Anxiety ran high in London's Dulwich Hospital as doctors awaited the recovery of a kidney
transplant patient. The surgical procedure had been a success but the patient later developed an
infection in the operating incision. Antibiotics had little effect and the situation seemed hopeless.
Fortunately, a young doctor recalled a traditional remedy used by native doctors in South Africa.
With nothing left to lose, he applied strips of papaya fruit across the wound. Miraculously, it
This unorthodox success was scoffed at by the medical profession in the West. This incident
took place in 1977 but the doctors' reactions were evidently an omen of things to come. Skepticism
and distrust dog traditional medicine as it struggles to gain credibility in the modern world today.
Derogatory terms like "barefoot doctors", "quacks" and even "witch doctors" also undermine the
success and potential of folk medicine.
In the past, folk healing was shrouded in superstition and mysticism. Illnesses were
attributed to evil or angry spirits or gods and rituals of prayers and sacrifice were sometimes held
to appease them. Healers were then believed to have a gift or special "knack" to set bones and
stop bleeding. Jealously guarded charms and incantations were recited to expel diseases.
However, those days are gone - today, traditional remedies are developed alongside modern
In China, for example, medical practitioners work in tandem with traditional healers.
Modern research ideas and close scientific scrutiny are applied to traditional cures. If a particular
remedy is found to be effective, then scientists test it to detect its active ingredient or chemical.
Once isolated, this ingredient can be utilised and manufactured on a larger scale.
The Chinese approach has met with resounding success. A drug was developed from a
species of holly to alleviate chest pains in patients suffering from coronary diseases. In addition, a
drug derived from sage has been made, to improve blood circulation.
The Chinese are also credited with acupuncture, a technique practised for over four
thousand years. In this, fine needles are inserted through particular spots in the skin. The
acupuncture points are then stimulated by gentle twirling, heating or mildly electrifying the
needles. This method has been undeniably effective in relieving pain and has been widely used by
medical practitioners the world over as anaesthesia during surgeries, to control blood pressure
and to relieve muscle spasms and arthritis.
A major advantage of traditional methods of treatment is that they are inexpensive. It is
this cost factor that has prompted the World Health Organisation to encourage traditional forms
of medicine in Third World countries. These heavily populated nations have urgent and
widespread health problems but can ill-afford the sophisticated drugs of Western manufacturers.
The majority of the people also do not have access to Western-trained doctors.
Thus, the International Association of Folk Medicine was established in the 1980s.
Countries like Peru, Burma and Nigeria have been forthcoming in their support and
participation. They have begun training courses in which traditional medicine men can learn
modern techniques as well as impart their knowledge to modern doctors. Triumphs include a
Guatemalan herbal remedy approved for the treatment of diabetes and an antibiotic for malaria
developed by Ghanaian medicine men.
It is indeed unfortunate that many Western doctors oppose folk medicine, for they are
depriving the world of a great untapped potential. Ironically, these doctors prescribe drugs from
herbal remedies on a daily basis! Such medication include digitalis, derived from the foxglove, to
treat heart conditions; ipecac, from a Brazilian root, for coughs and hydrocortisone, from wild
yams, for severe asthma.
Modern synthetic drugs have come under fire in recent years. Viruses believed to have been
subjugated by antibiotics have rebounded with a vengeance. With their new-found resistance,
they have rendered a great many "miracle" drugs ineffective. There is also the ever spiralling cost
of modern medicine. These factors may force Western medical practitioners' to eat humble pie -
they may have to overcome their prejudice and resort to traditional remedies.
Answer the following questions using complete sentences.
1. What does the author mean by the phrase "the
doctors" reactions were evidently an omen of things to
2. Show how folk healing was "shrouded in
superstition and mysticism" in the past.
3. Explain how the Chinese have successfully
developed effective medicines from traditional cures.
4. Why are traditional methods of treatment deemed
necessary in Third World countries?
5. What are the purposes of the International
Association Of Folk Medicine?
6. Why is it ironical that Western doctors oppose
7. What factors may force a change in attitude
towards traditional medicine?
Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
8. The construction of the shopping centre commenced after the ministry
______ the plans.
9. I cannot gain ______ to the northern wing of the
mansion for this passage way is blocked.
10. Ahmad has the ______ to become an accomplished pianist if he practises
diligently each day.