It sounds so simple to say that we can learn so much from indigenous people and that we should implement their medicines into our pharmaceuticals today. However, when it comes down to it, a few problems arise when you discuss bringing traditional cures and medicines into industrial nations. Between supporting Shamanistic knowledge, whether corporations must pay royalties and who would be held liable in lawsuits, the task that sounds so simple becomes quite complex.
Shamans have found many treatments for things that we as a “civilized” nation have not discovered. Plotkin talked about some Shaman that he interacted with about herpes and they revealed their cure. While one suggested using 4 plants and another 5, one “secret” Shaman listed off eighteen plants to use. As for diabetes, a Shaman put together a “potion” and dropped a ladies blood pressure significantly. As Plotkin explains, there is not a physician alive that could do this in a modern society. This shows that there is some diversity and knowledge in the Shamans and that we could learn a lot by continuing to support what they know.
So if we were to take this information from the Shaman, would the corporations who produce the new medicines be expected to pay royalties to the Shamans? One view is that Shamans do not “own” these methods, but rather they are “custodians of the community’s information storehouse”. When discussing ownership of ideas and knowledge, it is an element of North Atlantic cultures, not Third World ones. I have to agree with this, as, if the Shaman have already shared their remedies with people like Plotkin; they have done so without asking for any monetary supplement in return. As I read in Cox and Balick’s article, many cultures care more about protecting the rainforests around them than receiving money. Therefore, many researchers focus on keeping them safe in return for what they are being taught.
In the event that somebody had a terrible reaction to a...