01 Nov 2020

Traditional Medicine, Episode Fourteen

Here in episode fourteen, we discuss how traditional medicine is a solid approach to providing better quality and access to health care for Indigenous and rural communities, especially during the ongoing pandemic in Mexico and across the Global South. This follows on episode thirteen when we discussed Mexico’s elections in 2020, how they are ground zero for learning their impact during the pandemic.


Although there have been improvements in the health indicators of Indigenous people over the past few decades, it is shown that there is still a disparity between access to quality health care for Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals.  COVID-19 only exacerbates this reality. UNESCO Mexico takes steps to address this disparity, but Indigenous communities continue to be deeply affected by the pandemic. Traditional medicine is an effective tool for healthcare during pandemic eras in which we find ourselves.

Traditional Medicine

According to the World Health Organization, traditional medicine is “the sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness”.

This knowledge has been organized in a vision of the world (Cosmovision) that emphasizes the totality of things, the relationship of people and living beings with nature, divinities, the cosmos, and the balance between different elements and concepts, that are physically manifested in the body with processes of cold or heat. In a complex existing system of health care, traditional medicine configures its own model: (1) a list of classification of diseases that emphasizes the body balance and the vital force of individuals, (2) complex diagnostic procedures that obey the same rationality, and (3) a broad set of therapeutic procedures that seek the restoration of the lost balance in the person as well as with the social, natural, and divine forces in which it moves. This system has organized coherent proposals to interpret the relationships of human groups in their daily activities, their field of work, and the production of their material satisfiers, as well as social, religious, and health activities.

Possible Benefits

• The use of Traditional Medicine is recognized by the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States and the General Law of Health and at the international level by the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, and the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization.

• Some see traditional medicine as a key for having universal health care, particularly for marginalized populations.

• Traditional Medicine offers different types of contributions to health care, such as a humanized and integral attention to the person, which considers mind, body, and spirit – with emphasis on collectivity and balance in the relationships between human beings and between them and nature. In addition, it allows specific diagnostic procedures and therapeutic resources based on plants, animals and minerals, traditional massages, and temescal. Other elements with important contributions are the traditional model of childbirth care, the traditional model of care for mental illnesses, and different strategies to prevent disease and promote health, based on respect for the essential laws of life and nature.

• Health services possess a series of socially recognized strengths and advantages. However, they manifest different gaps and weaknesses that can be strengthened with the proven contributions of traditional medicine, as in the case of the techniques and knowledge of indigenous midwives in the care of childbirth in the vertical position.

PSYDEH shares this information to neither provide medical advice nor advocate for or against traditional medicine, but to share varying perspectives.


PSYDEH is a non-profit civil association, which was formed by the initiative of a group of young women from the municipality of Santiago Tulantepec in the State of Hidalgo. PSYDEH is committed to working with and for the most vulnerable communities in the region through the promotion of a Sustainable Human Development.