different wellness techniques to improve, maintain, and prevent overall well-being. [9]
Diseases of Development 
The main causes of illness and death in developed countries are cancer and diseases of the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems. In the developing world, communicable diseases are the main problem, with deaths occurring primarily due to respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, infections at birth, diarrheal disease and tropical diseases such as malaria. Failure to use existing treatments effectively, inadequate or non-existent interventions, and insufficient knowledge of disease all contribute to damaged health.
Health Definition 
Along with this increased communicability there has come a more unified definition of health itself. There are many organizations that work worldwide to increase the quantity of life around the globe. One such organization is the World Health Organization. They describe health as “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely in the absence of disease and infirmity”.

Some Diseases that are Intensified Due to Globalization



•Falciparum Malaria is a vector borne infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites. It kills around one million people per year, mostly children. Even though initiative was taken to eradicate the disease after WW2, it prevails in many parts of the world. In some areas, globalization is fostering an increase in malaria. In low income countries, economic hardships have made it difficult to install strong mosquito control programs. Also, global warming may extend the latitude and altitude of malaria because misquotes thrive in certain temperatures. An example of how malaria can be brought from one country to another on the other side of the world can be seen in a close friend of mine who traveled to Kenya a couple of years ago. He had all of the necessary vaccines to travel to Kenya, despite this, he still contracted malaria. The good news is that he can afford the medications necessary to control the disease and has not caused any form of an outbreak in the U.S. thanks to precautions taken by the U.S. to eradicate the disease. All of this is to show that it is still possible to contract the disease even if one is from a developed country.

2.Chagas Disease

Chagas in Latin America (A:Endemic zones)

•Land clearance in South America has spread the triatomine bugs to much of the continent. Due to economic adversity and social unrest, there has not been a great stride in establishing sufficient housing. As more virgin forests are deforested the more the disease is able to spread to people. There is however effective control programs that are fighting the disease. The disease is usually spread by insect through the sucking of blood, it can also be spread by mother to fetus, blood transfusions, organ transplants and food that is contaminated with the disease.

3.Leishmaniasis •Is transmitted by the bite of a female sandfly. This disease is spread most rapidly when people live in a newly deforested area. In the 1980’s there was a huge housing crisis because the population of the Brazilian city of Amazonians doubled. The disease flourished because of their high adaptability to the human blood.

4.Lyme Disease •This ancient bacterial infection is returning to North America, Europe and temperate Asia resulting in a skin rash, swollen joints and flu like symptoms. Some suspect that this is due to the reversion of farmland to woodland, which led to the increase of deer that possess the ticks. Also, the deer’s predators were killed over a century ago in the deforestation.


•Uncontrolled urbanization and inadequate management of water and waste has led to increase of this disease. Cases have increased 20-fold since the 1950’s. Air travel has allowed the disease to create newer more deadly versions of itself, such as dengue haemorrhagic fever. It had been found that 8% of diseases that tourist catch while overseas are Dengue. Dengue often starts with a headache muscle and joint pains fever, and rash. The rash usually appears on the lower limbs and the chest and continues to spread over the body.


Mental Health and Culture Bound Syndromes

Culture Bound Syndromes are those in which changes in behavior and experiences have substantial effects on peoples lives. These illnesses are not "sicknesses" but rather identified as syndromes. A syndrome is a group of symptoms when present together are characteristics of a specific disorder, disease, etc.[10] The patterns of the symptoms that characterize or indicate can be of a particular social condition like heavy pollution. Syndromes can be a culture bound syndrome like Anorexia Nervosa or they can be a biological syndromes like Down’s Syndrome. The word syndrome comes from the greek meaning “run together”. Medical anthropology describes culture-bound syndrome as a combination of psychiatric and somatic symptoms that are considered to be an identifiable disease that is only discovered within a specific society or culture. There are no changes in the biochemical or structural of body organs or functions, and the disease is not recognized in other cultures. A substantial portion of mental disorders are at least partially if not completely conditioned by the culture in which they are found. Some disorders however are more culture-specific than others. The concept of culture-bound syndromes is a controversial subject to which many psychologists, medical doctors and anthropologists reject the concept.

