Natural medicine has been used for thousands of years from essential oils, to roots and leaves, and shaman healers who question all aspects of life. Modern medicine has changed how we view the body and its components with its “take a pill” culture for almost every ailment, therefore overall health has plummeted because many have forgotten to inquire about the source of our problems; food, environment, and stress. As people are returning to a state of awareness, more are turning to natural medicine as a less toxic option and more reliable source of health which complements conventional medicine.
The second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Nicaragua, supports the use of natural medicine and has interwoven it with their national health system. Since 2011 I have been visiting and working in Nicaragua during the summer while on break from graduate school in New Mexico for Public Health and Social Work. Throughout this time I continue to see a growth in natural health stores, acupuncture clinics, healing centers, yoga centers, and massage centers throughout the larger cities, even some near churches. In the rural country most would rely on available plants for health concerns they could easily treat, such as sore throats, burns, etc. They also depended on local healers to treat broken or sprained bones, much more than local doctors as they were not always available. With health care costs also rising and limited money, the people are returning to their backyards to scour plants and trees that offer healing options rather than relying on modern medicine.
Natural Medicine Law
In April 2014 the Nicaraguan government passed the Law 774, “Ley de medicina natural, terapias, complementarias y productos naturales en Nicaragua” (Natural Medicine, therapies, complementary and natural products in Nicaragua). This law addresses the value of natural medicine and therapies as techniques used by the locals for healing, especially as it has been embraced by the culture for many years. The law then considers it part of the National System of Health. As part of this National System, the law then identifies the need of the Ministerios (Government departments) of Health, Education, and, Environment to work together to ensure the people, plants, and environment are protected and safe.
As I spoke with numerous natural health practitioners and locals during a recent visit to Nicaragua, they all agreed that it was a wonderful step forward, although putting it into practice had yet to be seen. However, there are programs in place and more are coming to fruition which bring natural healers into public hospitals and offer acupuncture and Reiki, among others. In Managua (the capital) there are public universities offering natural medicine courses and there is one school teaching Eastern Medicine to Nicaraguans.
Public Health Practice
Natural medicine is the use of natural products, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics, and mind and body practices. (NIH, 2015). The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) summarizes the definition of complementary medicine is when natural medicine is used in conjunction with conventional medicine, can also be called integrative care. (NIH, 2015).
As we come into contact with clients and patients from Central and South America, it is important to discuss their knowledge of natural medicine for they may not be comfortable talking about it or are unable to with their health practitioners. Natural Medicine can be used in complementary ways with conventional medicine yet only if the doctor is sure that it will not impact their current medicine use.
Nicaragua’s a model country as they are embracing natural medicine and ensuring the numerous Ministerios promote their use in a safe and educational process. Complementary medicine involves bridging the gap between cultures and modern medicine by finding the source of the ailments and teaching people how to heal from those sources rather than mask the symptoms with medicine or techniques that are foreign to them and they do not know how to use. By asking our clients/patients what have they used in the past to treat symptoms and how was it useful can assist in understanding how open they are to conventional or complementary practices.
What natural medicine techniques have you brought from your country of origin or that you use here in the United States?
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(2014). Reglamento de la Ley No.774 “Ley de Medicina Natural, Therapies, Complementary Therapies, and Natural Products in Nicaragua.”http://legislacion.asamblea.gob.ni/normaweb.nsf/b92aaea87dac762406257265005d21f7/dd7cde1b9616253a06257cf4004ca2eb?OpenDocument
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2015). Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/integrative-health
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