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New Book Alert: Traditional Medicine in the Colonial Philippines, 16th to the 19th Century

Written by UP Asian Center on . Posted in The Asian Center Blog

Cover grabbed from the Facebook page of UP Press. The UP Press Post about the book can be viewed here.


A new book, Traditional Medicine in the Colonial Philippines, 16th to the 19th Century, by Merce Planta, PhD has been published by the University of the Philippines Press. It is available at the UP Press Bookstore for PhP 400.

About the Book

"From the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, Spanish missionaries collected, studied, and made records of Philippine medicinal plants and herbs that Filipino traditional medical practitioners or herbolarios had been prescribing since the precolonial period. Because the herbolarios left no writings about their practices, the missionaries’ works are our primary sources for studying Filipino traditional medicine.

Based on these works, Traditional Medicine in the Colonial Philippines, 16th to the 19th Century by [Dr. Planta] gives us an intimate and dense portrait of a defined medical tradition, and so, documents an important component of ways of life and epistemologies that Filipinos can recuperate and benefit from. Today, when access to health and medical care remains beyond the reach of most Filipinos, Planta’s lively and scholarly invitation to reflect on a particular aspect of Philippine culture and harness its potential is a triumph of history as “usable past.” - Blurb, Back Cover

"[This book] examines Filipino ideas and practices of health through traditional medicine, emphasizing the use of therapeutic local plants and herbs, and explores how traditional medicine laid one of the fundamental bases for the beginnings of public health in the Philippines. It is also an exposition on the development of medicine in the Philippines that shows how historical processes have shaped ways of life that have led to generational continuities as well as differences in Filipino medical beliefs and practices…" (Planta 2017, xix).

Parts of Dr. Planta’s book were presented in a lecture, Philippine Traditional Medicine in the Spanish Enlightenment, 18th and 19th Centuries, which was held last 26 October 2016 at the UP Asian Center. The book will be launched on 14 July 2017 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines. 

About the Author

Dr. Merce Planta is Associate Professor of History at the Department of History, University of the Philippines, Diliman. She obtained her PhD (History) from the National University of Singapore. Dr. Planta is also a Faculty Affiliate of the Science and Society Program (SSP) of the College of Science, University of the Philippines, Diliman. The Editor in Chief of Social Science Diliman: A Philippine Journal of Society and Change (SSD), Mercedes Planta is a trained Southeast Asianist who works on the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) in Colonial Southeast Asia, particularly Spanish and American Philippines, British Malaya, and Dutch Indonesia. Her current research examines the development of modern medicine in American Philippines, British Malaya, and Dutch Indonesia. 


The UP Asian Center offers M.A. programs in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D. program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Get an overview of these programs. The Asian Center also houses a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia. It has published several books and monographs, and hosts or organizes various lectures and conferences.  

Lectures @ UP Asian Center (SS)