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New ailments, ancient cures


Aloe for acne, basil for bloating, cinnamon for cholesterol, garlic for gas, turmeric for tonsils...the alphabet of modern healing reads like a yellowed, crumbling prescription from a shaman, BCE 200. Whatever happened to paracetamols and ibuprofens?

Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, director, Institute of Internal Medicine, Max Healthcare, attributes the trend of favouring kitchen cures to our love for aping the West. "Worldover doctors try to practice evidence-based medicine. The West is already sitting on enough evidence on efficacy of alternative methods of healing, be it ayurveda, acupressure or acupuncture, and is openly encouraging their practice. In contrast, India and China still lag in research on ancient medicine practices even though most of them originated here, " he says.

Yet, the popularity of shady television remedies continues unabated and quacks are making a killing prescribing anything from cow's urine to horse's hooves under the large umbrella of alternative medicine. According to data collected in 2003 by Subhuti Dharmananda, PhD, and director of the Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, US, the export of ayurvedic medicines has reached a value of $100 million a year (about 10 per cent of the value of the entire ayurvedic industry in India). The current figures will, of course, be much higher.

While most allopathic doctors don't outright dismiss the power of peels, pods and potions, they do caution against unsupervised consumption. So, even if hirsute babas tell you about the extraordinary powers of cow's urine that can cure cancer and cut calories, it still is a bad idea to just reach out to the nearest bovine and wait for miracles to happen.

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