Becoming A Traditional Medicinal Plant Healer: Divergent Views of Practicing and Young Healers on Traditional Medicinal Plant Knowledge Skills in India

Shailesh Shukla, A. John Sinclair


Traditional medicinal plant knowledge (TMK) helps meet the health needs of a large section of the world’s population, especially socially and economically disadvantaged and aboriginal communities of developing countries like India. However, there is little known about TMK skills and their intergenerational transfer and growing concerns over the erosion of TMK within these communities. Through in-depth interviews with 33 practicing village healers from two remote and economically poor villages of Western India, we identified a set of ten crucial TMK skills and their relative importance. We then interviewed 27 young budding healers from the same villages to establish their views on crucial TMK skills. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the differences in importance that old and young healers attach to TMK skills. We found that old and young healers significantly differ on ascribing importance to five crucial TMK skills, including: interest, identification, rare plants, consultation and harvesting. It was discovered that such differences in perception of old and young healers about critical TMK skills can be attributed to lack of interest by young healers in learning some TMK skills, complexity of the skills, incomplete transmission (due to stricter adherence to transmission rules by old healers) and the impact of formal schooling and modern medicines in generating negative values among young healers towards learning new TMK skills. 

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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