Journal Article

Self-Medication and the Trade in Medicine within a Multi-Ethnic Context: A Case Study of South Africa from the Mid-Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Centuries

Anne Digby

in Social History of Medicine

Published on behalf of Society for the Social History of Medicine

Volume 18, issue 3, pages 439-457
Published in print December 2005 | ISSN: 0951-631X
Published online December 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-4666 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/shm/hki045
Self-Medication and the Trade in Medicine within a Multi-Ethnic Context: A Case Study of South Africa from the Mid-Nineteenth to Mid-Twentieth Centuries

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The article analyses the distinctive experience of self-medication in South Africa, where the preferences of racial and ethnic groups structured a differentiated consumption of herbs, home and folk remedies, patent and proprietary medicines, and pharmaceuticals. Also examined are the interlocking agencies of missionaries, traders, storekeepers and pharmacists in the creation of regional diversity within an evolving medical market. The article indicates that sufferers developed hybrid and plural forms of self-medication that were historically and culturally variable as a result of natural and manufactured products becoming increasingly accessible and affordable. These provided attractive substitutes and/or complements to the medicines of both ‘western’ and traditional doctors.

Keywords: South Africa; self-medication; medical pluralism; medical market; missionary; pharmacist; patent medicine; herb trade

Journal Article.  9073 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History ; History of Medicine

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