Culture bound syndromes can include:


Obesity is a condition affecting more than 300 million people ([19]) common in mainly first world countries, that affects millions of people. It is a term used to describe a person who is so overweight that is has become the cause of many other afflictions that could potentially threaten a person’s life. A person is obese when their body mass index exceeds 30 kg/m2([20])The World Health Organization(WHO) considers obesity to be one of the top 10 causes of preventable death worldwide. It is a Culture Bound Syndrome that exists almost entirely in the richest countries in the world. In some poorer countries, people who are overweight are actually seen as more attractive because of the rich connotation that occompanies extra weight. This is opposite of most richer countries.

Ataque de Nervios

Commonly found in Hispanics.Out-of-consciousness state resulting from evil spirits. Symptoms include attacks of crying, trembling, uncontrollable shouting, physical or verbal aggression, and intense heat in the chest moving to the head. These ataques are often associated with stressful events (e.g., death of a loved one, divorce or separation, or witnessing an accident including a family member).

Mal de Ojo

Medical problems, such as vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and mental problems (e.g., anxiety, depression), could result from the mal de ojo (evil eye) the individual experienced from another person. Mal de Ojo is initiated when a person of higher strength gazes upon the weaker counterpart out of envy or admiration [21]. The condition is common among infants and children; adults might also experience similar symptoms resulting from this mal de ojo. [22]


Anorexia Nervosa,a westernized eating disorder, commonly shortened to anorexia. Anorexia Nervosa is a psychiatric illness which is specifically defined as the obsessive fear of gaining weight. Most commonly this disorder affects teenage girls, but males account for 10% of the reported cases. Bulimia Nervosa is also a similar culture-bound syndrome to Anorexia Nervosa in which purging is the method of losing weight. Many times people who have these eating disorders though do not have one strict eating disorder. It tends to be a combination of anorexia, bullimia and binge eating. For example, a person may restrict themselves to not eating, but if they do they may go and work out excessively and then binge eat after [23] In some cases however, these eating disorders are developed as a coping mechanism for problems other than the common fear of weight gain. Providing its victims with a sense of control, anorexia and bulimia can help ease the mind even if the goal is to find stability in areas other than weight loss.

The process used to initially lose and prevent weight gain is voluntary starvation, but other methods such as purging, excessive exercise and the use of dietary pills are used also to control body image. One of the proposed reasons for the cause of this disease is the effect of images portrayed by the media on young women and men, demanding a necessity to be slim, because that is the only socially acceptable way to look

The DSM IV outlines the criteria utilized to diagnose anorexia nervosa; which includes dropping 15% below ones recommended body weight for his or her height. Accompanying this extreme weight loss is an unnatural fear of gaining weight; severe delusions about one’s own body and amenorrhea.

There are two subtypes of Anorexia Nervosa also outlined in the DSM IV. The first is the restricting type. This is characterized by food restriction and starvation, The second subtype is the binge eating- purging type. This is characterized by the consumption of large amounts food followed by self induced vomiting or use of laxatives.

Anorexia Nervosa disorder also severely interferes with social functioning, those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa tend to suffer academically and withdraw from friends and family. It is a disorder that is often met with a great deal of skepticism and unfortunately many refuse to recognize the severity of this condition. People incorrectly assume that if the affected person wants to get better, all they need to do is start eating. Sadly this is a debilitating disorder that affects both body and mind; and will likely affect those diagnosed, for the rest of their lives. This disorder is met with severe mental distortions, for which there is no simple remedy. People who are diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa develop severe heart and health problems, as well as being at higher risk for developing depression and suicidal tendencies. Approximately 10% of diagnosed cases result in death.

Many who are diagnosed usually have several underlying issues that are entirely unrelated to food. Often times they maintain unrealistic ideas of perfection and a severe need for personal control, for many, managing their food intake fills this need. Each person has the ability to restrict what goes into their own body and as a result, they begin to associate the declining number on the scale with self control. Initially many of these people are met with praise from their peers for their weight loss, resulting in positive reinforcement. Some begin to link weight loss with acceptance, popularity and self worth. Once these associations are made it is extremely difficult to extinguish them; particularly in countries that value and idealize unrealistic images of beauty and weight. Even though there are many treatment facilities available that treat both of the mental and physical aspects of this disorder very few people ever fully recover. Therefore it is believed that the most successful form of treatment is prevention.

There are many cultural aspects that influence this disorder as well. The prevalence of this disorder is much higher in the United States and other western countries. Many have suggested that young men and women are often exposed to false ideas of perfection. Specifically in the United States, the majority of advertisements, television shows, movies and magazines most are exposed to, depict images of men and women with a body type that less than 5% of the people of the general population actually possesses. This may account for the higher frequency of this disorder in specific regions. As a result, many programs for example the Dove campaign, which supports and promotes body acceptance, pressuring the concept of "Real Beauty," through their billboards with real women with curves and imperfections, their explanations of airbrushing further help, support and counteract the development of unrealistic ideologies relating to weight and beauty.

