CHOICED CUTS | Embracing the Grasses and the Weeds

By VINCENT RASALAN
www.nordis.net

FIRST PART

How many times do we encounter patients with a long standing ailment, like 3 weeks and more?

They either, 1) self medicated, upon the advice of a relative or a friend, or the mainstream and
social media; 2) never have the funds for consult; 3) live in far-flung areas secluded by the mountains, rivers, seas, and war (or all of the above).

Among these patients, there is a small but significant subset of patients who consulted the traditional hilots and took concoctions of herbs, and spices and whatever the land can provide for them. I remember when I volunteered for the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera or CHESTCORE a year before taking my licensure exam – in one of our visits in the province of Abra, there was this young lady, in her early 20’s I think who was assigned to be my guide.

Barely a high school graduate, she decided not to pursue her education and just work for her
family. She toils the soil and on the side, she works as a barangay healh worker. Practically, she is the doctor in her place in lieu of a healthworker who is assigned to the town center.

Anyway, as we went along trails and rivers from one sitio to another, she never stopped talking about her and her life and the grass and plants and the many cure they give to her community.

I was amazed how she memorized all those plants and knew every tiny detail about them. In one,she identifies what part can help, and what part may be toxic. She has remedies for common ailments like cough, colds, arthritis, fever, dysuria, you name it (yes even ED!).

Once we have reached our destination, the community warmly welcomed us with unlimited servings of brewed coffee (better than starbucks believe me) with that unrefined brown sugar we call pulot that becomes so pricey when we call it musco vado (did i spell that right?). And so, after a few cups of coffee, we started seeing patients. Most cases were malnutrition, intestinalparasitism, various skin diseases, goiter among others. There were a few who were acutely febrile and medications were given.

Until… We ran out of meds. We can only carry that much. If not for my Bronchial Asthma, I should have carried more though. But there were more visits to come, I thought so there should not be a problem with that.

During the night however, I was awakened by calls for help. A baby was having a high grade fever and was in seizure that time. I literally jumped out of the house with my tools and body pack (filled with emergency medications). In an instinct, I reached for that pocket in the bag where I thought my last bottle of paracetamol was. But alas, I could not find it. It was not there.

hen I remembered. I gave that last bottle to a young boy with pneumonia. I asked for tepid water,and did a sponge bath. And in desperation I kindly asked one of the community folks to go the house of that young boy and get a few teaspoons of paracetamol. The baby was in seizure still.

Then my guide came. Carrying a handful of grass, she immediately went to the kitchen. Lit a fire, boiled some water, put the grass in the pot and once she was done, she poured a thick liquid on a teaspoon and gave it to the baby.

After maybe a quarter or half an hour, the fever subsided. And at the stroke of the morning, she was immediately brought to the town center for further treatment.

I asked my guide what particular kind of grass they were, she told me about it, but my memory is failing me as of this writing (booo!).

Now, present day physicians, equipped with tradition and technological advancements have a bigger challenge, I believe in translating these evolutions in the practice of medicine to the level of the community. On the contrary however this same set of knowledge and skills make them skeptics of the old and the traditional, which unfortunately remains to be the standard of treatment for most of our countrymen. Accessibility in terms of geographic, economic and yes, political concerns remain to be major issues.

There is however an insurmountable reason for the skepticism to which all must be an advocate of — the patient’s safety. First, do no harm. Physicians don’t give medications that they do not know. When there are no clinical trials or efficacy, it is better not to give those medications. But with overwhelming outcomes, there is really nothing wrong opening minds and widening the scope of the practice to greater heights.# nordis.net

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