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Re-presenting herbal medicine as phytotherapy: a strategy of\ud professionalisation through the formation of a 'scientific'\ud medicine

By Edmund VanMarie


Previous research into complementary and alternative medicine has failed to accord each form of alternative medical intervention individual significance. This research\ud considers medical herbalism in Britain and investigates the re-presentation of its knowledge within a scientific framework as a strategy in a process of professionalisation. Data were gathered from herbalists' own statements that provided the answers to how? and why? this occurred. Whilst it is suggested that much science is\ud heavily influenced by its social and cultural enviromnent, the tenacious portrayal of biomedicine as science is taken as accepted orthodoxy. Dolby's model, whereby unorthodox science assumes the features of orthodox science to become accepted as science, is forwarded as an explanation of how herbal medicine has been re-presented as phytotherapy and therefore 'scientific'. The influences of the sociocultural\ud enviromnent and the sociopolitical enviromnent on herbalism's recognition and acceptance by both the state and conventional medicine are suggested as explanations\ud of why phytotherapy has been promoted by some herbalists.\ud \ud It is noted that such transformative measures have not radically affected the professional practice of medical herbalists, nor are they universally welcomed. The anomaly between institutional education of herbalism in terms of phytotherapy and the continuing practice of herbalism as a 'tradition' is noted. The relative identities of practitioners - with a cultural identity - and herbal institutions - with a social identity - is suggested as the explanation for the discontinuity between institutional\ud knowledge and actual practice. It is also argued that medical herbalists have an element of altruism in their practice that is noteworthy beyond an assumed professional service orientation. Herbalists' differences of view regarding the acceptability of promoting phytotherapy as a route to recognition and acceptance appear to be subordinated by fears and anxieties about possible future govermnent legislation and EU harmonisation regulations.\ud \ud \u

Publisher: Division of the History and Philosophy of Science (Leeds)
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:

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