Equally dangerous and even more prevalent in American society is the issue of overeating and obesity in children and teens. Over the past decade, the obesity rate in children has increased dramatically; the Center for Disease Control found that the obesity rate in children ages 6-12 has increased from 6.5% to 17% in the last 25 years. . There are many causes for this increase including misinformation about diets, an increase in hobbies unrelated to physical activity (video games, computer games etc.) and a decrease of time spent in Physical Education classes throughout schooling.

Symptoms include: -Loss of at least 3 regular menstrual periods (in women). -Refusing, avoiding, or not wanting to eat in public -Anxiety -Weakness -Brittle skin -Shortness of breath -Obsessiveness about calorie intake -muscle loss/degeneration -Additionally, anorexic people have a tendency to create a distorted, negative view of themselves Differences Between Anorexia and Bulimia: -People who suffer from bulimia typically eat large quantities of food and then purge, referred to as (binge and purge). -Anorexics suffer from lack of food ingestion.[24] [25]


Malaysian sudden mood change/aggression.

Amok is the psychological disorder where males who typically have never acted out before experience a sudden mood change and become violent and angry. Deep shame experienced by the male often seems to be the cause of the sudden mood changes such as jealousy and gambling losses. People suffering from a mood change will often attempt to hurt or kill anyone they run into. Often people who have these mood shifts will end up being killed by a bystander out of self-defense or other reasons, or the person suffering from Amok will commit suicide. The word was derived from the Malay, Indonesian and Filipino word "amuk" which means "mad with rage." The term has been changed into slang in the United States and the phrase Running Amok is used to describe someone who is acting crazy or can't control themselves.

Dhat Syndrome

The patient is preoccupied with the excessive loss of semen by nocturnal emissions. There is a fear that semen is being lost and mixed in urine. In the Hindu culture and religion, it is believed that "40 meals create one drop of blood, 40 drops of blood create one drop of bone marrow and 40 drops of marrow create one drop of semen." It is thought in the Hindu culture in India, although not isolated there, that the loss of semen can deteriorate your health and create health problems. Symptoms of Dhat Symdrome are depression, preoccupation, trouble sleeping, inability to perform sexually, exhaustion and headaches, and others. In order to treat these symptoms of depression and anxiety, counseling or anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications have been found to be of use. [11]

Genital Retraction Syndrome

Retraction into body. (Malay Koro, Sudan melting penis/cell phone phenomenon)

Genital Retraction syndrome is a culture bound syndrome occurring mostly in African and Asian men. This syndrome causes the men to think that their penis is going to shrivel into their stomach and that they will die. In South East Asia this syndrome has become known as “Koro”, which means “head of the turtle”. It can also be referred to as penis panic. In this case a large group of men can become panicked about their genitalia disappearing. Often these fears come about in cultures where witchcraft is used, or where biological education isn’t available. In 1997 lynch mobs in Ghana attacked foreigners they accused of being sorcerers capable of shrinking men’s penises.


Latah is a culture-bound syndrome that exist in Malaysian and Indonesian cultures. People showing signs of this syndrome respond to minimal stimuli with exaggerated startles. Sometimes, after becoming started, people suffering from this syndrome will obey the commands or imitate the actions of the people around them. Most occurrences of Latah are intentionally provoked to act as entertainment for those surrounding. Latah is very closely tied to specific factors in the cultural systems of the Southeast Asian societies in which it is found. The Latah syndrome exemplifies the very dynamic and complex ways in which neurophysiological, experiential, and cultural variables coincide with each other to produce a strongly marked phenomenon in these cultures. It is most widely known as a hyperstartling condition which mainly occurs in Malayan cultures. Latah is also the name for those who have the condition, which consist mainly of adult women. During episodes of this behavior, Latah's are usually not held responsible for their actions. It is also closely related to another condition called Hyperexplexia. (SE Asia women, obey, not responsible for acts)


Two Inuit women and child. Origin: Taken by Angsar Walk [

Piblokto, pronounced (pee-block-toh) and loosely translated from Inuit to English means "running crazy" is a hysterical/dissociative state. It occurs mostly in the winter season and typically shown in Inuit or Eskimo women and is characterized by short attacks of disturbed behavior that are not remembered by the individual afterward.

