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October 2021

Med Anthropol Q. 1998 Jun; 12(2): 206-25.

Science, nature, and tradition: the mass-marketing of natural medicine in urban Ecuador.

Miles A.

Department of Anthropology, Western Michigan University, USA.

In the past 15 years, "natural" medicine has become increasingly popular in the southern Ecuadoran city of Cuenca. Natural medicine products, which are distinct from traditional herbal remedies, are commercially packaged and processed and sold in a number of retail outlets in the central shopping district. This article discusses the results of field research to determine the client base of natural medicine and the reasons for its growing popularity among the poorer classes in Ecuador. Using an interpretative framework that posits that medical products carry symbolic messages, I discuss the ways in which important themes of modern life in Ecuador are played out in the packaging and marketing of these products. This research supports the growing body of literature that argues against a medical-systems approach to analyzing medical plurality by highlighting the multiple ideologies found in Ecuadoran beliefs about commercial natural medicine.


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