Distrustful of swine flu vaccine, many go for herbal remedies
MADINAH: Fears both about swine flu and the safety of the vaccine against it have sent Saudi housewives rushing back to traditional remedies in the hope of protecting their families. Sales of oranges, lemons and especially black cumin and honey have risen as a result. It is believed that these items, consumed daily, can strengthen the body's immunity and protect against the H1N1 virus.
"I force my children to drink lemon and honey every day so that they do not get infected with swine flu. It has really frightened us," said Manal Saeed, a teacher.
A firm believer in alternative remedies, she said mixing these natural herbs with fruits and honey was better than medicines that might weaken the body.
"Black cumin is a panacea for all ills," she insisted, saying its efficacy was lauded by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Apart from the drinks, she said she makes sure the children regularly wash their hands and help keep the house clean.
She is by no means alone in her confidence in the value of black cumin. "I mix it with orange and lemon for my children to take every day to protect them against swine flu," said Asma Khaled, a nurse.
According a local herbal merchant, Muhammad Al-Hussein, sales of black cumin rose remarkably over the past few months. He attributed this to popular belief that it would protect people against the H1N1 virus and other illnesses. He said clients often asked if black cumin was good for swine flu. He always answered by referring to a Hadith in which the Prophet had said it cures all diseases.
The merchant said gurgling cumin oil helped cure bronchitis. "Ground and mixed with honey, black cumin will kill bacteria and increase immunity against cold and asthma," he said. "If it does not cure you, it will not harm you."
Even more convinced is Fatima Muhammad, a nutritionist. She claimed that science had proved that black cumin would strengthen the immune system, kill parasites, increase milk production of women breast-feeding their babies and clear the respiratory system.
She also believed orange and lemon were good for purifying the blood, healing wounds, cleaning the gullet and curing cold, fever, coughs and flu.
She advised all to drink a large quantity of orange and lemon juice to safeguard against such diseases.
Few would disagree with the value of taking high vitamin-C content fruit such as oranges.
However, Dr. Muhammad Saad, a specialist in internal medicine, while not denying the usefulness of herbal remedies, warned of possible dangers. On the first signs of flu or any other illness "people should not depend only on these remedies to provide them immunity," he said. "They must also see a doctor."
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