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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 healed!

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 scientific medicine.

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 come"?

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 herbal remedies?

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.

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Comprehension 1


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