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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1988 ; 27(8): 751-9.

To strengthen and refresh: herbal therapy in Southeast Asia.

Van Esterik P.

Department of Anthropology, York University, Ontario, Canada.

Throughout Southeast Asia herbal tonic drinks are a long established part of the health adaptation system of both rural and urban households. A recent study on infant feeding practices in urban poor households revealed a differential use of postpartum herbal tonics in Bangkok, Thailand and Semarang, Indonesia. This paper explores the cultural meaning of this difference between comparable groups of mothers, focussing on the colonial and neocolonial development of the medical systems, the transmission of knowledge about herbal therapies, and how the tonics fit into the food-drug classification system in both countries.

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