Nalzaro: Traditional and alternative medicines


WHEN I was a kid and whenever I had fever and flu, my mother would just let me drink Royal True Orange mixed with eggs. After a few hours, the fever is gone. When I would have a stomachache, my mother would just look for tuba-tuba (Jatropha caucas) leaves, heat it and put it on my stomach. In a matter of hours, the pain would be gone. When I suffered bruises and contusions, my mother would put dulaw (turmeric) or leaves of ‘mayana’ (a kind of herbal plant) on the wounds and in a matter of days, the injuries would be cured.

I also underwent “tuob” (steam inhalation). But we practised a different “tuob” in Mindanao. Our “tuob” was through smoke, not steam. If you had a fever and you went to a “mananambal,” or a person who practices traditional medicine, he would perform “tuob” on you.

The “mananambal” would place chopped tree bark from Siquijor Island that was made during Holy Week mixed with oil on a lighted charcoal. Once it generated smoke, the “mananambal” would put it under your seat and drape you with blankets until you started to sweat heavily. You inhaled the smoke. After the ritual, you felt relieved.

These are just some of the traditional medicinal health practices that, until now, some people in the countryside still practice in view of the rising cost of consulting professional physicians and hospitalization.

Acupuncture and reflexology are also types of traditional alternative medicine. Traditional medicine, according to the World Health Organization, “is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental.”

Although steam inhalation is not specifically mentioned, traditional medicine is encouraged under Republic Act 8423, or an act creating the Philippine Institute of Traditional Medicine and Alternative Health Care to Accelerate the Development of Traditional and Alternative Health Care in the Philippines, providing for a Traditional and Alternative Health Care Development Fund and for other Purposes.

Section 4 (d), Article 2 of the law is on alternative health care modalities, or “other forms of non-allophatic, occasionally non-indigenous or imported healing methods though not necessarily practiced for centuries not handed down from one generation to another. Some alternative health care modalities include reflexology, acupressure, chiropractics, nutritional therapy and other similar methods.”

What are the benefits of traditional medicine, especially herbal? It is more affordable than conventional medicine and easier to obtain than prescription medicine. It stabilizes hormones and metabolism. It strengthens the immune system and is more cost effective. It has fewer side effects and it is natural healing.

Now, there have been much brouhaha over “tuob” or steam inhalation in view of the claims and testimonies that some coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients were cured through it. Thus, Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia encouraged everybody, including Capitol employees, to practice “tuob.” The “tuob” referred to here is the inhalation of the steam from hot water mixed with salt, lemon, ginger, turmeric and oregano leaves.

But professional and licensed physicians dispute this claim, saying that there are no clinical and scientific studies that steam inhalation can cure Covid-19. While acknowledging that steam inhalation may be an effective way to clear nasal and respiratory passages when we are sick with a cold or the flu, but it won’t actually cure infection, some physicians claimed. Our body’s immune system will still do the bulk of the work to get rid of the symptoms caused by the virus. Cold, fever and cough are symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

Inhaling steam is one of the major treatments for respiratory complications and recommended for dealing with the common cold, flu, bronchitis, sinusitis and asthma. The main benefit of breathing in moist, warm steam is that it helps ease the irritation and swollen blood vessels in the nasal passages.

The Department of Health (DOH) also said there is no scientific study that supports the claim that “tuob” is a cure for Covid-19. Who said so? In fairness to Gwen, she did not claim that “tuob” was a cure for Covid. She was just relying on testimonies of some patients who claimed to have been cured of the virus by using “tuob.” Wala may mawala nato kon ato pod ning suwayan. Kinsa tong gusto, himoa. Kadtong dili, aw, ayaw. But do it with utmost care. Kanang tawo nga masakiton bisan imo nang hatagan og butones, kon nagtuo siya nga makaayo na niya, iya nang tumaron labi pa kon walay igasto sa doktor ug hospital.


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