Herbalists: Doctors or Quacks? [Archives:1998/03/Health]
Mohammed Hassan Al-Seraji is a seasoned herbalist. Until his retirment, Al-Seraji, 58, worked as the general affairs and moral guidance director of the Yemen armed forces and earlier as the financial department director of the armed forces. Currently he is the curator of Military Museum. Q: How long have you been in this profession? A: I have been in this honorable profession for 40 years.
Q: What was your grandfather’s job? A: My grandfather was one of the most famous scholars in Yemen. He taught many students about the Arabic language and Islamic Sharia. He used to treat people with medicinal plants and herbs. My father learned this profession from him. My grandfather left behind some reference books on herbal medicine written by European, Muslim and Arab herbalists.
Q: Which reference books do you use when you prepare medicines? A: I use traditional and medical reference books in preparing medicines which were left by my father and written by Yemeni, Muslim and European herbalists. There are some traditional herbalists in Yemen who learned their profession in Italy. I contacted them a long time ago and got to know some medicinal plants. Also, I got to know the names of these plants in Arabic and Latin as well as their actions, compositions, and properties. I have some botany reference books written by John A. Weaver and Fredrek Klements. There are some other translated American reference books such as “Economic Plant” by Albert Hill, translated by Dr. Abdulmajeed Zaher and others. I studied herbal medicine with the help of Indian and Pakistani doctors and I have certificates from them. I visited many Arab countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Lebanon. When I visit a country I try to learn their treatment methods by medicinal plants. ý
Q: Which foreign conferences did you participate in, and when? A: I participated in several symposiums and conferences on herbal medicine in Yemen and in some Arab countries, such as Iraq. I have recently received an invitation from the chairman of Scientific Research Board in Iraq, professor Taha Al-Nowimi. He invited me to attend an Arab conference on medicinal herbs and plants. I was asked to present a paper about medicinal herbs and plants and their uses in modern science and folk medicine. I attended a conference which took place in Khartoum, Sudan. I presented a paper on medicinal herbs and plants and their uses in the past, present and the future.
Q: Where do you get your herbs? A: I collect the herbs which I use in treatment from different parts of Yemen whether hot, cold or temperate areas. I am sometimes compelled to buy drugs from Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and India.
Q: What are the most important herbs being imported from outside? A: The most important herbs which are imported are Ipecac, Ginsing, Valerian, etc. There is a limited quantity of these herbs in Yemen.
Q: Which diseases have you treated with total success? A: I treat many incurable diseases which kill millions of patients. They are: mental derangement, nervous disorders, epilepsy, mania, whooping cough, asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis, sclerosis of the heart valves, heart rheumatism, cholesterol, hypertension, urinary diseases such as glomerlar nephritis, lithodialysis and kidney failure. Also, I treat breast, stomach and colon cancers, leukemia, cancerous tumors, gout, sciatica, myelitis, arthritis, diabetes and parasites. I have had much experience in treating these diseases.
Q: What is the treatment fee? A: Actually, herbal medicines which we must buy or collect cost us very much. However, medicines of the most dangerous diseases do not exceed YR 1000 ($10).
Q: Which diseases do you find difficult to treat? A: There is no disease that is difficult for me to treat. God has a cure for every disease which He teaches to the mankind he created. The Prophet Mohammed, (P), said, “Allah makes a remedy for every disease.” Also, when a disease is brought before me, I try as hard as possible to diagnose and find out the symptoms of the disease. Then, I prepare the appropriate medicine.
Q: Have you discovered any new medicines? A: I discovered a medicine for a serious disease which has not been cured through traditional or modern medicine, namely kidney failure. This disease, until now, cannot be treated except by dialysis. I have treated several patients inflicted with this illness and my discovery was published in newspapers. I was given credit from those who had this medicine and derived benefit from it. Having a patent for this medicine is not yet possible in Yemen because Yemen has not reached that level.
Q: Do you teach any Yemenis herbal treatments? A: I have four sons and I have taught them this profession and they help me in preparing medicines.
Q: To whom will you bequeath your herbal know how? A: Of course, to my sons.
Q: What motivated you to take an interest in herbal treatment? A: I am totally convinced that plants are the base of medicines and they are effective enough to fight many diseases. Our ancestors used to treat all diseases in by using herbs. They did not know incurable diseases. Yemeni herbalists were faced with strong opposition and they were called quacks and charlatans. So they were forced to abandon treatment and their sons started to sell lipstick, creams and perfumes instead of selling medicinal plants. Therefore, I take extreme interest in this field so that it does not go out of existence.
Q: What is the number of herbs used for composition? A: I use many herbs for preparing medicines and I have a store of more than one thousand herbs.
Q: Do you use animals, fish or birds? A: I use some animals and birds in treatments, but not in medicines. I sometimes advise patients to use them, such as doves which are very useful in rheumatism.