Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Pathways to Plausibility: When Herbs Become Pills

  • Ayo Wahlberg (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Herbal medicine has long been contrasted to modern medicine in terms of a holistic approach to healing, vitalistic theories of health and illness, and an emphasis on the body’s innate self-healing capacities. At the same time, since the early twentieth century, the cultivation, preparation and mass production of herbal medicines have become increasingly industrialized, scientificized and commercialized. What is more, phytochemical efforts to identify and isolate particular ‘active ingredients’ from whole-plant extracts have intensified, often in response to increasing regulatory scrutiny of the safety and quality of herbal medicinal products. In this article, I examine whether describing these developments in terms of a biomedical ‘colonization’ of herbal medicine, as has been common, allows us to sufficiently account for the mundane collaborative efforts of herbalists, botanists, phytochemists, pharmacologists, toxicologists and clinicians to standardize and develop certain herbal remedies. By focusing on recent efforts to industrialize and scientifically develop a ‘Western’ (St John’s Wort) and a Vietnamese (Heantos) herbal remedy, I suggest that herbal medicine has come to be not so much colonized as normalized, with herbalists, phytochemists and pharmacologists working to develop standardized production procedures, as well as to identify ‘plausible’ explanations for the efficacy of these remedies.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

C.A. Barry (2006). The role of evidence in alternative medicine: Contrasting biomedical and anthropological approaches. Social Science & Medicine, 62(11), 26462657.

V. Butterweck (2003). Mechanism of action of St John’s Wort in depression—What is known? Cns Drugs, 17(8), 539562.

S.S. Chatterjee , S.K. Bhattacharya , M. Wonnemann , A. Singer , & W.E. Muller (1998). Hyperforin as a possible antidepressant component of hypericum extracts. Life Sciences, 63(6), 499510.

P. De Smet , & W. Nolen (1996). St John’s Wort as an antidepressant. British Medical Journal, 313(7052), 241242.

M. Gobbi , & T. Mennini (2005). St John’s Wort and its active principles in depression and anxiety—A critical analysis of receptor binding studies. In W.E. Muller (Ed.), St John’s Wort and its active principles in depression and anxiety. Basel: Birkhauser.

J.W. Harshberger (1896). The purposes of ethnobotany. Botanical Gazette, 21,146154.

T. Jagtenberg , & S. Evans (2003). Global herbal medicine: A critique. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 9(2), 321329.

C.R. Janes (1999). The health transition, global modernity and the crisis of traditional medicine: The Tibetan case. Social Science & Medicine, 48(12), 18031820.

B.D. Kelly (2001). St John’s Wort for depression: What’s the evidence? Hospital Medicine,62(5),274276.

M.G. Kenny (2002). A darker shade of green: Medical botany, homeopathy, and cultural politics in interwar Germany. Social History of Medicine, 15(3), 481504.

J. Kim (2006). Beyond paradigm: Making transcultural connections in a scientific translation of acupuncture. Social Science & Medicine, 62(12), 29602972.

K. Linde , G. Ramirez , C.D. Mulrow , A. Pauls , W. Weidenhammer , & D. Melchart (1996). St John’s Wort for depression—An overview and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. British Medical Journal, 313(7052), 253258.

A. Maelicke , & H. Lubbert (2002). DEPD, a high resolution gene expression profiling technique capable of identifying new drug targets in the central nervous system. Journal of Receptor Signal Transduction Research, 22(1–4),283295.

W.E. Müller (Ed.) (2005). St John’s Wort and its active principles in depression and anxiety. Basel:Birkhäuser.

W.E. Müller , A. Singer , M. Wonnemann , U. Hafner , M. Rolli , & C. Schafer (1998). Hyperforin represents the neurotransmitter reuptake inhibiting constituent of Hypericum extract. Pharmacopsychiatry, 31, 1621.

M. Noldner (2005). Comparative preclinical antidepressant activity of isolated constituents. In W.E. Muller (Ed.) St John’s Wort and its active principles in depression and anxiety. Basel:Birkhauser.

O. Suzuki , Y. Katsumata , M. Oya , S. Bladt , & H. Wagner (1984). Inhibition of monoamine-oxidase by hypericin. Planta Medica, 50 (3), 272274.

O. Suzuki , Y. Katsumata , M. Oya , V. M. Chari , B. Vermes , H. Wagner , & K. Hostettmann (1981). Inhibition of type A and type B monoamine oxidases by naturally occurring xanthones. Planta Medica, 42(1), 1721.

C. Timmermann (2001). Rationalizing ‘folk medicine’ in interwar Germany: Faith, business, and science at ‘Dr. Madaus & Co’. Social History of Medicine, 14(3), 459482.

A. Wahlberg (2008). Above and beyond superstition—Western herbal medicine and the decriminalising of placebo. History of the Human Sciences, 21(1), 77101.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

BioSocieties
  • ISSN: 1745-8552
  • EISSN: 1745-8560
  • URL: /core/journals/biosocieties
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 8 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 71 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.