Posted by: cochinblogger | September 7, 2010

The Enigma That Is Traditional Medicine

My father often relates the true story of a relative in the 1930s who complained of pain in the leg and went to Madras Medical College hospital. There, sarcoma was diagnosed, and amputation of both legs was thought to be the only treatment. However, the patient was unwilling to part with his legs, and returned to Kerala, where he consulted a famous vaidyan hailing from the hamlet of Uloor, near Trichur. Unbelievably, the vaidyan cured the patient without severing his legs. Part of the treatment involved cutting a fish of a particular species in half and wrapping the two halves around the legs. The modern doctors among our relatives refuse to take this anecdote seriously. Yet, the anecdotal evidence keeps piling up.

Here is an eerily similar anecdote, this time from a book called Prevent, Treat, and Reverse Diabetes by C. Leigh Broadhurst:

About 25 years ago a woman suffering from serious diabetes and kidney disease decided to spend her final days traveling, opting against the amputation her doctors recommended. She was told she would eventually die without the operation. While on a trip to Asia she was offered many traditional folk remedies, herbal medicines, and alternative treatments. With nothing to lose, she tried many of them. After several months she began to feel stronger and had a renewed sense of peace and appreciation for life.

Upon her return her doctor ran a complete set of tests and was surprised to find that both her diabetes and kidney disease had improved and she no longer required amputation to save her life. Astonished by this turnaround, doctors decided to direct a research team to trace the footsteps of her trip in detail. The traditional medicinal herbs that were learned of, which are regarded as restorative agents, became the starting point for a safe and natural supplement that enhances blood sugar control.

Almost two decades later, this specially formulated herbal blend is a safe health food that restores the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. It is a promising herbal treatment for lowering blood glucose levels for Type II diabetics. Various dried roots, stems, fruits, and leaves are made into a tea form.

The name of this natural remedy? Eleotin.

I now give yet another case in point, this time from From Powerless Village to Union Power Secretary by P. Abraham. (You can find links to all books I reference on this blog in the right sidebar, bottom.)

Gaddamanugu could hardly boast of any medical facilities, so the people depended on rural health-care providers. I remember many people suffering from severe toothache came to my uncle (my father’s elder brother) Rajarathnam, who knew some herbal medicine. My uncle would go to the nearby fields whenever someone came with toothache, pluck some green leaves from the bushes, grind them with his palms, and pour the liquid in the ear. After a few minutes he used to empty the ear by bending the head. The liquid came out with a small live germ, and the toothache would disappear thereafter. Even now it is beyond my comprehension to understand the relationship between the toothache and the germ coming out of the ear. I tried my best in my childhood to get some information about the magical medical leaf, but my uncle refused to divulge lest he lose the magical touch. I doubt whether my uncle revealed this secret to anyone even till his death.

Germ, by the way, is an amusing malapropism for worm. 🙂

A recent book called Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks tells a similar story. Here is an excerpt: Teach Us To Sit Still by Tim Parks

Modern medicine is an amazing achievement, a towering edifice, an impressive demonstration of the power of the scientific method. But I have the uneasy feeling that something big is being overlooked, that there is much that modern medicine does not understand, that there is another way of seeing.

Any takers for the hypothesis that we, like animals, once had a highly developed instinct for finding natural remedies, an instinct that is fast withering away as we become more reductionist and left-brain-oriented in the course of our evolution?

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