In a well-ordered society the citizens know and observe the laws of health
and hygiene. It is established beyond doubt that ignorance and neglect of
the laws of health and hygiene are responsible for the majority of diseases
to which mankind is heir. The very high death rate among us is no doubt due
largely to our gnawing poverty, but it could be mitigated if the people
were properly educated about health and hygiene.
Mens sana in corpore sano is perhaps the first law for humanity. A healthy mind in a healthy body is a
self-evident truth. There is an inevitable connection between mind and body.
If we were in possession of healthy minds, we would shed all violence and,
naturally obeying the laws of health, we would have healthy bodies without
Constructive Programme, 1961, p.21
It is necessary to understand the meaning of the word health. Health means
body ease. He is a healthy man whose body is free from all disease; he
carries on his normal activities without fatigue. Such a man should be able
with ease to walk ten to twelve miles a day, and perform ordinary physical
labour without getting tired. He can digest ordinary simple food. His mind
and his senses are in a state of harmony and poise.
Key to Health, 1960, p.3
The fundamental laws of health and hygiene are simple and easily learnt. The
difficulty is about their observance. Here are some:
Think the purest thoughts and banish all idle and impure thoughts.
Breathe the freshest air day and night.
Establish a balance between bodily and mental work.
Stand erect, sit erect, and be neat and clean in every one of your acts, and
let these be an expression of your inner condition.
Eat to live for service of fellowmen. Do not live for indulging yourselves.
Hence your food must be just enough to keep your mind and body in good
order. Man becomes what he eats.
Your water, food and air must be clean, and you will not be satisfied with
mere personal cleanliness, but you will infect your surroundings with the
same threefold cleanliness that you will desire for yourselves.
Constructive Programme, 1961, p.22
Nature Cure for Disease
The practice of nature cure does not require high academic qualifications or
much erudition. Simplicity is the essence of universality. Nothing that is
meant for the benefit of the millions requires much erudition. The latter
can be acquired only by the few and therefore can benefit the rich only. But
India lives in her seven lakhs of villages—obscure, tiny, out-of-the-way
villages, where the population in some cases hardly exceeds a few hundred,
very often not even a few score. I would like to go and settle down in some
such village. That is real India, my India, for which I live. You cannot
take to these humble people the paraphernalia of highly qualified doctors
and hospital equipment. In simple natural remedies and Ramanama lies their
H., 7-4-’46, p.69
I hold that where the rules of personal, domestic and public sanitation are
strictly observed and due care is taken in the matter of diet and exercise,
there should be no occasion for illness or disease. Where there is absolute
purity, inner and outer, illness becomes impossible. If the village people
could but understand this, they would not need doctors, hakims or vaidyas.
Nature cure implies an ideal mode of life and that in its turn presupposes
ideal living conditions in towns and villages. The name of God is, of
course, the hub round which the nature cure system revolves.
H., 26-5-’46, p.153
Nature cure implies that the treatment should be the. cheapest and the
simplest possible. The ideal is that such treatment should be carried out in
the villages. The villagers should be able to provide the necessary means
and equipment. What cannot be had in the villages should be procured. Nature
cure does mean a change for the better in one's outlook on life itself. It
means regulation of one's life in accordance with the laws of health. It is
not a matter of taking the free medicine from the hospital or for fees. A
man who takes free treatment from the hospital accepts charity. The man who
accepts nature cure never begs. Self-help enhances self-respect. He takes
steps to cure himself by eliminating poisons from the system and takes
precautions against falling ill in the future.
Right diet and balanced diet are necessary. Today our villages are as
bankrupt as we are ourselves. To produce enough vegetables, fruits and milk
in the villages, is an essential part of the nature cure scheme. Time spent
on this should not be considered a waste. It is bound to benefit all the
villagers and ultimately the whole of India.
H., 2-6-’46, p.165
The nature cure of my conception for the villagers is limited to rendering
such aid as can be given to them through what can be procured in the
village. For example, I would not need either electricity or ice for them.
Such work can only be for those like me who have become village-minded.
H., 11-8-’46, p.257
My nature cure is designed solely for villagers and villages. Therefore,
there is no place in it for the microscope, X-rays and similar things. Nor
is there room in nature cure for medicines, such as quinine, emetin and
penicillin. Personal hygiene and healthy living are of primary importance.
