Traditional medicine needs new lease of life

MUSCAT, DEC 26 – Oman was known for its traditional medicine, and healers who used tree roots and barks or leaves of special plants to treat patients for various ailments. Of late, fewer people are showing interest in learning/ practising this form of medicine.
Experts feel this form of treatment should be revived.
“There are fewer takers for Oman’s traditional medicine. And very few are practising this form of treatment” said Ahmed Mohammed al Shuraiqi, microbiologist working for the government and an expert on natural medicines.
“We had at least one practitioner of traditional medicine in every wilayat some 20 years ago. We hardly have anyone following this medicinal branch today,” he said.
An increasing number of people, these days, prefer allopathy, while the reach of the traditional medicines is limited.
“Hardly any college or university deals with this medicinal branch. We need to breathe life to this healthcare system which was trusted for generations in the past,” said Al Shuraiqi.
Traditional medicine was mostly used to treat minor illnesses such as cold, fever, stomach problems and headache.
According to a study ‘The Practice of Ethnomedicine in the Northern and Southern Provinces of Oman’, published in the Oman Medical Journal, elders or trained traditional healers had the “right to administer traditional medicines in society”.
Besides the efforts of Diwan of Royal Court to sustain Oman’s culture, Oman Animal & Plant Genetic Resources Centre (OAPGRC), has been encouraging researchers to focus on documenting traditional uses of plants and ecological aspects associated with such practices.
OAPGRC believes the sustainable management of medicinal plants will not only help conserve important biodiversity, but also help sustain local Omani communities.
According to a study, 33 medicinal plants have been used in traditional healthcare practice, a majority of which are used as infusions, decoctions, pastes or inhalants.
The Muttrah Souq, for instance, had some five to six shops dealing with traditional medicines some 20 years ago. In the last few years, many have switched to more lucrative businesses.
“Most of the shops selling traditional medicine have started dealing with other products that yielded better returns,” according to Mohammed, an expatriate.
He has been working in a shop in Muttrah Souq, called ‘Mustafa Murad Al Zadjali’ — which deals with traditional medicine — for the past 28 years.
“I learned about traditional medicines from the founder of this shop, who is no more. Children are employed in multinational companies.”
Mohammed said one of the founder’s sons, Talal, has been running the shop as he wants to keep the tradition alive.