Chinese Herbalist advertising in 1924

Came across this little curiousity in the West Gippsland times of 1924:

chinese herbalists in 1924

two Chinese herbalists (they probably couldn’t call themselves apothecaries) advertising to the white anglo population in rural Victoria.

And of course the obvious question is how much use was made of Chinese medicine as opposed to western medicine in the 1920’s ?

This is quite an interesting question because in the nineteenth century, the reliance of western pharmacy on herbal based cures was marked, and many of the common patent medicines sold were essentially packaged versions of traditional herbal cures.

A little digging suggests that in the 1870’s some Chines practitioners in Ballarat sought to have their Chinese qualifications recognised, but the was rejected by the Medical Board at the time meaning they had to describe themselves as herbalists.

There’s also some evidence that this refusal was as a result of racism and a failure of the western practitioners to recognise that Chinese practitioners had undertaken a rigorous course of study.

However, most people couldn’t afford doctors.

They would often buy a preparation, or a patent medicine, based on a recommendation by the pharmacist as still happens in some countries today.

And having seen Chinese miners go to a Chinese herbalist when they were sick (distrust goes both ways) they seem to have been happy to try Chinese medicine if all else failed.

And the adoption of Chinese medicine seems a reasonably widespread phenomenon in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Australia – a search of the digitised newspaper collection on Trove turns up over a hundred thousand references.

Using querypic shows a sustianed interest over our period with a peak in the second decade of the twentieth century:

chart (1)

perhaps as a result of a reduced availability of western preparations during the first world war …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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