And these should suffice. If everyone could achieve perfection in this art,
there could be no disease. And, while obeying all the laws of nature in
order to cure illness, if it does come, the sovereign remedy ever lies in
Ramanama. But this cure through Ramanama cannot become universal in the
twinkling of an eye. To carry conviction to the patient, the physician has
to be a living embodiment of the power of Ramanama. Meantime, all that Can
possibly be had from the five agencies of nature must be taken and used.
They are earth, water, ether, fire and wind. This, to my mind, is the limit
of nature cure. Therefore, my experiment in Uruli Kanchan consists in
teaching the villagers how to live clean and healthy lives and in trying to
cure the sick through the proper use of the five agencies. If necessary,
curative herbs that grow locally, may be used. Wholesome and balanced diet
is, of course, an indispensable part of nature cure.
H., 11-8-’46, p.260
The science of natural therapeutics is based on a use, in the treatment of
disease, of the same five elements which constitute the human body.
Key to Health., 1960, p.57
Just lays great emphasis on the use of earth. I felt that I ought to give it
a trial. For constipation, Just advises cold mud poultice on the lower
abdomen. I made a mud poultice by mixing clean dry earth with water, packed
it in a piece of thin cloth and kept it on the abdomen throughout the night.
The result was most satisfactory.
Key to Health, 1960, p. 58-59
The mud poultice should be 3 inches broad, 6 inches long and £ inch thick.
Key to Health, 1960, p.59
It is my experience that a mud poultice applied to the head, relieves
headache in most cases. I have tried it in hundreds of cases. Headache may
be due to several causes, but whatever the cause, as a general rule, an
application of mud poultice relieves it for the time being.
Mud poultices cure ordinary boils. I have applied mud to discharging
abscesses as well. For these cases I prepare the poultice by packing the mud
in a clean piece of cloth dipped in potassium permanganate lotion, and apply
it to the abscess after washing it clean with permanganate lotion. In the
majority of cases this treatment results in complete cure. I do not remember
a single case in which it has failed me. Mud application immediately
relieves the pain of a wasp sting. I have used it in many cases of scorpion
bite, though with much less success.
Key to Health, 1960, p. 59-60
In high fever, an application of mud poultice on the head and abdomen is
very useful. Although it does not always bring down the temperature, it does
invariably soothe the patient and make him feel better so that the patients
themselves ask for these applications.
I have used it in several cases of typhoid fever. The fever no doubt runs
its own course but mud applications seem to relieve restlessness and abate
Key to Health, 1960, p.60
In Sevagram we have made free use of hot mud poultices as a substitute for
antiphlogistine. A little oil and salt is added to the mud and it is heated
sufficiently long to ensure sterilization.
Key to Health, 1960, p.61
It is safe to use soft alluvial clay, which is neither gritty nor sticky.
One should never use earth taken from manured soil. Earth should be dried,
pounded, and passed through a fine sieve. If there is any doubt as to its
cleanliness, it should be well heated and thus sterilized.
Key to Health, 1960, p.61
Just writes that clean earth may be eaten in order to overcome constipation.
Five to ten grams is the maximum dose. The rationale is said to be this.
Earth is not digested. It acts as roughage and must pass out. The
peirstalsis thus stimulated pushes out the faecal matter as well. I have not
tried it myself. Therefore those who wish to do so, should try it on their
own responsibility. I am inclined to think that a trial or two is not likely
to harm anyone.
Key to Health, 1960, p.62
Hip bath and sitz bath are the most important of Kuhne's contributions to
hydro-therapy. He has devised a special tub for use though one can do
without it. Any tub thirty to thirty-six inches long according to the
patient's height generally serves the purpose. Experience will indicate the
proper size. The tub should be filled with fresh cold water so that it does
not overflow when the patient sits in it. In summer the water may be iced,
if it is not cold enough, to give a gentle shock to the patient. Generally,
water kept in earthen jars overnight answers the purpose. Water can also be
cooled by putting a piece of cloth on the surface of the water and then
fanning it vigorously. The tub should be kept against the bathroom wall and
a plank put in the tub to serve as back rest. The patient should sit in the
tub keeping his feet outside. Portions of the body outside water should be
kept well covered so that the patient does not feel cold. After the patient
is comfortably seated in the tub, gentle friction should be applied to his
abdomen with a soft towel. This bath can be taken for five to thirty
minutes. When it is over, the body should be rubbed dry and the patient put to bed.
