Integrative health care in Israel and traditional arab herbal medicine: when health care interfaces with culture and politics

Med Anthropol Q. 2013 Sep;27(3):368-84. doi: 10.1111/maq.12049. Epub 2013 Oct 8.


This article contributes to contemporary critical debate in medical anthropology concerning medical pluralism and integrative medicine by highlighting the issue of exclusion of traditional medicine (TM) and presenting attempts at border crossing. Although complementary medicine (CM) modalities are integrated into most Israeli mainstream health care organizations, local indigenous TM modalities are not. Ethnographic fieldwork focused on a group of Israeli dual-trained integrative physicians that has recently begun to integrate traditional herbal medicine preferred by the Arab minority, using it as a boundary object to bridge professional gaps between biomedicine, CM, and TM. This article highlights the relevance of political tensions, ethnicity, and medical inequality to the field of integrative health care. It shows that using herbal medicine as a boundary object can overcome barriers and provide opportunities for dialog and reciprocal learning.

Keywords: ethnicity; herbal medicine; integrative medicine; politics.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Medical
  • Arabs*
  • Cultural Diversity
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine*
  • Israel
  • Jews*
  • Medicine, Traditional*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Politics