While Americans might be more familiar with the practices of modern medicine involving drugs, radiation and surgery to treat diseases, injuries and their symptoms, these are not the only methods that can be used to heal the body.
Approximately 38 percent of adults in the U.S. have tried types of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which is an umbrella term that includes practices like acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga, naprapathy, herbal medicine and hypnosis.
Often times people turn up their noses and scoff at the foolishness of people that put more trust in these practices than in modern advancements. Some might imagine alternative treatment advocates as a stereotyped demographic: home-schooled hippies who never go to doctors and pray all their illnesses away.
However, there is something to be said about the science and methodology of these less conventional treatments, and the profound impact they can have on people.
Because even though these treatments aren’t all proven to be the most effective, they have become very popular amongst people in Western societies and around the world. In fact, CAM is most often used by people who are also partaking in mainstream treatment as a way to relieve stress and minor symptoms of illnesses.
Others choose to take part in CAM for non-medicinal purposes, alleging the activities and procedures make them feel fulfilled, and, in some cases, exotic.
Another reason citizens of first world countries participate in complementary therapies is simply due to the hope that an additional, alternative method might better the odds of curing their condition.
Whether you believe in miracle drugs and surprise cures or think they’re hoaxes, there are those out there who don’t solely rely on on traditional practices to heal their bodies, and they can sometimes discover great success in seeking out different treatments.
One couple, Santiago and Charo Navarro of Quito, Ecuador, were pleasantly surprised at the results of their gamble with the realm beyond conventional medicine.
Around 20 years ago, Santiago Navarro contracted “erysipelas,” a skin infection that diabetics are prone to, after he cut his leg on his lawn mower. This happened just days before Navarro and his wife left Peoria, Illinois, (where he had been teaching at Bradley University), in order to head back home to Ecuador.
Similar to cellulitis, erysipelas is commonly treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, or with topical creams.
The problem with using antibiotics to treat the infection, however, is the fact that they work through the bloodstream, which doesn’t penetrate the layer of fat right beneath the skin where irritation from erysipelas occurs. Due to this, Navarro took penicillin for months with no improvement.
Around this time, a massage therapist in Ecuador asked Navarro if he had “tried the frog” as a method with which to treat erysipelas.
“When I heard her say that, I thought, that’s witch doctor, that’s voodoo. C’mon,” Navarro said.
Although he was intensely skeptical, Navarro eventually relented at the insistence of his wife and others around the city, traveling across town to receive medical care from the doctor specializing in frog treatments.
“This is an old man, who came with a bucket of leaves, some water, and a bottle with alcohol,” Navarro said, recounting with some amazement the simplicity of the procedure.
The frog itself, which Navarro said was nearly the size of his hand, was grabbed “like a sponge” and rubbed against his freshly sanitized leg for 10 minutes. The process was then repeated a second day, and Navarro claimed that the condition of his leg greatly improved until the next recurrence of the infection several months later.
The “alternative” practice of using frogs as healing agents is nothing new. For thousands of years, the Bufonidae family of frogs and toads have been used to treat infections, bites, cancer, heart disorders, hemorrhages, allergies, inflammation, pain and even AIDS.
Recently, Chinese scientists and doctors have been developing a treatment to combat cancer and hepatitis known as Huachansu, which is made from a deadly poison secreted by the cane toad. This poison, called bufotoxin, has been proven to kill cancer cells without affecting healthy ones, which is promising for the remedy’s success. Since then, millions of cane toads have been exported to China in order to assist in the clinical trial of Huachansu.
It is unclear what species of frog was used to treat Navarro, but since the outcome and experience were so positive, Charo Navarro says that she would recommend the treatment to anyone with extreme cases of cellulitis or erysipelas.
She says that while the disease is a hard one to cure, if a person has “faith and patience” during the procedure, it will lead to a better result. Which is true. Placebo effect or not, optimism does have an effect on the health and healing of a patient.
Now age 77, and back home in Ecuador, Santiago Navarro is a jovial former professor, with snow-white hair, and an impish grin. He is a living testament to the wonders of complimentary medicine.
All in all, there’s no one cure that works for everyone. Whether you try frogs, scented candles, or tiny needles, your treatment is up to you. Take care not to be fooled by hoax cures, or start treating yourself in ways you don’t fully understand, because that could worsen your condition.
While seeking the counsel of a trusted medical professional is the advised thing to do, just know that there are other options out there if traditional medicine or therapy aren’t working. And one of them might be just what you need.
Photo via National Toxicology Program