Evidence Based Traditional Medicine: For Whom and to What End?


  • Maarten Bode University of Amsterdam
  • Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana United Nations University - Institute of Advanced Studies, Yokohama


Like any form of knowledge traditional medicine (TRM) is constantly asserted, debated, reformulated and rearticulated. Scientific evidence is increasingly becoming a challenge for the integration of traditional medicine (TRM) in health care. At the same time even proof for the effectiveness of the well-established medicines of India and China is meager. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that the project of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and its epitome the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) are biomedically centred and therefore tied up with power relations. Whole Systems Research and a participatory approach to medical effectiveness are suggested as methodologies for (im-)proving the quality of TRM. After all, seen from the perspective of patients and their social network the effectiveness of medical treatments is a local and private phenomenon. Traditional medicines and treatments are actively used for generations. Their evaluation therefore need not begin in state of the art research laboratories but can be initiated from the clinical side. To provide health security to people with limited financial means we need innovative and transdisciplinary perspectives on medical efficacy. For our critical discussion on the worth of TRM India and Ayurveda provide the context.