Synopsis: There are many traditional healers in all parts of the world who render a great service to poor people by healing them of their illnesses at a minimum cost and who are selfless people who often give medicines free. Gabar Buri was one of them but she was a charitable soul whose knowledge in plants and herbs died with her.
She was simply known as Gabar Buri meaning the old woman from Gaba. She was old when when my Ma was young meaning she was probably born in the village of Gaba in Bengal sometime in late 1870s.
Just like most women at that time she was also illiterate but she knew remedies for all kinds of ailments that she obtained from plants because she was a living encyclopedia of plants and herbs. Such knowledge usually came down from her mother or grandmother.
Once she found a man full of body sores that was full of pus and bled. He was in terrible pain and discomfort. She then asked someone to build a platform with bamboo a bit off the ground under which she put a cauldron of hot water on a slow burning fire. Into this boiling water she then threw all kinds of herbs, leaves and roots she had collected very early in the morning after taking a bath and wearing clean clothes. She then asked this sick man to sit on the platform totally naked but loosely covered with a blanket.
The medicated vapor from the cauldron soon soaked the man from head to foot. She repeated this procedure over the next few days. His body sores started to heal and disappeared completely.
She was eagerly sought after by anyone who had an ailment of sorts and she was able to help such people. She was a herbalist who died with all her knowledge of plants because no one took note of the plants and their names. How could they ? They were also illiterate and knew nothing of plants and herbs.
All over the world there are such men and women who know a great deal about the medicinal values of plants and help the sick where no doctor or modern medicine is available or too costly for the poor. In Africa you can find such herbalists in many rural areas who can cure a great number of sick people with their potions, ointments and a concoction of herbal medicine they prepare with great care and empathy.
We all know that most of the modern medicine come from plant extracts that the modern chemists constantly search for. Once the medicinal properties of such plants are known, then a new medicine is prepared, tested and released in the market for enormous profit.
The pharmaceutical companies claim that they spend enormous amount of money in developing a drug so they have to recover the cost plus the profit so they price their products accordingly. There is no upper limit to their greed so they make sure no one can come up with a similar medicine and often take generic medicine makers to court to protect their market.
But the herbalist in a poor African village who cures people is happy with just a chicken or a basket of corn. The doctors call them quacks and unlicensed practitioners of medicine and often create problems for them through tougher legislations and courts. In the Philippines the doctors have made powerful cartels to protect their source of income so they have the monopoly on certain treatments from which they make enormous profit.
Seldom have these doctors go to rural areas to practice because it is not profitable for them to do so. It has therefore become very costly for the average person to seek medical help because they are not covered by insurance. The private hospitals can chalk up enormous bill for a very simple treatment by running unnecessary tests and calling on numerous doctors who all charge hefty fees.
Often such doctors suggest surgery when it is not warranted and charge a staggering fee that they insist on getting paid in cash by the patient. They ignore the medical insurance by saying that their fee is already discounted and they can’t wait for the hospitals to pay them for their services.
All over the world the poor suffer as a result of the high cost of medicine and the greed of the doctors.
When I was a child, I got my ankle cut by the bicycle chain so it became very painful to walk. The dirt and grease of the bicycle chain got into the wound and infected it so it was full of pus and bleeding.
My father then took me to a Moslem traditional doctor called Hakim to get the wound treated. The hakim was an old man with white flowing beard and hair and he looked like an angel to me.
He cut the dead skin with a very sharp knife and cleaned the wound meticulously with medicated cleaning solutions. Then he applied a white cream that he himself prepared, gave me some to apply later and sent me home. My father paid him perhaps a dollar which was not much.
The wound healed in no time at all and now there is no trace that I ever had a wound on my ankle.
These hakims and the herbalist do an enormous service to the poor all over the world but are little appreciated by the doctors who call them quacks.
There was a time in Europe when the Inquisition burned these people alive by calling them witches who helped people. Many thousands of such innocent people were killed in the name of Christ although Christ himself was a healer.
Now some countries like Cuba and India have become leaders in the manufacture of generic drugs that the poor people can afford so the powerful drug companies supported by their governments constantly battle the generic drug makers because they cut into their profits. Luckily the governments of Cuba and India among others protect the generic drug makers and encourage the wide distribution of such drugs through the hospitals.
In India, anything you buy in the market be it a match box or generic drug has its price stamped on it so that no one can over charge.
I wish all countries adopt such laws to protect the rights of poor people but the capitalistic system in America and Europe does not favor such laws.
There are strong lobbies put up by the pharmaceutical companies to defeat any bill that goes against their interest which is to make enormous profit. They generously fund the election and reelection campaigns of politicians so that they will work in their favor.
Michael Moore made a documentary highlighting the problems of healthcare in his country where millions of poor Americans cannot afford the healthcare insurance. The Obamacare has tried to solve this problem but now the people in power are hell-bent to dismantle the Obamacare leaving poor people without help just like before.
In The movie Moore made, he showed that a group of very sick Americans went to Guantanamo in Cuba to seek the help of the American doctors there but they were chased off by the gun toting guards. So they went to Havana not knowing where to seek help.
The Cubans are very friendly people so they guided them all to a modern hospital where the doctors and nurses took immediate care of their problems and gave them practically free treatment and very low cost generic drugs to take home.
The Americans were in tears when they were all given bag full of gifts as well as a goodwill gesture because back home they were treated like dirt because they were poor.
But Michael Moore is vilified by the pharmaceuticals and politicians for making such a film and call him all kinds of names. To me and to all the poor people of this world, he is a hero.
You can appreciate the service the herbalists and the so called quack doctors render to the poor people when you see the greed of the doctors that has no upper limit.
Another case comes to mind when some Americans went to Colombia to seek help for their sickness from a man who was reputed to be an excellent healer. This man who was an illiterate person who could rip open the flesh with his bare hands. One of the Americans had a tumor under the skin of his right arm that was giving him a lot of trouble and pain so he went to this man to see what he could do. He was surprised when the fellow ripped open the flesh and took out the tumors with his bare hands and closed the cut and put a bandage.
The American was so surprised that there was very little bleeding and almost no pain in the procedure. His cut was not even sutured but healed leaving no marks and the tumors were gone.
This poor man who healed people was harassed by the doctors who said that this man was a quack and had no license to practice medicine. This story was published in the Reader’s Digest. I don’t know what happened to that wonderful healer who did such a great service to anyone who sought it.
It is sad that all doctors who take the Hippocratic oath soon forget it and choose to ignore it due to their greed. The drug companies give the doctors gifts, free trip to Hong Kong and Singapore in return for them to prescribe their expensive drugs.
So I salute the herbalists like the old woman from Gaba who healed sick people all her life. I salute the Colombian peasant who healed people. I salute the Moslem Hakim who treated me and who did it practically for free. I salute all the African herbalists and their immense knowledge. I salute all governments who are pro poor like in Cuba and in India that promote generic drugs. The world is a better place because of them.
This is the Hippocratic oath that is the original version :
I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius, by Hygieia, by Panacea, and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.
To hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers, and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture; to impart precept, oral instruction, and all other instruction to my own sons, the sons of my teacher, and to indentured pupils who have taken the physician’s oath, but to nobody else.
I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion. But I will keep pure and holy both my life and my art. I will not use the knife, not even, verily, on sufferers from stone, but I will give place to such as are craftsmen therein.
Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free. And whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession, as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets.
Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I transgress it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.