Cultural dimensions of hot, cold and sema in Sinhalese health culture

Mark Nichter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Attention is focused on those for whom hot/cold and phlegm constitute special health concerns in Sri Lanka. A distinction is drawn between those at special risk to hot/cold and phlegm based on a sense of constitutional vulnerability and those at risk due to temporary illness or expected changes in physiological process. Socialization of the former risk group is considered in light of social labeling theory, while the health behavior of the latter group is highlighted. It is pointed out that a wide range of behavior from folk dietetics to bathing and from water boiling to the taking of birth control pills is influenced by hot/cold reasoning. It is emphasized that the hot/cold conceptual framework serves an integrative function in the traditional health care arena and provides a rationale for participatory action in a health culture undergoing rapid medicalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-387
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1987


  • Sri Lanka
  • folk dietetics
  • social labeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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