The symptoms can include running naked through the snow, an insensitivity to extreme cold, coprophagia (the consumption of feces), echolalia (the repetition of words), depression, screaming, crying, and violence towards other people and animals. Piblotko is most often seen in women of the Inuit tribe. These people inhabit the areas of northern Canada,Greenland, the coastal regions of Alaska and north eastern Asia/Russia. They are able to inhabit very harsh conditions, and tolerate the snow and ice of the arctic tundra for most of the year. There has never been a recorded case of Piblotko in children, although women in tribal groups have been recorded as having as many as 5 attacks of hysteria a day. The Inuit people's diet mainly consists wild game, whale and seal meat. A diet high in protein, selenium, and fats may help these people escape the risks of cancer but not the biological/psychological malady of Piblotko. Although commonly thought of as a psychological ailment, Piblotko may be linked to vitamin A toxicity, or hypervitaminosis A. Vitamin A toxicity is caused by an overconsumption of pre-formed Vitamin A, which is the result of high amounts of vitamin A in the diet at one time. This can lead to altered mental state, confusion, headache,and irritability, as well as many symptoms that are common to Piblotko. Piblotko has also been recorded in Inuit dogs and while these dogs are not considered infectious, they are shot when symptoms first occur and then eaten by the tribe. SAD- seasonal affective disease can loosely be linked to this syndrome as the weather and light are factors that play straight into symptoms like depression. [26]


Susto is a Folk Illness that is most commonly found in Latin America. The term "susto" comes from the Portuguese and Spanish word for fright. In this way, the illness is called “fright sickness”. It is also referred to as "spirit attacks," most common among Native Americans. The disease is usually generated from a traumatic experience like the death of a loved one, an accident, or anything else that might cause physiological pain. It is most common in women but can also be found in men and children. The illness in not recognized by Western Traditional Medicine, but is commonly compared to anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of susto can be nervousness, anorexia, insomnia, listlessness, despondency, involuntary muscle tics, and diarrhea. Treatments of this illness are mostly natural and herbal, such as consuming marijuana teas, brazil wood, and orange blossom. The most effective treatments are done by what is called a healer and can include different sort of rituals. The closer these rituals are practiced to when the traumatic experience occurred, the better. It is also very important to recognize the event and not suppress it.

Susto is often compared to other biomedical illnesses. In 2002 studies about susto were conducted in; Latin communities, the United States, Mexico and Guatemala. First they defined susto in the different communities. Although the definition differed from region to region, the main idea was that susto was an illness caused by fright, and not necessarily loss of soul. It was seen as a serious illness that could even lead to death. But to better understand this folk illness, in biomedical culture and culture I am familiar with in United states, susto is best related to depressive disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, and somatoform disorders.[27]


Opsophagos was an ancient Greek label given to anyone who had an extreme and irrepressible desire for eating fish.

The term is a definition one’s character, not literally their general palate for fish. Charging someone with the term is directed in a very negative manner- it parallels being indicted with having over-indulgent behavior, a taboo in Greek society. Opsophagos is synonymous with words like unsophisticated and barbaric- words opposite of rationality. The fish is simply a symbol for overindulgence.

Greek tall tales describe an opsophagos as a gluttonous and greedy man who would consume all prepared fish, sharing none with anyone. The painted image of an opsophagos was the opposite of an ideal human- a man with a heat-resistant throat to handle fish too hot for anyone else to eat, thus keeping the fish for only themselves.

Opposite of America’s Judeo-Christian tradition, Greek thought and morality is more flexible than the orthodox, black and white view of simple rights or wrongs. For example, instead of ruling out women or wine, Greeks believe in “nothing in excess”-enjoy life’s pleasure but under control. This is contrary to the American idea of suppressing vices and how negative habits should be cut out out completely “cold turkey”.

Ghost Sickness

A Dust Devil is an example of a manifestation of Ghost Sickness

Ghost Sickness originates from the Navajo Nation and is believed to be a psychotic disorder associated with death. Common symptoms include fatigue, recurring nightmares, hallucinations, and a constant feeling of terror. The people of the Navajo Nation believe that a Chindi causes Ghost Sickness. A Chindi is the ghost of the Navajo Tribe and many believe that this ghost is released during a person’s dying breath, and it is also believed to nearly always be an evil force. A common manifestation of a Chindi is believed to be a Dust Devil, and the direction they spin signifies whether it is a ‘good’ Chindi or a ‘bad’ one; a clockwise spin is considered good – a counter-clockwise is considered bad. Other Native American tribes have modified beliefs of Ghost Sickness and have attempted to prevent or avoid passing it on. For example, the Lakota Tribe attempted a ban on mourning rituals in order to avoid the illness in the 1800's, but many still practice modified rituals.


