Documenting Traditional Medicine - Reality and Approaches
Dr. Mohammad Al-Attar
Doctor, PhD in Arab Medicine - Bahrain
Traditional medicine, in its various forms, receives remarkable attention all over the world, at both official and social levels. Various traditional types of medicine are taught in international universities, and their students graduate to become practitioners whose work is recognized. However, amongst the types of traditional medicine taught, Arab medicine is unfortunately excluded, and often not welcomed by its own people.
Mustafa Al-Jad wrote once, “Is there a conspiracy committed against documenting our Arab heritage? I cannot find a single justification that prevents us from having a unified Arab archive of our Arab traditional heritage. Heritage documentation is moving forward all over the world, but when the Arab community moves a step forward, it is faced with obstacles that hinder it from achieving progress.”
Several international societies are very active and issue dozens of prestigious international periodicals that are specialized in the documentation of traditional medicine. Among those are the International Society for Ethno Pharmacology, at the College of Pharmacy at Graz University in Australia, the Italo-Latin American Society of Ethno Medicine at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the Salerno University in Italy, the International Society of Ethno Biology (which is active in more than 70 countries), and many other societies and research centres. Not to mention the dozens of others interested in the clinical aspects of traditional medicine.
We should know where we stand. I do not think that we face many problems in terms of the approach or concepts, nor do political borders form an obstacle to the documentation of Arab science in this age of digital revolution that has demolished borders. It is no longer difficult to build bridges regardless of politics. We need to have a project for researchers. At the very least its goals should include:
- Documenting medical heritage in a decentralized way by the specialized research centres in all our Arab countries, so that each of them has free access to common databases;
- Promoting "popular participation" in scientific research, according to the methods previously tested under the title Citizen Science, where amateur researchers undertake the most costly stages of research, which is collecting data and sending them to the common database mentioned above, or available in an open source in any other manner.
- Allocating part of the scientific research support for Arab medicine and all its branches, as well as allocating publishing priorities for research related to Arab medicine in the medical and pharmaceutical journals, journals related to life sciences and agriculture, and those concerned with human aspects such as culture.
Will we, one day, witness an Arab renaissance that will spread the treasures of our prosperous Arab civilization? We hope that we will.