Traditional Medicine Defined by the World Health Organization

Traditional medicine (TM):

Traditional medicine has a long history. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skill, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness.


For the purposes of this Convention,
1. The ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments,
as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.
2. The ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’, as defined in paragraph 1 above, is manifested inter alia in the following domains:
(a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
(b) performing arts;
(c) social practices, rituals and festive events;
(d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
(e) traditional craftsmanship.

Other Materials



WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy (2014-2023)

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File Type : PDF



Basic texts of the 2003 Convention