In mid-November I traveled to Cuba to attend a natural medicine conference in the small city of Santa Clara, about three hours southeast of Havana. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to travel in a country I love (I had been there once before in 2000), and to meet doctors and health care specialists who have integrated a wide range of so-called medicina bioenergética into their Western medical system, including acupuncture, homeopathy, flower remedies, osteopathy, iridology, hypnosis, heat therapy, bee venom, and magnets. (The U.S. Department of the Treasury grants a small number of licenses to full-time professionals traveling to Cuba for meetings and conferences.)
"NATUROSALUD 2008: The 7th International Congress of Bioenergetic, Traditional & Natural Medicine" was held at a small convention center in the countryside. There were a hundred participants from Latin America, South America and Spain, and no running water! (We managed somehow.) I was the only person from the U.S.
I had been particularly interested in traveling to Cuba because it is the only Western country that mandates that complementary therapies be a part of every medical school curriculum. Unfortunately, Cuba's "green medicine" was born more from the economic collapse of the early 1990s, when Cuba lost the support of the Soviet Union and access to imported medicine almost overnight, than from any holistic trend. Acupuncture training was first established in military hospitals and the use of herbal medicine increased in rural areas.
Now, all Cubans now have access to acupuncture, homeopathy, physical therapy, and herbal medicine when they need it, and there's a strong chance that these therapies will survive even as Cuba's economy and access to pharmaceuticals hopefully improve in the coming years. All of us in the health professions should learn from this system so that we provide our citizens with a more affordable, preventative and natural approach to quality healthcare, especially in hard times. Ojalá!
Posted by Kristin Ebbert, M.S., L.Ac.