Monday, October 19, 2009

For many sicknesses, time-tested home remedies work as well as modern medicines or even better. They are often cheaper. And in some cases they are safer.
For example, many of the herbal teas people use for home treatment of coughs and colds do more good and cause fewer problems than cough syrups and strong medicines some doctors prescribe.
Also, teas or sweetened drinks many mothers give to babies with diarrhea are often safer and do more good than any modern medicine. What matters most is that a baby with diarrhea get plenty of liquids and ORS.

The limitations of Home Remedies

Some diseases are helped by home remedies. Others can be treated better with modern medicine. This is true for most serious infections. Sicknesses like pneumonia, tetanus, typhoid, tuberculosis, appendicitis, diseases caused by sexual contact, and fever after childbirth should be treated with modern medicines as soon as possible. For these diseases, do not lose time trying to treat them first with home remedies only.
It is sometimes hard to be sure which home remedies work well and which do not. More careful studies are needed. For this reason :

Old Ways and New

Some modern ways of meeting health needs work better than old ones. But at times the older, traditional ways are best. For example, traditional ways of caring for children or old people are often kind and work better than some newer, less personal ways. Not many years ago everyone thought that mother's milk was the best food for a young baby. They were right ! Then the big companies that make canned and artificial milk began to tell mothers that bottle feeding was better. This is not true, but many mothers believed them and started to bottle feed their babies. As a result, thousands of babies have suffered and died needlessly from infection or hunger.


Some home remedies have a direct effect on the body. Others seem to work only because people believe in them. The healing power of belief can be very strong.
For example, I once saw a man who suffered from a very bad headache. To cure him, a woman gave him a small piece of sweet potato. She told him it was a strong painkiller. He believed her - and the pain went away quickly.
Clearly, it was his faith in her treatment, and not the sweet potato itself, that made him feel better.
Many home remedies work in this way. They help largely because people have faith in them. For this reason, they are especially useful to cure illnesses that are partly in people's minds, or those caused in part by a person's beliefs, worry, or fears.
Included in this group of sicknesses are : bewitchment or hexing, unreasonable or hysterical fear, uncertain 'aches and pains' (especially those of teenage girls or older women), anxiety or nervous worry, and some cases of asthma, hiccups, indigestion, stomach ulcers, migraine headaches, and even warts.
For all of these problems, the manner or 'touch' of the healer can be very important. What it often comes down to is showing you care, helping the sick person believe he will get well, or simply helping him relax.
Sometimes a person's belief in a remedy can help with problems that have completely physical causes.
For example, Indianvillagers have the following home cures for poisonous snakebite :
In all countries generally, people have their own snakebite remedies - often many different ones. As far as we know, none of these home remedies has any direct effect against snake poison. The person who says that a home remedy kept a snake's poison from harming him at all was probably bitten by a non-poisonous snake !
No home cure for poisonous bites (whether from snakes, scorpions, spiders, or other poisonous animals)has much effect beyond that of the healing power of belief.
Yet any of these home remedies may do some good if a person believes in it. If it makes him less afraid, his pulse will slow down, he will move and tremble less, and as a result, the poison will spread through his body more slowly. So there is less danger !
But the benefit of these home remedies is limited. In spite of their common use, many people still become very ill or die from snakebite. As far as we know :
For snakebite it is usually better to use modern treatment. Be prepared : obtain 'antivenins' or 'serums' for poisonous bites before you need them. Do not wait until it is too late.

Witchcraft - black magic - and the evil eye

If a person believes strongly enough that someone has the power to harm him, he may actually become ill. Anyone who believes he is bewitched or has been given the evil eye is really the victim of his own fears.
A 'witch' has no power over other people, except for her ability to make them believe that she has. For this reason :
Some people think that they are 'bewitched' when they have strange or frightening illnesses (such as tumours of the genitals or cirrhosis of the liver, see p. 396) Such sicknesses have nothing to do with witchcraft or black magic. Their causes are natural.
Do not waste your money at 'magic centers' that claim to cure witchcraft. And do not seek revenge against a witch, because it will not solve anything. If you are seriously ill, go for medical help.
If you have a Strange sickness, Do not blame a witch, Do not go to a magic center, But ask for Medical advice
Excerpts from the Indian adaptation of Where there is no Doctor, recently brought out by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare Govt. of India, for the use of field Health workers.
It is often safer to treat very serious illnesses with modern medicines - following the advice of a health worker.
Respect your people's traditions and build on them.
Applying Chilli Powder over surface of bite.
Eating Neem leaves
Applying burning stick over surface of bite
Many things do harm only because people believe they are harmful.
It is impossible to bewitch a person who does not believe in witchcraft.

Is it true that the yellowish milk that is produced for the first two days after the baby is born, is bad for the baby ? This is not true. The yellowish milk is called colostrum and is very good for the baby. Colostrum has a lot of protein and antibodies which protect the baby against infection.
Is it true that when the 'soft Spot' on top of a baby's head sinks inward this means the baby will die of diarrhea unless he gets special treatment ? This is often true. The 'soft Spot' sinks because the baby has lost too much liquid. Unless he gets more liquid soon, he may die.
Is it true that if the lightOf the eclipsing moon falls On a pregnant mother, Her child will be born deformed or retarded ? This is not true! But children may be born retarded, deaf, or deformed if the mother does not use iodized salt, or for other reasons.
Is it true that mothers should give birth in a darkened room ? It is true that soft light is easier on the eyes of both the mother and the newborn child. But there should be enough light for the midwife to see what she is doing.
Is it true that a newborn Baby should not be bathedUntil the cord falls off ? True! The stump of the cord should be kept dry until it falls off. But the baby can be gently cleaned with a clean, soft, damp cloth.
How many days after giving birth should a mother wait before she bathes ? A mother should be washed with warm water the day after giving birth. The custom of not bathing for weeks following childbirth can lead to infections.
Is it true that traditional breast feeding is better than 'modern' bottle feeding ? True ! Breast milk is better food and also helps protect the baby against infection.
What foods should Women avoid in the firstFew weeks after Childbirth ? In the weeks following childbirth, women should not avoid any nutritious foods. Instead, they should eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, whole grains, and beans.
Is it a good idea to bathe a Sick person, or will it do Him harm ? It is a good idea. Sick people should be bathed in warm water every day.
Is it true that oranges, Guavas, and other Fruits are harmful When one has a cold or a fever ? NO ! All fruits and Juices are helpful when One has a cold or a fever. They do not cause congestion or Harm of any kind.
Is it true that when a Person has a high fever, he should be wrapped up so that the air will not harm Him ? NO ! When a person has a High fever, take off all covers and clothing. Let The air reach his body. This will help the fever go down.
Is it true that tea made From Tulsi & Ginger will help bring fever down and stop pain ? True. It helps becauseTulsi & Ginger has herbal medicinal value which helps in cough and cold.

Source: NRHM Newsletter

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