CURANDERO, ALBULARYO, FAITH HEALERS, ETC.: PHILIPPINE TRADITIONAL AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

cropped-philippines_people_icon_256From time immemorial,  traditional medicine has been practiced in many parts of the world and remains an integral part of  human evolution and development.  Philippine traditional medicine is not an exception to this practice since until this present writing,  Filipino traditional medicine takes place in remote areas of the country and even  in big cities, whose  traditional beliefs upon the curative proportion of traditional medicine remains  intact  to a great  extent.  And  the reason is simple.  Medical   cost of the modern medicine and hospitalization have become out-of-reach  to  many,  and  alternative medicine  is the best  “substitute” because  the cost is very much more than  affordable.

However, the Philippine traditional medicine  is rooted from various types  of  beliefs  like  religion, magic, superstition, mysticism,  folklores “trust” on herbs  and western medicine. They have all been mixed  up  and used  as  a  sound  and effective  “cure”  for  any type  of illness, ailment, disorder, infection, etc., and traditional  Filipino medicine comes in very “handy”  to at least “momentarily” relieve or even get rid of the type of affliction anyone could be suffering from at  the moment.  It is a common practice for Filipinos,  whether one is in the country  itself  or in a foreign country,  Philippine  traditional medicine,  takes  an active  part  in  the Filipinos’  way  of  life when we talk about  easing,  curing or mitigating the bodily  pain  or sickness   a Filipino  is suffering from.

There are a number of traditional medicine practitioners in the Philippines  and even abroad and their presence is well noted among the town people and sometimes in the big  cities as well.  They  are the  following:

— Hilot or manghihilot Hilot – is an ancient Filipino art of healing. It uses manipulation and massage to achieve the treatment outcome, although techniques differ from one practitioner to another it is based on shamanic tradition of the ancient Filipinos with healers considering their practice as derived from their calling from visions or from having been born breech. Hilot could assume supernatural aspects or the philosophy of holism, particularly in cases of practitioners since they claim that their ability comes or is even given by a supernatural source such as the case of manghihilot who most of them assert that they have embarked on pilgrimage to a mountain called Banahaw to gain  an essential spiritual component of their healing practice. hilot                     Hilot1

— Albularyo, a general practitioner who treats their patients with various herbs, alum, natural substances or coconut oil, using rituals  like  “pang-kontra (preventive curant or antidote), bulong (whisper), orasyon (prayer),  tapal (poultice), lunas (currants), kudlit ( uses a combination of healing modalities that may include prayers, incantations, mysticism and herbalism. Albularyos claim that they draw healing powers from a supernatural source (shamanism). They combine pagan traditions  with some aspects of Christianity. Some say that they are only effective on certain days of the week,  like Tuesdays or  Fridays,  because they coincide with Catholic festivities of the Baby Jesus (Santo Niño)  and the Black Nazarene.  They claim to be the best in their  field  of  traditional medicine.                                    Albularyo

— Tawas or mangtatawas, is a ritual to the divine, is considered as pseudo-medicine in Philippine psychology but considered superstition in Western psychology. It attempts to diagnose an affliction or psychological disorder by interpreting shapes produced in water by heated alum or molten wax droppings from a burning candle. It is thus a form of both cleromancy (casting) and oryctomancy (use of minerals).  the practitioner uses alum, candles, smoke, paper, eggs and other mediums to diagnose the cause of illness associated by prayers and incantations

— Medico, a general practitioner similar to an Albularyo but integrates western medicine to promote healing.

— Faith healers, is the practice of prayer and gestures (such as laying on of hands – believed to elicit divine intervention) in spiritual and physical healing, especially the Christian practice. Believers assert that the healing of disease and disability can be brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or other rituals that, according to adherents, can stimulate a divine presence and power. Religious belief in divine intervention does not depend on empirical that faith healing achieves its outcome based on the prayers and gestures. The practitioners cover a wide array of methods and practices that differ from one another. But, on a greater extent and despite the advanced technology in information and science, traditional medicine continues to enjoy a large following most especially in rural areas.   Faith healer

In 1992 in the Philippines,  the Department of Health (DOH)  through its former Sec. Juan M. Flavier,  launched the Traditional Medicine Program which aims to promote an effective and safe use of traditional medicine. Then President Fidel V. Ramos seeing the importance of the traditional medicine program and signed into law Republic Act 8423 (R.A. 8423), otherwise known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) of 1997,  that gave rise to the creation of Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) which is tasked to promote and advocate the use of traditional and alternative health care modalities through scientific research and product development to the point that the DOH has endorsed 10 medicinal plants to be used as herbal medicine in Philippines due to its health benefits.

  • Akapulko (Cassia alata) a plant called “ringworm bush or schrub” and “acapulco” in English, this Philippine herbal medicine is used to treat tinea infections, insect bites, ringworms, eczema, scabies and itchiness.

  • Ampalaya (Momordica charantia) or “bitter melon ” or “bitter gourd ” in English. It is found to be effective in the treatment of diabetes (diabetes mellitus), hemofrhoids, coughs, burns and scalds, and being studied for anti-cancer properties.

  • Bawang (Allium sativum) or “Garlic”. Bawang is a used  to treat infection with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-hypertensive properties. It is widely used to reduce cholesterol level in blood.

  • Bayabas (Psidium guajava) –  or “Guava” in English,  it  is used as antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antioxidant, anti-allergy, antimicrobial, anti-plasmodial, anti-cough, anti-diabetic, and anti-genotoxic in folkloric medicine.

  • Lagundi (Vitex negundo) – known as “5-leaved chaste tree” in English. It  is used to treat cough, colds and fever. It is also used as a relief for asthma & pharyngitis, rheumatism, dyspepsia, boils, and diarrhea.

  • Niyog-niyogan (Quisqualis indica L.) – is a vine known as “Chinese honey suckle”. It is used to eliminate intestinal parasites.

  • Sambong (Blumea balsamifera)– or “Ngai camphor or Blumea camphor”. It is used to treat kidney stones, wounds and cuts, rheumatism, anti-diarrhea, anti spasms, colds and coughs and hypertension

  • Tsaang Gubat (Ehretia microphylla Lam.) – or “Wild tea” is taken as tea to treat skin allergies including eczema, scabies and itchiness wounds in child birth

  • Ulasimang Bato | Pansit-Pansitan (Peperomia pellucida) is a Phillipine herbal medicine known for its effectivity in treating arthritis and gout.

  • Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii) – commonly known as Peppermint, is used in Philippine herbal medicine as analgesic to relive body aches and pain due to rheumatism and gout. It is also used to treat coughs, colds and insect bites

The Philippines continues to remain traditional in more ways  than one  and at  times  these traditional “medical”  practices could  be as effective as  the modern day  medical  practices.  However,  what counts most  is the belief  that an individual  professes in the effectiveness of these practices  which  are somewhat  based on religion,  the occult,  the supernatural,  or the divine,  to which the western world has a lot more to oppose than approve or support.  Everything  depends  on  how a person’s level of indulgence and belief to profess to these types  of  medical practices.  But what could be said  is that,  we continue to live in this world which remains inundated with mysteries upon mysteries.  Traditional medicine  is  one  of the mysteries  of  this planet and they continue  to astonish if not bewilder science  and scientists  themselves.  But by-in-largem they are  an integral part of our  lives and will persist to be so till time immemorial. I rest my case.

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