Home Doctor, as the name suggests, is your very own health-care book. The culmination of an allopath's long-term involvement with alternative and complementary therapies, it contains simple and time-tested remedies for every conceivable ailment under the sun: from the nuisance value and discomfort of a common cold, cough and fever, to the severely debilitating effect of diarrhoea or heatstroke. Systematically formatted, the text moves from the causes and symptoms of health problems to directions on how to prepare remedies at home. These remedies, which are non-invasive and totally harmless, can help stem a problem in its nascent form, and often prevent it from developing into a full-blown disease. Utilise your kitchen or garden to heal yourself with this lucidly written ready reckoner interspersed with vibrant illustrations.
Dr Pushapjeet Sidhu Phadke, a practising allopath, and homeopath by interest, has been actively involved for almost three decades in primary health-care services which incorporate a holistic approach to the management of disease. She is a health consultant with SM Sehgal Foundation in Mewat, Haryana, where she trains health workers, building bridges between traditional concepts and practices and modern medicine. Author of The Penguin India Guide To Women's Health, Dr Phadke has diverse experience in research, writing, and scripting medical programmes for TV. She lives in Delhi with her husband
The year was 1965, and we were freshers; third year students just being introduced to clinical medicine in the outpatient department of the Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital for Women at New Delhi. Going through the prescribed format of complaints, history-taking, physical examination, laboratory reports and provisional diagnosis, etc., followed by a temporary prescription of say, SOS, a tablet of Paracetamol or Digene, as the case may be; till the senior registrar discussed the findings and told us what to write as the required treatment. When it came to writing a standard prescription, we were invariably asked, 'Doctor, what should I eat? Can I have cold water? Is tea harmful for me? Is this tablet to be taken with food or without? Can I have a cold water bath or not?' And I found that very often, unless it was absolutely contraindicated, we said, 'Oh, it doesn't matter, take the tablet and you will be fine.' If any complementary home remedy was suggested, we scoffed at the idea as being primitive with no meaning or bearing on the problem.
Today, after over thirty years of interacting with people, I realise that there is so much in our herbal heritage, and in folklore medicine, passed down by word of mouth by women who tend the house and hearth, that tapping this treasure is an absolute necessity. Sadly, our generation of women, and those after us, who have opted for nuclear families, have lost out on this. We did not have our mothers or grandmothers close at hand to administer harmless home remedies when minor health problems arose. One only went to the doctor when a health problem began to interfere with smooth day-to-day work. Failure to notice and recognise the early symptoms when an illness begins is the main reason why it takes root and becomes difficult to treat because of its severity and stubbornness. 'It didn't bother me till now' is the real problem.
It is ironic that our herbal heritage, our folk knowledge, used by people for ages, is of negligible value today, and is scoffed at by most people if it is not available in fancy-coloured coated pills in foil strip-packing. Recent global trade conferences and treaties tend to justify this. The custodians of this herbal wealth are persuaded to supply their herbal forest produce to industry at the cost of environmental degradation, in exchange for money to buy food and consumer goods. There is no replenishing of resources, and these people, when they fall ill, turn to allopaths who prescribe the same strip-packed knowledge, which they buy back at exorbitant prices at the cost of their daily sustenance, in order to benefit industry. Modern medicine is mostly drug-dependent, and often involves invasive intervention, which is not really the answer, particularly when there is readily available, easily affordable, practical health care for all. Long before a disease is diagnosed, there are always warning signs and symptoms which can often be successfully treated with home remedies and a lifestyle change. Cures with natural remedies and lifestyle changes have the potential of reversing illness, even some very old and chronic ones. Our body has an in-built and innate ability to heal, and this should be tapped, as nature, the creator, wanted it to be. If the problem is not resolved within two to three days, or recurs after some time, a visit to the doctor is essential. This is because the doctor is professionally qualified and is in a position to correlate complaints with signs and symptoms, and after a proper physical examination, reach a tentative diagnosis, confirmed by laboratory studies, or in some cases, specialised newer diagnostic techniques-to prescribe a specific treatment modality. Unfortunately, treatment of disease is today a thriving industry, and it feeds obscene amounts in profits and commissions to doctors, druggists and diagnostics. Aggressive advertising and medical literature ensure that pharmaceuticals rule the roost.
Maintaining the infrastructure of the health care industry takes up more money than the actual services delivered. However, a slowly increasing number of modern medicine practitioners do not rely on drugs alone. They prescribe complementary dietary and lifestyle changes, as drugs by themselves can cause various side effects, which produce 'newer' diseases. Rising levels of literacy, health-related advocacy or awareness generated by the media, plus exorbitant drug pricing, is making the lay person or the consumer turn to more easily available, less toxic avenues of health care. This has also led to the revival of indigenous health care practices-the leading and better known ones being ayurveda, Unani, siddha, homeopathy, acupuncture, acupressure, Chinese medicine, massage, aromatherapy, meditation, yoga, reiki and pranic healing. So we come full circle, and the woman at home is often the first to deal with headaches and 'heartaches', indigestion and insomnia; not to forget cuts and burns, nappy rashes, and much more. To aid this woman, and keeping in mind what every home has, either on the kitchen shelf or in the kitchen garden, or in and around the house, this is a comprehensive compilation of safe, time-tested in-house prescriptions to help tide over day-to-day common health complaints. Your doctor, of course, is the best person to consult should you still not feel better. Some of these remedies are complementary to allopathic treatment. Should you decide to take some of these as a complementary adjuvant to a specific prescription for a chronic disorder, e.g., diabetes, your blood-sugar levels will need to be monitored for a review of your prescription, as allopathic drug requirements may become much less. For a health disorder to occur there has to be an agent, a host and an environment. An 'agent' is the causative factor. It may be a virus or a bacterium which causes the infection, or it may be from elements in the environment, such as fire, heat, snow, or severe cold, which may cause burns, heat stroke or frost bite; or it may just be constant nagging worries, however inconsequential, which cause cumulative stress. This leads to stress-related disorders, ranging from simple mild anxiety to violent anger, psychosis, neurosis or disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, or even cancer. The 'host' is the individual who 'catches' the infection, gets burnt, or falls prey to depression. The 'environment' is the substrate, which is largely responsible for a person being vulnerable to disease.
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