During October, we had the chance to visit the Amazon to learn more about traditional medicine. Specifically, we visited Tena and Puyo.
This excursion was very special because we had the chance to learn more about the philosophy behind the medicinal practices in the Ecuadorian Amazonian Region.
Biomedicine (western medicine as we know it) is focused on the physical parts of health that we can observe and measure. This means that biomedicine operates under a strictly scientific paradigm.
Traditional medicine acknowledges the physical, but also postulates that there is more to health than that just of physical wellbeing. Part of practicing traditional medicine in the amazon has to do with realizing that we are not just a part of nature, we are nature. And nature can be experienced in very different ways, not just simply thinking at it, but rather being in it. We visited three different traditional medicine centers and they all gave us a glimpse about how medicine is practiced through centuries.
Being part of nature means being in a certain balance with your surroundings. The Amazonia region has some of the lowest chronic modern disease rates in the country. This correlates with their daily lifestyle – walking is more abundant, food is organic and non-processed, and other factors weigh in to produce a healthier way of life.
This is not to say there are no health problems. The people still suffer from infectious diseases and diseases related to social determinants of health. Specifically lack of education and lower socioeconomic status. This is no coincidence, nor is it a choice. Much of the structural and systemic issues of the government affect different populations.
Having to experience more of the local’s lifestyles, we had the chance to walk through the jungle to learn more about the biodiversity. The beauty that lies in the amazon is undeniable.
Overall, it was a very philosophical experience while still learning about health and public health. This statement captures the essence of the Amazonian experience. Nature is not simply uniform nor independent from humans. By immersing ourselves into the amazon, we experienced a different perspective of nature, health, and life in general.