Gandhi matriculated from the Alferd High School at Rajkot. Soon after when his guardians decided to send him to England for a study of Law, Gandhi asked: " Could I not be sent to qualify for the medical profession?" His eldest brother objected because a Vaishnava could have nothing to do with dissection. Gandhi's deceased father Karamchand had never liked it.
At the age of 39 Gandhi again went to England from South
Africa and thought of taking up the medical course. Again vivisection stood as a
barrier. Vivisection of live animals, experiments on living creatures for
preparing serum and injections he could not tolerate. To him allopath were the
devil's deplored the Ayurvedic practitioner's apathy to new experiments.
Homoeopathy had no charm for him. His great interest in healing the sick allowed
him no peace till he became a naturopath.
He read Kuhne and was influenced by the use of water in curing
diseases. Slowly, after making experiments on himself, his sons and his wife, he
stuck to a treatment based on the right use of the elements around us of water
and earth, of fresh air and sun's rays. Gandhi never poisoned the body with
pills and powders and laid stress on fasting, change of diet and use of herbs.
His uncommon power of observing the sick and making a full
study of a case helped him to treat patients successfully. In South Africa, he
was the first coolie barrister and the first coolie quack. Many came the family
physician of some of his clients. His method of treatment at that time was
against the current rules of medical science and was later partly advocated by
When his son was down with typhoid, doctors prescribed eggs
and chicken broth. Gandhi did not agree to give any non-vegetarian diet. He took
up the case and kept the boy on water and orange juice. He put him in wet sheet
packs. When the boy grew delirious, Gandhi got a little nervous but stuck to his
nature cure methods and cured him. He succeeded in handling more cases of
typhoid without injections.
He defied a doctor's ruling more than once. Kasturba was once
laid down with a bad type of anaemia. The doctor asked her to take beef-tea.
Both Gandhi and Kasturba refused to do so. Gandhi kept her on lime juice for
days together and cured her. He advised her not to take dal and salt. For a
moment Kasturba forgot her husband's rigid nature and murmured; " it is all very
well for you to prescribe it. Can you give them up? " Quick came the reply: "
Surely if the doctor advised me. But there, without any medical advice, I give
up salt and pulses for one year." Kasturba's tears and pleadings could not
induce him to recall his vow. Both the patient and the physician stopped taking
salt and pulses.
On another occasion for a fortnight Kasturba had to fast and
take neem juice regularly. Gandhi laid particular stress on keeping the bowels
clean. To destroy pent-up poison he advised fasts, semi-fasts and the use of
enema. He believed that headaches, indigestion, diarrhoea and constipation
resulted exercise. Long brisk walks were to him an unfailing means of keeping
fit. In jails he maintained this habit by walking in the allotted space every
morning and evening. He also advocated breathing exercises. He knew physical
fitness was often disturbed by mental disorder. Ramanam meant to him complete
faith in God's will giving up all worries. It was a remedy for all ills.
When Gandhi was assaulted by the Pathans in South Africa, he
applied clean earth poultice on his bruised mouth, forehead and ribs. The
swelling soon subsided.
He applied earth treatment in cases of plague, enteric fever,
malaria, dypepsia, jaundice, blood-presure, severe burns, small-pox and
fractures. His son broke his arm during a voyage, Gandhi tried earth bandage and
the wound healed. He was successful in treating and the wound healed. He was
successful in treating a number of cases, yet he warned not to take his
experiments as gospel truths. He knew there was great risk in making such
unorthodox experiments. He admitted his Guide to Health contained bold views on
keeping fit. He was not keen on opening a few maternity homes, hospitals and
dispensaries but on touching people cleanliness and healthy ways of living. He
was more for preventive measures than for curative ones.
Allopathic drugs were not taboo. During a cholera epidemic in
Sevagram he allowed the villagers and the ashramites to get vaccinated. He
himself was operated in jail for appendicitis and was flooded with unkind
letters from the public. He admitted his lapse.
Gandhi knew the limitations of naturopathy still he patronised
it for many reasons. It was within the reah of their poor masses of India. It
was cent percent swadeshi. At seventy seven he took it up with redoubled zeal
and established a nature cure centre in a village called Uruli Kanchan. It had
no costly and mechanical appliances. He thought an ideal doctor should have a
good knowledge of medicine and should share the knowledge with the public free
of charge. He wanted to fix a yearly allowance for doctors who need not expect
anything from their patients whether rich or poor. For some days he examined the
patients and wrote prescriptions. One read: For Raju- " Sun bath , hip-bath,
friction bath . Fruit juice and whey . No milk. If whey cannot be digested,
fruit juice and boiled water should be used." Another was for Parvati " Only
mousambi juice. Hip-bath, friction-bath mud-pack on abdomen. Regular sun-bath .
If this much is observed, she will get well. explain to her the glory of Ramanam."
In his ashram the common joke was: " If you want Bapu near
you, fall ill." Gandhi knew the smallest details of all sick person and visited
every patient on his way back from the daily walks. He gave detailed
instructions as to how the diet was to be prepared, how a patient was to
be sponged and massaged and how many grains of salt or sods were to be used in
an enema. When he decide to devote on hour each morning to patients in Sevagram,
patients streamed in from the neighboring villages. His advice was; "Bhaji khao,
chach pio, mitti lagao" ( Eat vegetables , drink buttermilk and apply mud
poultices). He sometimes examined the stool of a patient. If the patient was not
too weak, he was kept and open air. He suggested a cure for an ailment after
making a thorough study of the case. One Co-worker was suffering from high blood
pressure due to nervous strain. To detect the cause of it, Gandhi got his
pressure checked before and after a serious discussion. The next day, it was
checked before and after he sawed a plank of wood exactly on a line drawn on it.
The third day the same was done before and after he ran a furlong on the ashram
ground. On the last day there was a fall in his blood-pressure, in two previous
occasions it rose higher. Gandhi's prescription to him was: " Whenever you feel
a higher pressure, walk it off." Gandhi 's most important work or talk could be
interrupted by anyone seeking his advise on food , bath and treatment of
patients,. Many well-known leaders were kept under strict vigilance, lest they
disobey his orders. in jail too, he obtained permission to attend on his
A co-worker suffering from asthma sought his help. Gandhi
asked him to stop smoking and he agreed. Three days passed without any
improvement. The smoker could not help smoking secretly one or two cigarettes a
day. One night as he stuck a match for lighting a cigarette, atorch flashed on
his face. He pardon and gave up smoking. Asthma soon left him for good. Gaffar
Khan had some scalp trouble and Gandhi suggested a home remedy. That pained the
tall pathan leader more than the disease . A thorn once entered Vallabhbhai's
foot. Gandhi put burnt bibba, a marking nut, as substitute for iodine.
Vallabhabhai said: " I prefer the pain of the thorn to this biting cure."