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Traditional Treatments of Some Incurable Diseases
by Lalit Tiwari & D.P. Agrawal

Diseases are the bane of humankind ever since its advent on this planet.  Humans have been battling a variety of diseases since prehistoric periods.  Eventually man developed an indigenous pattern of medicines, which tried to resist the effects of the diseases.  This indigenous pattern of medicine is specially characterized by the impact of cultural traditions and experience of human and animal bodies in relation to their surroundings.

Generally, the rural people believe that diseases are caused by supernatural powers and they treat them through natural products like plants, herbs, trees, and soils.  Indigenous systems of medicine are specially conditioned by cultural heritage and myths.  In the Central Himalayan region, large sections of the population still depend on these local medicines.

History of Indigenous Medicines

Primitive human societies have been depending on plants and plant products for various remedies.  In certain areas these folk medical prescriptions are endemic and have survived through ages from one generation to the next through the word of mouth.  They do not exist as written texts.  Generally, these systems of medicines depend on the experience of the elderly.  The person prescribing these medicines has no so-called scientific knowledge about the disease.  For example, they may use a mixture of leaves in their treatment, but they are unaware of which specific leaves have the disease fighting properties.

Healthcare and Indigenous Pattern of Medicines

Central Himalayan Traditional Medicine System has cures for many allopathically incurable diseases such as cancer, leucoderma, snakebite, diabetes, rheumatism, and asthma. They also includes methods for family planning.  They use plant decoctions, metals, soil-minerals, as well as diagnosis and tantra-mantra. 

Diabetes: Diabetes is a disease of metabolism due to a deficiency of insulin.  It is a form of imbalance of the endocrine glands. The body’s nutrition is affected because the sugars and starches in the body are not adequately utilized by the tissues.

Traditional medicines:

1. The wood of Pterocarpus marsupium plant is placed in the water for overnight. The next day this water soaked wood is applied on diabetic patient (Shah and Joshi, 1971)

2. The root paste of Ficus bengalensis plant is mixed with salt (NaCl) and filtered. This paste is given twice a day, in the morning and at night

3. One teaspoon of seed powder of Azadirachta indica is given with water twice a day for three months (Singh and Ali,1998)

4. The leaf juice of Cissampelos pareira is mixed with seeds of Plantago ovata (isabgol) and juice of Cynodon dactylon (dub). This juice paste is given once a day for three months (Singh and Ali,1998)

5. Two grams of stem paste of Tinospora cordifolia are given once a day for three months (Singh and Ali,1998)

6. The mixture of 40 grams of seed of Syzygium cumini (jamun), 30 grams of Gymnema sylvestre (gudmar), 3 grams of turmeric and 50 grams of fruit of Terminalia bellerica (bahera) are given thrice a day for 15 days (Singh and Ali, 1998)

Lucoderma: Lucoderma are white patches that occur at any part of the body.  It is not infections.  No specific treatments are available in allopathic medical system.

Traditional medicines:

1. Bark and leaf paste of Holoptelea integrifolia plant are applied externally on the white patches (Maheswari and Sing, 1990)

2. The mixture of Withanina somnifera root, bark of Embelia ribes (vaibidang), leaves of Plumbago zeylanica (chitrak), seeds of Croton tiglium (jamalgota), and fruit pulp of Cassia fistula (amaltas) with cow's urine are applied on white patches for 2-3 months (Singh and Ali, 1998)

Snake bite: Traditional medicine systems have many cures for the snakebite. Traditionally, healers have lots of therapies (tantrik, etc.) and medicines which cure the late infection of snakes poison but in modern system of medicines it is a very difficult task.

Traditional medicines:

1. 5 ml juice of the bulb of Drimia indica's plant bulb are given orally alternatively with powder of the seed of Strychnos nux-vomica (kuchla) to induce vomiting as a way to expel the poison (Singh and Ali, 1998)

2. Juice of Oroxylum indicum is given every 30 minutes until the patient regains consciousness (Singh and Ali, 1998)

3. Fruits of Sapindus mukorossi plants are ground and powdered and given at the rate of 5-10 gm at frequent intervals until the patient regains consciousness (Singh and Ali, 1998)

4. Seeds of Strychnos nux-vomica are ground and given with water to the patient frequently (Singh and Ali, 1998)

These are some Himalayan indigenous medicines, which cure diabetes, leucoderma and snakebites.  Please don't use these medicines without consulting a herbal doctor.

Sources and Further Reading:

Badoni, Arun and Kiran Badoni. 2001. Ethnobotanical heritage. In Garhwal Himalaya: Nature, Culture and Society (Ed.) O. P. Kandari and O. P. Gusain. Sriagar (Garhwal): Transmedia, Media House. Pp. 127-147.

Maheswari, J. K. and Harish Singh. 1990. Herbal remedies of Bhoxas of Nainital district, U P. Aryavaidyan 4(1): 30-34.

Pande, P. C., G. C. Joshi and M. M. Kandpal. 1989. Ethnobotany of Kumaun Himalayas. Himalayas: Environment, Resources and Development (Ed.) N. K. Sah, S. N. Bhatt and R. K. Pande. Almora: Shree Almora Book Depot. Pp. 255-294.

Pande, P. C., D. S. Pokharia and J. C. Bhatt (Eds.). 1999. Ethnobotany of Kumaun Himalaya. Jodhpur: Scientific Publishers.

Singh, V. K. and Zaheer Anwar Ali. 1998. Herbal Drugs of Himalaya. New Delhi: Today & Tomorrow's Printers and Publishers.

Shah, N. C. and M. C. Joshi. 1971. An ethnobotanical study of the Kumaon region of India. Economic Botany 25: 414-422.

Sarkar, R. M. 2000. Dimensions of folk medicine traditions in human society with special reference to rural Bengal. In Through the Vistas of Life and Lore (Ed.) R. M. Sarkar. Calcutta: Panthi Pustak. Pp. 381-406.