Health Matters: Alternate Medicine

Text by Dinesh Rai

Let’s dwell on health matters for a change. Yes, health does matter doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t like to lead a long, healthy life! Yet many of us choose unhealthy lifestyles that in the long run not only lead to regular visits to the doctor but stop us from doing what we enjoy doing, not to mention missed opportunities and lost workdays. What we are seeing today is a growing trend of eating junk food and packaged food (especially among kids) which according to reports is leading to increased obesity in most nations. The latest report on world health says obesity worldwide has tripled since 1973 and juvenile obesity has become a major problem that needs to be tackled soon. Just stand outside a store in the morning and see how many parents buy packaged food for their school going children. Kids are eating all the time between meals and who knows what harmful ingredients the packets contain besides preservatives, colors and taste enhancers, not to mention the extra calories.  The culprit seems to be growing prosperity; people can afford to indulge.

There are some common health problems that come with aging like hypertension when your blood pressure shoots abnormally high and if untreated is life threatening. Left untreated, hypertension leads to organ damage, heart disease and stroke, often leading to death. Yet others suffer from low blood pressure which leaves a person feeling weak and unable to work. Most people opt for medication in order to lead a normal life but you’re stuck with it for life, and those who have tried stopping the medication have not survived to tell us about it.

 Homeopathy was discovered by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 and works slowly but without side effects.

On a personal note, I have been experimenting with lowering my salt intake to keep the pressure levels in check and barring a few disturbing nights in the past, it is within medically acceptable levels. Yet, it’s a difficult balance because sodium (our major source is sodium chloride/salt) is essential for maintaining blood pressure levels and for nerve and muscle functions; too little of it leaves you feeling weak (can lead to organ damage).  Food tastes bland without salt or even with a little salt, but one great quality of the Homo sapiens is the ability to adapt. You soon get used to food with very little salt in it, just as you can reduce the amount of sugar in your tea gradually, until it starts to taste good even without it, and eventually you begin to appreciate the real taste of tea (provided it is of good quality).

Tooth decay must be one of the most common problems we humans suffer from and ironically, we know what causes it. Yet, we are helpless to combat this scourge. If you look at poor village kids who are not privileged enough to enjoy the sweet delights of early childhood, you will know how easy it is to control the problem; they have healthy teeth.  But we are human, and cravings get the better of us and when we see children, we love to give them sweets too. We can’t help it; it makes us feel good about ourselves to see them happy. And when the same kids demand too many sweet things, we can’t control them. Consumption of sugar leads the bacteria in our mouth to attack it and in the process produce acids which then corrode the enamel on our teeth and we eventually wind up in the dentist’s comfortable, adjustable chair and pay through our teeth. There’s not much hope of improvement in this area as we’ve signed up for ‘We’d rather have bad teeth than avoid sugary products that bring us so much joy!”

What’s amazing about people is also how skeptical they are when it comes to alternative medicines like ayurveda and homeopathy; forget about acupressure and biochem! But I have tried them all and to say I’m impressed is an understatement; they have some incredible cures and that too with no side-effects unlike allopathic medicine. Strangely, people still believe that a black cat crossing their path can bring bad luck, but don’t believe in alternative medicine. A government run homeopathic hospital in Pulchowk (near the UN building) provides free services, but despite the doctors’ services as well as the medicines being absolutely free, it never seems to get crowded.

Homeopathy was discovered by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann in 1796 and works slowly but without side effects. They have cures for a host of medical problems including skin diseases, gout, stomach problems to name a few. Unlike allopathic medicine, it does not directly attack the problem or the symptoms but induces our own defense mechanism to act. Often, the doze is impossibly dilute, but works. Most of the medication is a liquid soaked in a tiny ball of sugar which melts in your mouth; hence they all look the same. The government hospital of homeopathy employs several doctors and no appointment is required; all one needs to do is queue up (on a bench) outside the doctor’s door and wait for one’s turn. Submit the prescription to the dispensary and wait for your name to be called out and the medication is handed over to you. The other option is to visit a private homeopathic clinic.

 Then there’s acupressure which is an amazingly simple cure that seems to work. A two volume book on acupressure entitled Health in your Hands is available in book stores.

My first encounter with ayurveda on the other hand, was probably when my mother gave me Pudin Hara as a kid for a stomach ache; it worked like a charm. Then in the 80s, I discovered the Krishna Aushadhalaya in Bag Bazaar where I bought a bottle of Shadbinduko tel. By the time the first bottle was empty my sinus related headaches which can be debilitating, had completely stopped. And what’s even more impressive is that it has never returned. Before this discovery, I had been taking painkillers prescribed by a doctor, which as you well know has no curative powers, but just brings temporary relief.

Then there’s acupressure which is an amazingly simple cure that seems to work (it has widened in scope recently). A two volume book on the simple form of acupressure entitled Health in your Hands is available in bookstores. It’s a ‘Do it yourself’ cure. All one needs to do is turn to the right page and follow the instructions; apply pressure to a pressure point with the tip of your finger or with the blunt end of a pen/pencil. It helps to alleviate a host of health problems including heart ailments, diabetes, etc. I personally believe my heart functions better today after I discovered acupressure. 

Besides the above mentioned alternative medical treatments, there are other effective treatments like acupuncture, ayurvedic massage and magneto therapy and of course our Baidyas whose cure for Jaundice is legendary; there’s no allopathic cure for it. And consuming alcohol while you have jaundice seems to be the equivalent of signing your death warrant, although there seems to be no mention of this made anywhere. 

No system has all the answers but there are several alternative cures one can go for. Try them; you got nothing to lose! I haven’t had another sinus headache since I used Sadbinduko tel in the ‘80s and I no longer fear damp, foggy days. Just as we relish exotic cuisine from around the world, you can also go for all kinds of cures, and see what works for you. You can live a healthier life if only you could put your skepticism aside!