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Retrieval of rare herbal medicine for Rabies Hydrophobia

Fifty years ago, when I was just a boy of ten years, I was told one morning, to my sad disappointment, that my dear friend of the same age, died cruelly of rabies. Till then, I never knew that Rabies is a 100% fatal killer disease. I faintly remember that my great uncle, who was a medical trader of certain indigenous medicines, told me that several decades ago, the Germans “lifted” our indigenous medical secrets! From then on, I was nursing a desire to find out the truth. For this, I learnt the German language for nine semesters and registered for a doctoral research on German activities in Tamilnadu. A German expert in this field, the late Professor H.W. Gensichen, hinted that there could be some German diaries and medical notes which were sent from Tamilnadu 300 years ago, then preserved in the Francken’s foundations archives in the erstwhile east Germany. The archives Director Mr.Jürgen Storz told me that there were as many as 200,000 diaries, manuscripts, travel accounts, station registers, curious observations etc., all pertaining to the activities of the German missionaries in Tamilnadu during 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. I even saw two sacks full of Tamil and Telugu palm leaves bundles! The Germans, who came here to Tamilnadu 300 years ago, took away many indigenous medical notes. One of them relates to a medical prescription to prepare the herbal medicine to cure a dying rabies patient.

THE DISEASE Rabies-Hydrophobia is a dreadful as-yet 100% fatal disease. Rabies continues to be a serious public health problem in many countries, especially in developing and under-developed countries. Some dogs, which breed the dreadful “rabies” virus in their mouths, are the carriers of this disease. In a few countries like India, there are stray dogs, roaming about on roads and there are no rigid rules and legislations to regulate the upbringing by their owners. If these stray dogs bite a passerby, he is rushed to the government hospital and given the ARV (Anti Rabid Vaccination). The poor slum urchins and even the affluent ones, while playing with their canine pets, contract this disease. The saliva of rabid dogs, when it comes into contact with the skin of the human preys, with even a slight bruise, transmit into the blood system, the rabid virus which in turn, after many weeks or even months, enter into the nervous system and affect finally the brain. At this stage, the patient crawls, sometimes barks like a dog and shows deep aversion to water. (Hydro=water; phobia=aversion) and dye out in the most cruel and miserable manner!

THE MEDICINE The native Tamil doctors, 300 years ago, treated rabies victims with the herbal medicine, the formula of which, I found in Germany in 1986 in a brittle German diary of ca.18th century. In this prescription, I read the names of a few indigenous herbal samples, which grow in the tropical Tamilnadu during August to March, and the name of a certain wild animal, the ash of whose skin together with the herbs were used to prepare this medicine.

IMPORTANCE OF THIS PROJECT The Germans who took away this medical formula, did not seem to have left any trace of this here in Tamilnadu; for, otherwise, one does not find good enough reason as to why this life-saving medicine had not been administered to rabies victims over the past 300 years! A leading German pharmaceutical company HOECHST (later, Hoechst Marion Roussel) had published a news item in THE HINDU newspaper dated 10 May, 1989 that every year, 30, 000 people die in India due to this disease. This number will be still more, the world over. At the critical stage of this disease, when the rabid virus entered the nervous system, the patients are locked up in a cell room, allowed to die and their dead bodies are burnt and not even given to their family for the last rites for fear of infection. Even at such a critical stage, if the herbal medicine, as prescribed in this German diary could be given, the rabies victims can be saved. This is certainly a laudable medical aspect that several centuries ago, the Tamil medical men knew of such a life saving medicine when their counterparts in other parts of the world did not at all know of such a medical treatment then and even till this day! My efforts to bring out this medical project with the kind assistance of Professor Rothermund, who took up the matter with the German pharmaceutical company HOECHST, unluckily were rendered futile! THE METHODOLOGY: Certain medical, zoological and public health protocols prevented me from dispensing this medicine to the dying rabies patients. As one of the ingredients is to be prepared from the skin of a wild animal, the animal rights activists and even the law of the land may place hindrance for this. This problem can be solved if we make use of the skins of such animals after they died. As I am not a medical doctor, I cannot bring out this medicine, all by myself. I wish to interact and work with a medical organization to revolutionize the fight against rabies. An international patent has to be obtained. A cost effective medicine, as prescribed in the German diary has to be prepared, tested on rabies patients with the cooperation of philanthropic medical research foundations, and finally the medicine should be made available to the rabies victims at nominal cost or even free of cost.