CHSSC December Meeting- Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Marketplace
Join us for our December meeting on December 2 via Zoom. The presentation chronicles 200 years of Chinese medicine as a dynamic system of medicine brought to the U.S. and its transformation by immigrants, doctors, patients, scientists, and merchants.
Tamara Venit-Shelton is an associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College where she teaches courses on the American West, Asian American history, environmental history, and the history of medicine. She is the author of two books: A Squatter’s Republic: Land and the Politics of Monopoly in California, 1850-1900 (University of California Press, 2013) and Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Medical Marketplace (Yale University Press, 2019), which won the 2020 Phi Alpha Theta Award for Best Book.
Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Medical Marketplace chronicles roughly two hundred years of Chinese medicine as a dynamic system of knowledge, therapies, and materia medica brought to the United States and transformed by immigrants, doctors, and patients as well as missionaries, scientists, and merchants. Chinese medicine has a long history in the United States, dating back to its colonial period and extending up to the present. Well before mass emigration from China to the United States began, Chinese materia medica crossed the oceans, in both directions: Chinese medicinal teas and herbs came west while Appalachian ginseng went east. Beginning in the 1850s, Chinese immigrants came to the United States and transplanted their health practices, sometimes quite literally by propagating medicinal plants in their adopted home. Chinese doctors established businesses that catered to both Chinese and non-Chinese patients. They struggled during the Great Depression and World War II, but conditions that seemed to precipitate the decline of Chinese medicine in the United States in fact laid the foundations for its rediscovery in the 1970s. Over time, Chinese medicine – along with other medical knowledge systems deemed “irregular,” “alternative,” or “unorthodox” – both facilitated and undermined the consolidation of medical authority among formally trained western-style medical scientists.