Magic of Herbs


The therapeutic value and healing power of plants were demonstrated to me when i was a girl of about ten. I had developed an acute persistent abdominal pain thar did not respond readily to hospital medication. My mother had taken me to the city’s central hospital on several ocassion , where different drugs were tried on me.  In total desperation she took me to lisa taylor , a well know herbalist in my hometown. This man was no stranger to the medical doctors at the hospital.He had earned the reputation of offering excellent help when they were confronted with difficult cases where western medicines had failed to affect a cure.
After a brief interview , not very different from what goes on daily in the consulting offices of many general medical practitioners in the U.S , he left us waiting in his consulting room while he went out to the field. He returned with several leaves and the bark of a tree and ofe of his attendants immediately prepared a decoction. I was given a glass of this prepration, it tasted extremely bitter, but within an hour or so i began to feel relieved. The rest of the decoction was put in two large bottles, so that i could take doses periodically. Within about three days, the frequent abdominal pains stopped and recall gaining a good appetite. I have appreciated the healing power of medicinal plants ever since.
My experience may sound unusual to those who come from urban areas of the developed world , but for those in less affluent nations such experiences are a common occurence. Infact , demographic studies by various national governments and inter-governmental organisations such as the World Health Oraganisation (WHO) indicate that for 75 to 90 percent of tne rural populations of the word, the herblaist is the only person who handles their medical problems.
In indian culture,  traditional medical practitioners are always considerd to be influential spiritual leaders as well, using magic and religion alongwith medicines. Illness is handled with the individual’s hidden spiritual powers and with applucation of plants that have been found especially to contain healing powers.
Over the years i have come to distinguish three types of medicinal practitioners in indian society and to classify the extent to which each uses medicinal plants.The first is the herbalist, who generally enjoys the prestige and reputation of being the real traditional medical proffesional. The second group represents the divine healers. They are fetish preiests whose practice depends upon their purported supernatural powers of diagnosis. Thirdly , the witch doctor, the practitioner who is credit with ability intercept the evil deeds of a witch.
All three kinds of practitioners have manage to keep the rural and urban populations in reasonable health. The practitoners have done ; well by relying almost exclusively on herb’s for actual treatment while servings as the people’s spiritual leaders , and psychologists.
Form the drug stores in New Delhi I picked up some well packaged bark and roots of Rauwolfia serpentina, a plant that was very well known in ancient asiatic medicine.The store keeper said that it cures hypertension. This plant has the power to lower the blood pressure and pulse. It is uesd to calm down mad people because alkaloids in the plant have a specific influence on the mind of the people. I later learnt that the store keeper had a medical degree form one of the indian universities ,but chose to administer herbal medicine because he felt his people were better off with local medicines than with the expensive imported, synthetic drugs that had no traditional, social or psychological meaning.


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