Culture and health do not exist in isolation from each other, in fact, they are in endless and dynamic interaction. We can say that one’s cultural background has a profound influence on a person’s life and worldview, influencing their behavior, language, emotions, food, body image and attitudes towards health. While fast-developing technology continues to improve Western medicine and dictate the health field in the modern world, the world of traditional healing seems to grow in popularity with each passing day. In many cultures, healing traditions are passed down from one generation to the next and even though times change, many of these traditions seem like they are here to stay and will continue to flourish.
In every society there are healers (either medically or non-medically trained), with their own concepts, values, approaches, and training background. More than 3,000 years ago, a natural system of medicine originated in India, called Ayurveda. To this day, it is still one of the most popular traditional and natural healing methods. Ayurveda encourages lifestyle interventions as well as natural therapies in order to balance the mind, body, and spirit.
Ayurveda medicine is intended to cure and prevent disease by treating the individual as a whole, rather than the disease alone (Mukherjee et. al). Healing in Ayurveda is initiated through an internal cleansing process and continues with distinct diets, herbal mixtures, massage therapy, yoga and meditation tailored to one’s unique “dosha”. The goals of these combined natural treatments are to help the individual by removing impurities, diminishing symptoms, increasing resistance to disease, reducing stress and worry, and increasing harmony in life.
Even though Ayurveda is considered a traditional healing method, it is considered equal to Western medicine in India because traditional Ayurvedic healers undergo intensive training. Although Ayurveda still needs more science-based research to prove its effectiveness, certain practices of Ayurvedic (ex. meditation and yoga) have already been proven to be effective not only on our physical health, but all aspects of our health - including spiritual and emotional health.
Acupuncture is another traditional healing modality. It is a Chinese medical technique used to relieve pain, cure disease, and improve one’s general health. Like Ayurvedic medicine, this practice originated almost 3000 years ago but continues to be a popular method in healing. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is described as a method for balancing the flow of energy, or life force, that flows within our body. It is believed that by injecting needles into precise points along these pathways, your energy flow will re-harmonize. On the contrary, many Western practitioners explain acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue in order to boost your body’s natural painkillers. Acupuncture is primarily used to ease discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, such as lower back and neck pain, menstrual cramps, headaches and migraines. Acupuncture is now well integrated into the Chinese healthcare system and continues to be a popular method of healing worldwide.
It is important to remember that each culture and individual within the culture practices their traditions differently and each trust their own healing processes. What works for someone might not work for another since we are all individually distinct and unique. There is an abundance of traditional healing methods and perspectives available to us, and it is safe to say they all have the same general goal: to connect the mind, body, and soul.