The Archive of Healing Is Now Online: UCLA’s Digital Database Provides Access to Thousands of Traditional & Alternative Healing Methods

Pho­to by Kather­ine Han­lon on Unsplash

Folk med­i­cine is, or should be, anti­thet­i­cal to cap­i­tal­ism, mean­ing it should not be pos­si­ble to trade­mark, copy­right, or oth­er­wise own and sell plants and nat­ur­al reme­dies to which every­one has access. The entire rea­son such prac­tices devel­oped over the course of mil­len­nia was to help com­mu­ni­ties of close affil­i­a­tion sur­vive and thrive, not to fos­ter mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion between com­pa­nies and indi­vid­u­als. The impulse to prof­it from suf­fer­ing has dis­tort­ed what we think of as heal­ing, such that a strict­ly allo­path­ic, or “West­ern,” approach to med­i­cine relies on ethics of exclu­sion, exploita­tion, and out­right harm.

What we tend to think of as mod­ern med­i­cine, the Archive of Heal­ing writes, “is object-ori­ent­ed (phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly dri­ven) and struc­tured by his­tor­i­cal injus­tice against women and peo­ple of col­or.” The Archive, a new dig­i­tal project from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Ange­les, offers “one of the most com­pre­hen­sive data­bas­es of med­i­c­i­nal folk­lore in the world,” Valenti­na Di Lis­cia writes at Hyper­al­ler­gic. “The inter­ac­tive, search­able web­site boasts hun­dreds of thou­sands of entries describ­ing cures, rit­u­als, and heal­ing meth­ods span­ning more than 200 years and sev­en con­ti­nents.”

In coun­tries like the Unit­ed States, where health­care is treat­ed as a scarce com­mod­i­ty mil­lions of peo­ple can­not afford, access to knowl­edge about effec­tive, age-old nat­ur­al wis­dom has become crit­i­cal. There may be no treat­ments for COVID-19 in the data­base, but there are like­ly tra­di­tion­al reme­dies, rit­u­als, prac­tices, treat­ments, oint­ments, etc. for just about every oth­er ill­ness one might encounter. The archive was curat­ed over a peri­od of more than thir­ty years by “a team of researchers at UCLA, work­ing under the direc­tion of Dr. Way­land Hand and then Dr. Michael Owen Jones,” the site notes in its brief his­to­ry.

The mate­r­i­al from the col­lec­tion, which was orig­i­nal­ly called the “archive of tra­di­tion­al med­i­cine,” came from “data on heal­ing from over 3,200 pub­li­ca­tions, six uni­ver­si­ty archives, as well as first-hand and sec­ond-hand infor­ma­tion from anthro­po­log­i­cal and folk­loric field­notes.” In 2016, when Dr. Del­ga­do Short­er took over as direc­tor of the pro­gram, he “reor­ga­nized it with an eye to social shar­ing and allow­ing for users to sub­mit new data and com­ment on exist­ing data,” notes UCLA’s School of the Arts and Archi­tec­ture in an inter­view with Short­er, who describes the project’s aims thus:

The whole goal here is to democ­ra­tize what we think of as heal­ing and knowl­edge about heal­ing and take it across cul­tures in a way that’s respect­ful and gives atten­tion to intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights.

This may seem like a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act, between the schol­ar­ly, the folk­loric, and the realms of rights, remu­ner­a­tion, and social pow­er. The Archive strikes it with an ambi­tious set of tenets you can read here, includ­ing an empha­sis on offer­ing tra­di­tion­al and Indige­nous heal­ing prac­tices “out­side of often expen­sive allo­path­ic and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal approach­es, and not as alter­na­tives but as com­ple­men­tary modal­i­ties.”

The archive states as one of its the­o­ret­i­cal bases that health should be treat­ed “as a social goal with social meth­ods that affirm rela­tion­al­i­ty and kin­ship.” Those wish­ing to get involved with the Archive as part­ners or advi­so­ry board mem­bers can learn how at their About page, which also fea­tures the fol­low­ing dis­claimer: “State­ments made on this web­site have not been eval­u­at­ed by the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion. The infor­ma­tion con­tained here­in is not intend­ed to diag­nose, treat, cure or pre­vent any dis­ease.” Use the infor­ma­tion wise­ly, at your own risk, in oth­er words.

To use the Archive of Heal­ing, you will need to reg­is­ter with the site first.

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

The Illus­trat­ed Med­i­c­i­nal Plant Map of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca (1932): Down­load It in High Res­o­lu­tion

Down­load 100,000+ Images From The His­to­ry of Med­i­cine, All Free Cour­tesy of The Well­come Library

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.