Herbs and Roots: A History of Chinese Doctors in the American Medical Marketplace

Yale Univ. Nov. 2019. 368p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780300243611. $37.50. MED
The practice of Chinese medicine in America dates back to the 19th century, and increased with the arrival of immigrants during California’s gold rush, explains Shelton (history, Claremont McKenna Coll.; A Squatter’s Republic). Even in colonial times, says the author, Americans prized land rich with wild ginseng because they knew the root could be profitably exported to China. Practitioners initially served the Chinese American community, but after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 limited their customer base, they worked to expand their market to other ethnic groups. Interest in Chinese medicine declined after World War II, but grew again in the 1970s, in part because reporter Jacob Reston received acupuncture treatments when covering Richard Nixon’s trip to Beijing. The author writes vividly about the ways Chinese medical doctors and herbalists navigated negative stereotypes and challenges from the medical professional community.
VERDICT Recommended for readers curious about Chinese American history or the history of alternative medicine in the United States.
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