One of the biggest problems in America is the rising cost of health care and the lack of adequate medical insurance. The total amount of people in America without health insurance is quite shocking. In 1984 the combined total of all groups without insurance was approximately 78% of the population and in 2004 was around 69% (1) (Laurer & Laurer, 2008, p 387). From the text and the table, we can clearly see that there are clear signs of "racial/ethnic disparities in coverage"(2) (Laurer & Laurer, 2008, p. 387)
Early medicine in America was influenced by men such as Samuel Thompson, a herbalist who lived from "1769-1843 in Boston, Massachusetts" (3) (Wikipedia). When the early settlers and Puritans came from England in the 1600s after 500 years of struggle with the Monarchy, they brought with them Culpeper's Herbal, which was written by a renowned Herbalist and Astrologer, Nicholas Culpeper, who lived in East London. Of course, the Astrological material was edited out, due to Christianity of that day, which seems to persist today. Many Americans consulted Thompson, rather than drug doctors who used such things as "mercury, arsenic, strychnine, antimony, salt peter (potassium nitrate) which is used to make gunpowder, and opium"- (4) (Wikipedia)
These early physicians who did not choose to follow Astrology or the Art of Decumbiture [from Latin "Decumb" which means to fall ill] were called drug doctors while the herbalists were called quacks and piss prophets. The term quack actually comes from the word quicksilver and refers to the so called early drug doctors and piss prophets refers to those who drew the astrological figure or a sick person, his urine being brought to the physician at that moment in time to represent part of his body.
Naturally, as the advancement of science and the age of reason took hold, herbalists were laughed at and scorned. Men like Galen did not follow decumbiture or astrological methods of diagnosis; however, he was an excellent herbalist. Prophets and prophecy have been refuted and debated since the days of Cicero and Julius Caesar.
In Thompson's day, people would consult herbalists more often than ordinary physicians and his work "influenced more professional medicine."(7) (Wikipedia). The reason this did not happen in England was because during the medieval period of England, King Henry VIII passed a law which forbade doctors from persecuting herbalists. That law is still with England today and Homeopathy flourishes at such places as The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital. Despite its success in treating terminal cancer patients discarded by mainstream physicians, a hospital supported by Queen Elizabeth II who has been instrumental in the hospital's survival, and despite continuing complaints from mainstream medicine, the hospital is still successful. Herbal medicine is regulated by groups such as The National Institute of Medical Herbalists and malpractice insurance can be purchased by homeopaths and herbalists alike. Indeed Rockefeller found "oil more profitable than herbal medicine"(8) (Nelson Rockefeller, Chapter 2, Edward Jay Epstein, paragraph 2).
In America however, we cannot just blame Rockefeller for the problems that surround herbal medicine. At the end of the 19th century, herbal medicine was already in its decline, as more profit was found in drugs due to America's industrial revolution. This period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries resulted in major changes in "agriculture, manufacturing, and production"(9) (Wikipedia). Furthermore, men such as Carnegie preferred research into scientific medicines and "in 1910 appointed Abraham Flexner to complete the Flexner report" which had a "devastating" effect on herbal medicine and its practice. "The AMA was founded in 1847" and only "scientific medicines" would be funded and researched (10) "Chanchal Cabrera The History of Western Herbal Medicine." Herbalists in America had to take a "back seat"
Although herbal medicine has gained popularity in modern America, it is still under the threat of agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration. For example, recently, a couple who is marketing herbal medicines on their website, with testimonials, were recently told to "cease and desist" by the FDA (11) (Portsmouth Rhode Island, Sept 10, 2008, Jennifer Toone Corrigan, In Toone Communication). Personally, I have found more people in New Hampshire to be fond of herbal medicine in comparison to the rest of the country. It has been stated that "The Rockefellers own the largest drug manufacturing combine in the world....."(12) (Potshot, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Modern drugs and medicines do have a place in society at combating disease, but the cost far outweighs the ability of many people to afford such medicines without adequate health coverage. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina a meeting was convened. It was stated that: "prevention is going to have to be a major part of the solution for our community's health care crisis" (13) (Proquest library). These people at this seminar met, primarily to discuss obesity. I have found this to be a problem in America and in Asia where a western diet, high in simple carbohydrates, are introduced. In fact, it is cheaper to eat pasta than other foods. Pasta, such as spaghetti, pizza, and other carbohydrates such as French fries play a major role in weight gain and appetite satisfaction. Substitutes such as brown, red or black rice could be introduced, but a daily diet of these foods may be costly to many and is usually not part of the western diet,
Part of the reason for the inability of people to afford adequate health care and proper food for one's diet is due to wage disparity which affects many from different genders, races and ethnic groups. Gender means to be male or female in society (14) (Laurer & Laurer, 2008, page 188). "Race is used to distinguish different groups of people from each other due to their origin in a particular part of the world."(15) (Laurer & Laurer, 2008, p. 22). Ethnicity is closely tied to race, however, these terms do not appear to be tied to purely biological differences, but appear to be tied not only to ethnic traits, but to background, allegiance and association. A perfect example are minority Russians, who are citizens of China in Beijing.
(16) www.dictionary.com (Ethnicity defined).
My suspicion is that if we can overcome wage disparity and poverty in society, we might also be able to answer some of the health issues. However, that would also mean a diet and reeducation and teach one to explain that safe, regulated herbal medicines are to be thought of as foods, instead of just medicines as is the tradition in China.
"The US has one of the highest rates of poverty among the rich, industrial nations of the world" (18) (Smeeding, 2005, Laurer & Laurer, 2008, page 160). The entire way of thinking of most Americans regarding the "American dream", taxation and wealth distribution would have to be changed to overcome this problem. The Lauer & Laurer text suggests it must involve "personal experience" (19) (Laurer & Laurer, 2008, page 171).