Windigo (or Witiko) A culturally bound syndrome found among the Algonkian Indians, NE United States and Eastern Canada. Windigo is the famous syndrome of obsessive cannibalism or the consumption of another’s flesh. Windigo has fallen under skeptical eyes and too many is now somewhat discredited. A modern medical diagnosis of this condition would probably label it paranoia due to the irrational perceptions of being persecuted for suffering from Windingo. Fear of prosecution is prevalent among victims of Windingo because of the cultural universal that eating humans is wrong. Windigo was supposed to have been brought about by consuming human flesh in desperate circumstance such as famine situations. Afterwards, the individual who consumed flesh was supposed to be haunted by cravings for human flesh and thoughts of killing and eating humans. In other words Windigo is the unwanted transformation into a cannibal.

In the Great Lakes of Canada and the United States where climate was harsh, Windingo would develop among families whom were isolated in their homes due to heavy snow storms and thus had inadequate food and supplies. Symptoms of Windigo include vomiting and lack of appetite. The individual suffering would then begin to develop delusions of him or herself believing they are becoming a Windigo Monster. People suffering from Windigo psychosis claim to see others as edible which only increases with time. As the individual becomes aware of the transformation they begin to deeply fear becoming a cannibal. Victims of Windigo psychosis often experience severe panic and anxiety. Suicide is common in order to prevent themselves from becoming Windigo monsters. [12]


Zar[13] is experienced in Ethiopia, Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, and other places in the Middle East and North Africa. The feeling you get when you have zar is spirit possession. Some symptoms that could occur are dissociative episodes with shouting, laughing, singing, weeping, or hitting the head against some sort of surface. Individuals may refuse to do simple tasks such as eat or go about their tasks in daily life. They also may show withdrawal and apathy. In some cases the person might develop a long-term relationship with the possessing spirit, but this is the rarest symptom. Zar can also be used as part of the training and practice of shamanic healers. [14] This is usually practiced in Africa and is unfamiliar in Europe. Since this is a trance that is induced voluntarily as part of a shamanic ritual, it is not considered a disorder.

Zar was experienced in many cases when immigrants would move from Ethopia to Israel. This is when zar was known to happen the most. Zar as a voluntary induced spirit would occur the most in Northern African countries. One of the most common possession phenomena in Africa and in other continents is the belief in possession by spirits, known as zar.


  1. Katie Monicatti
  4. corey colbo
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  8. Breen, Coco: Ecuador
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  13. (Peyote Legal Status by Erowid, March 27, 2009)
  14. National Geographic Taboo Video Series 2005, Creature Cures. Season Two.
  15. Laine, Miranda personal experience from watching the documentary "Super High Me"
  16. A Worldwide Fight Against Biopiracy and Patents on Life. Third World Network. Retrieved on 2009-03-09.
  17. a b "India wins landmark patent battle", BBC, BBC, 9 March, 2005. Retrieved on 2009-10-02. (en)  
  18. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specifiedCarol R. Ember; Melvin Ember. .
  19. Backgrounder, International Food Information Council Foundation.
  20. Backgrounder, International Food Information Council Foundation.
  21. Mal de Ojo.
  23. Alexis Gradwohl, Skyline High School, Developmental Sciences Teacher, 2009
  24. Anorexia. Mama's Health. Retrieved on 2009-03-10.
  25. Anorexia Causes. Significant Health. Retrieved on 2009-03-10.
  27. Loue, Sana, Martha Sajatovic, and Jeffrey L. Longhofer. Diversity Issues in the Diagnosis, Treatment, and Research of Mood Disorders. illustrated. United States: Oxford University Press , 2007.




^ Fock, Niels (1963). Waiwai. Religion and society of an Amazonian tribe. Nationalmuseets skrifter, Etnografisk Række (Ethnographical series), VIII. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark.

^ Altshul, Sara. "Incontinence: Finally, Relief That Works." Prevention December 2005: 33. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. 30 January 2006




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Production, Inequality and Development · Human Rights

Production, Inequality and Development · Cultural Anthropology · Human Rights

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