"It works," says 28-years-old Ravi Shrivastav, who is into advertising. He smokes and lives life in the fast lane-something unthinkable for an asthmatic patient. The secrethe religiously takes the fish medicine (administered by the Bathini brothers) every year (in spite of knowing that a complete cure is guaranteed in three years) .
Same is the case with Debashree Roy, a medical professional, who came all the way from Calcutta to Hyderabad for three consecutive years to take the medicine. "It's given me great relief," she vouches. While there are success stories like these, there are people who have been disillusioned by this treatment. Take the case of Saraswati K, a chronic asthma patient, who despite taking the medicine, had so severe an attack while on a trip to London that she had to be hospitalised there and ended up paying a fat bill.Even as the pros and cons of this treatment for asthma is being weighed, lakhs of people are willing to give it a try in order to get some relief from this disease for which allopathy has no permanent cure, other than educating the patient on how to keep away from allergens and take prescribed medicines in case of an acute attack.
India is well known for its folk remedies for various ailments. Among them the Hyderabad fish therapy is one, which has been in the news worldwide. For the last 150 years, the Goud family has been administering fish medicine to lakhs of people who flock to Hyderabad city in the month of June on the day of Mrigashira Karthi. On this day, more than 500 volunteers administer 2-inch to 3-inch long murrel fish which carry a drop of the secret formula. The ingredients of this medicine are collected over a period of two to three months prior to the appointed day. They are mixed a day before, using water from the Goud family's well. This medicine is distributed free of cost to the public and the patient has to take this therapy for three consecutive years to get permanent relief. It is necessary that a person should not eat or drink four hours prior to and two hours after the administration of fish medicine.
How Does it Works?Since the formula of the medicine is a closely guarded secret, it is impossible to tell how the medicine works. However l we can at least analyse the other factors.
- According to Mr. Harinath Bathini, the fish carrying the medicine slips down the throat easily and enters the alimentary tract clearing the mucus and phlegm which is supposed to be the contributing factor to asthma. Even Ayurveda supports this theory, as it believes that asthma is an allergic disease, which starts in the digestive tract and not in the lungs as, is perceived by allopaths. The symptoms in the lungs are caused by ingesting things that trigger an attack.
- The peculiarity of the Hyderabad fish medicine is that it is administered on a particular day, Mrigashira karthi. The Bathini brothers have nothing to say about the significance of this day, except that they are following the instructions of the saint from the Himalayas, who taught this formula to their forefathers. However, as per Ayurveda, Mrigashira karthi occurs in the period between two seasons namely summer and rainy season, (rithu sandhi) which provokes vaata disorders. Asthma according to Ayurveda, is a disease caused by the obstruction of aggravated vaata by the kapha. So this is the right time to administer an anti-vaata medicine.
- Why murrel alone and not any other fish? It could be because murrel is a very agile fish and does not die easily when taken out of water, as such it can move about in the alimentary canal for a longer time compared to other fish.
- As most people believe, this treatment is not a gunshot treatment but has to be followed for 45 days with diet restrictions. Six pills are given to the patient to be taken on the 15th day, 30th day and 45th day. The pills are to be taken on an empty stomach in the morning and an hour after the evening meal. The diet prescribed surprisingly tallies with the one prescribed ,by Ayurvedic physicians for asthma. It includes 26 items which include old rice, figs, tea, ginger, garlic, ghee, old turmeric, hot chilli, peppers, sweet lime, dried mango pieces l palak, ambothi bhaji l mat bhaji, arvi leaves, white sugar, white jowar and tur dal. The items that do not match with the Ayurvedic prescription are mutton (goat), black gram and buttermilk, which is contraindicated for asthma patients.
- Even as people flock to get the medicine, allopaths warn that ingesting raw fish can cause problems. For example, these fish may be infested with helminths which can infect the person who eats it.
- Fish is a known allergen and in people who are allergic to fish, the condition may become even worse.
- Since no one knows what the composition of the medicine is, where is the proof that steroids and compounds like arsenic are not mixed in the secret formula!
- Just like most unconventional therapies, there has been no scientific research or clinical trails under medical supervision done on this particular medicine, as the Goud brothers refuse to reveal the formula.
- Neither the Medical Council nor the Department of Indian Medicines and Homeopathy could do anything about it.
- As far as the cure is concerned, only a small percentage of the people get relief to some extent. It is possible that there may be some factor-the fish, the medicine, or the particular day is having some effect. It is also possible that this effect can also be attained with placebo therapy or faith healing .