The Wisdom of Indigenous Healers in Cancer Treatment

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Siriratana Juntaramano
Janerawee Swangareeruk


Thai indigenous healers’ role in the treatment of cancer used to be the final alternative chosen by the patient. However, currently there is a decline in the number of such healers as they are mostly older and have no more learners to conserve such practices. The objective of this qualitative research (case study) was to identify indigenous wisdom, herbs and herbal recipes used in cancer treatment. Four indigenous healers or participants were selected from the four-region registry of such healers using three steps: cluster sampling, purposive sampling and case-specific method. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with all the four participants as well as field observations, note-taking, tape-recordings and photographing. The content was analyzed and reports were sent to all the participants for review and revision to the extent they could disclose. The study reveals that all of their cancer treatments with indigenous knowledge have been passed down from their ancestors or deceased teachers, through a person-to-person teaching or learning approach without any text, or their own sixth sense and experiences. Their forms of herbal therapies are decoction and tablets in combination with supernatural approaches consisting of prayers and rituals including paying respects to their teachers (before rendering treatment), or wai khru, which is held annually. They receive teacher’s fees, but must not ask for any treatment fees. Seven herbal recipes have been found, primarily comprised hua khao-yen-nuea and hua khao-yen-tai herbs, as well as local vegetables. The patient must not consume any prohibited food, but they have to follow holistic health-care and Thai traditional medical principles guided by the indigenous healer in a friendly manner. Such practices have been accepted as part of community lifestyle under a health paradigm. However, each of such cancer treatment recipes should be analyzed and have their botanical characteristics as well as local and scientific names identified or compared. And the therapies should be further developed for clinical research in the future.


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