As a medicine hunter, I spend my time investigating natural remedies. This work puts me in rainforests, mountains, deserts, and other wild and remote regions all over our spectacular planet.
In the course of my travels, I encounter medicinal plants for every need, plus unusual people, exotic locales, strange foods and bizarre customs.
I believe that trade in medicinal plants can promote human health and environmental and cultural sustainability in native areas. In between trips researching nature’s healing treasures, I speak all over the world, and appear on TV regularly, where I promote the message of natural healing. I have a wife I love, several close and wonderful friends, a happy dog, a beautiful home I visit on occasion, and global travel.
In the course of medicine hunting I have come to love and appreciate the remaining wild and largely undeveloped places in the world. The times I have spent with great healers have opened my mind and heart to a broader understanding of true healing, the human spirit, and the precious medicinal treasures of nature. In this blog, which I offer with great sincerity, I would like to share what I have found.
A Kathmandu Cure – How I Became Really Hooked on Plants
Do not drink out of Indian rivers! Wherever in the foothills of the Himalayas you may be, however seemingly pristine the environment, however cool and refreshing the water might feel as it swirls around your knees, do not afford yourself a long, thirst-quenching drink. At a remote section of the Gautam Ganga river, I had done exactly that. The cold Himalayan water was apparently a running cocktail of potent pathogenic microbes.
The microbes in the river water invaded my body like a battalion of gladiators, hacking and plundering from sinew to bone. I felt as though my digestive tract had been beaten with a brick bat, and my brain felt as though it had been cleaved with a wood-splitting wedge. I visited the toilet over fifty times the next morning, the beginning of a ten day siege that caused me to drop 35 pounds (amazing weight loss plan), and endure violent diarrhea with fever and chills.
Ayurveda Saves My Life
A rickshaw driver pedaled me through funky Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal, into the winding alleys of Indrachowk, the oldest section of the city. We arrived at a modest one story faded brown cement building off of a small back street where Doctor Bajracharya maintained a practice. A slender, kind-looking man with alert eyes greeted me, Doctor Bajracharya. I told him that I was very sick, and in need of help, describing drinking from the river, the diarrhea, fever, chills, weight loss.
One of Nepal’s most distinguished natural doctors, Bajracharya practiced the 5,000 year old system of Ayurveda, the oldest medicinal system in the world. Ayurveda lies heavily on the use of medicinal plants to treat health disorders of all types. He asked me to lie down on a simple wooden examination table, laid a palm on the center of my abdomen, and paid close attention to my gurgling intestines. After a couple of minutes, Dr. Bajracharya withdrew his hand. “I will give you something that will stop this problem.”
Bajracharya disappeared into an anteroom for about ten minutes, and emerged with a small paper bag filled with a chocolate colored powder, and an envelope containing brown pellets that resembled rabbit turds.
“Here is what you must do. Every meal, three times a day,” he poked the air with three slender fingers for emphasis “before you eat, mix a heaping teaspoon of this powder in a glass of water and drink it. Take three of these pills at the same time. Do this for nine days, and this problem will not come back. You will be completely rid of it.” I asked about the ingredients in the powder. “This contains burned conch shell, powdered very finely, and many different spices which grow around these mountains.”
And the pellets? “All herbs and spices, a very old formula. This is powerful for healing the digestive organs.”
Praying that the remedies might improve my condition even a little, I slowly made my way on unstable legs to the Blue Tibetan restaurant off Durbar Square, to take my first doses of the ayurvedic remedies and eat some lunch.
Once seated, I opened the bag of powder and sniffed it. The mixture smelled aromatic and bitter, and that was no real surprise. Certain aromatic spices and bitter herbs are traditionally used to relieve gastrointestinal disorders. I mixed a heaping teaspoon of the powder into a glass of water and selected three pellets. Popping the pellets into my mouth, I chased them down with the bitter drink, knocking back the herbal sediment at the bottom of the glass.
By early evening, after two doses of the ayurvedic remedies from Doctor Bajracharya, the diarrhea which had been my ruination for ten days stopped completely. My fever subsided, and my guts stopped quivering. That night I enjoyed eight hours of restful, uninterrupted sleep. When I awoke the next morning, I was weak and as skinny as a Red Cross relief poster child, but the diarrhea was gone, my temperature was normal, and I had some energy.
Even though I had used various herbs for years - ginger for colds and sore throat, ginseng for mental enhancement, hot chilies to decongest - I was completely surprised by the effectiveness of the natural remedies I had been given. This devastating sickness, and the remarkable natural cure I experienced, propelled me into the world of natural medicines, from rainforests to mountains, and from shamans to laboratories. Plant medicines are the most widely used medicines on earth, and it will be my privilege to share them with you.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com