Tarahumara Medicine: Ethnobotany and Healing among the Raramuri of Mexico


Tarahumara Medicine: Ethnobotany and Healing among the Raramuri of Mexico Author: Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: University of Oklahoma Press Pages: 416 Illustrations and other contents: 22 black & white illustrations, 3 maps, 4 table Language: English ISBN: 9780806143620 Categories: , , , , , ,

The Tarahumara, one of North America’s oldest surviving aboriginal groups, call themselves Raramuri, meaning “”nimble feet”” – and though they live in relative isolation in Chihuahua, Mexico, their agility in long-distance running is famous worldwide. Tarahumara Medicine is the first in-depth look into the culture that sustains the “”great runners.”” Having spent a decade in Tarahumara communities, initially as a medical student and eventually as a physician and cultural observer, author Fructuoso Irigoyen-Rascon is uniquely qualified as a guide to the Raramuri’s approach to medicine and healing. In developing their healing practices, the Tarahumaras interlaced religious lore, magic, and careful observations of nature. Irigoyen-Rascon thoroughly situates readers in the Raramuri’s environment, describing not only their health and nutrition but also the mountains and rivers surrounding them and key aspects of their culture, from long-distance kick-ball races to corn beer celebrations and religious dances. He describes the Tarahumaras’ curing ceremonies, including their ritual use of peyote, and provides a comprehensive description of Tarahumara traditional herbal remedies, including their botanical characteristics, attributed effects, and uses. To show what these practices – and the underlying concepts of health and disease – might mean to the Raramuri and to the observer, Irigoyen-Rascon explores his subject from both an outsider and an insider (indigenous) perspective. Through his balanced approach, Irigoyen-Rascon brings to light relationships between the Raramuri healing system and conventional medicine, and adds significantly to our knowledge of indigenous American therapeutic practices. As the most complete account of Tarahumara culture ever written, Tarahumara Medicine grants readers access to a world rarely seen – at once richly different from and inextricably connected with the ideas and practices of Western medicine.

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In Tarahumara Medicine, Fructuoso Irigoyen-Rascon reveals, for the first time in a single volume, the complex healing system of the Raramuri of northwestern Mexico. He provides firsthand information on Raramuri concepts of illness, healing, and the soul, and a comprehensive ethnobotanical guide to medicinal plant use. This thorough, readable volume belongs in every library and collection devoted to the Raramuri or to the indigenous peoples of Mexico, American Indians, American Indian medicine, or American Indian ethnobotany."" - Enrique Salmon, author of Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience Having lived and worked as a medical student and physician among the Raramuri, psychiatrist Irigoyen-Rascon learned the language and recorded the Raramuri's conceptions of medicine and healing practices, detailing herbal cures, rituals, and conceptions of disease. To contextualize the ethnographic data in this in-depth description of Tarahumara healing practices, the author offers a description of Tarahumara ecological habitat and a historical overview, emphasizing aspects of cultural contact and change. After situating the Tarahumara historically and culturally, Irigoyen-Rascon describes their curing ceremonies and offers a comprehensive ethnographic account of Raramuri traditional herbal remedies, including their botanical characteristics, properties, attributed effects, and uses. The healing practices are a blend of religious lore, magic, and careful observations of nature. To fully explore healing, the author uses an emic and etic approach to examine the relationship between Tarahumara healing systems and conventional medicine, noting that traditional healing reinforces tribal social cohesion and cultural identity. Irigoyen-Rascon closes with a summary of medical and epidemiological information of current health needs among Tarahumara communities. A powerful piece offering ethnographic data about Raramuri health conceptions and medicinal plant use. - Choice

Author Biography

Fructuoso Irigoyen-Rascon is a psychiatrist in McAllen, Texas. A former researcher at universities in Mexico and the United States, he has written extensively about Raramuri ethnography and medical conditions. Alfonso Paredes is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California-Los Angeles and author of more than 100 medical papers, including several on the Tarahumara.