Hip bath brings down the temperature in high fever and given in the manner
described above it never does any harm, and may do much good. It relieves
constipation and improves digestion. The patient feels fresh and active
after it. In cases of constipation, Kuhne advises a brisk walk for half an
hour immediately after the bath. It should never be given on a full stomach.
I have tried hip baths on a fairly large scale. They have proved efficacious
in more than 75 cases out of 100. In cases of hyperpyrexia, if the patient's
condition permits of his being seated in the tub, the temperature
immediately invariably falls at least by two to three degrees, and the onset
of delirium is averted.
Key to Health, 1960, p.63-65
Now about the sitz or friction bath. The organ of reproduction is one of the
most sensitive parts of the body. There is something illusive about the
sensitiveness of the glans penis and the foreskin. Anyway, I know not how
to describe it. Kuhne has made use of this knowledge for therapeutic
purposes. He advises application of gentle friction to the outer end of the
external sexual organ by means of a soft wet piece of cloth, while cold
water is being poured. In the case of the male the glans penis should be
covered with the foreskin before applying friction. The method advised by
Kuhne is this. A stool should be placed in a tub of cold water so that the
seat is just about the level of the water in the tub. The patient should sit
on the stool with his feet outside the tub and apply gentle friction to the
sexual organ which just touches the surface of the water in the tub. This
friction should never cause pain. On the contrary the patient should find
it pleasant and feel rested and peaceful at the end of the bath. Whatever
the ailment, the sitz bath makes the patient feel better for the time being.
Kuhne places sitz baths higher than hip baths. I have had much less
experience of the former than of the latter. The blame, I think, lies mostly
with myself. I have been lax. Those whom I advised sitz baths, have not been
patient with the experiment, so that I cannot express an opinion on the
efficacy of these baths, based on personal experience. It is worth a trial
by everyone. If there is any difficulty about finding a tub, it is possible
to pour water from a jug or a lota
and take the friction bath. It is bound to make the patient feel rested and
peaceful. As a general rule, people pay scant attention to the cleansing of
the sexual organ. The friction bath will easily achieve that end. Unless one
is particularly careful, dirt accumulates between the foreskin and the glans
penis. This must be removed. Insistence on keeping the sexual organ clean
and patiently following the treatment outlined above will make the
observance of Brahmacharya comparatively easier. It will result in making
the local nerve endings less sensitive and unwanted seminal emissions less
likely. To say the least, it is very unclean to allow seminal emissions to
occur. Greater insistence on cleanliness should and will cause a feeling of
revulsion against the process and make one much more particular than
otherwise in taking all the precautions to avoid them.
Key to Health, 1960, p.67-69
Wet sheet packs are also useful in the treatment of prickly heat, urticaria,
other forms of skin irritation, measles, smallpox etc. I have tried them on
a fairly large scale for these ailments. For smallpox and measles cases, I
added enough potassium permanganate to the water to give it a light pink colour. The sheet used for these patients, should afterwards be sterilized
by soaking in it boiling water and leaving it in it till it cools down
sufficiently and then washed with soap and water.
In cases where circulation has become sluggish, the leg muscles feel sore
and there is a peculiar ache and feelings of discomfort in the legs, an ice
massage does a lot of good. This treatment is more effective in summer
months. Massaging a weak patient with ice in winter might prove a risky affair.
Now a few words about the therapeutics of hot water. An intelligent use of
hot water gives relief in many cases. Application of iodine is a very
popular remedy for all sorts of injuries and the like. Application of hot
water will prove equally effective in most of these cases. Tincture of
iodine is applied on swollen and bruised areas. Hot water fomentations are
likely to give equal relief, if not more. Again, iodine drops are used in
cases of ear-ache. Irrigation of the ear with warm water is. likely to
relieve the pain in most of these cases. The use of iodine is attended with
certain risks. The patient may have allergy towards the drug. Iodine
mistaken for something else and taken internally might prove disastrous.
But there is no risk whatsoever in using hot water. Boiling water is as good
a disinfectant as tincture of iodine. I do not mean to belittle the
usefulness of iodine or suggest that hot water can replace it in all cases.
Iodine is one of the few drugs which I regard most useful and necessary, but
it is an expensive thing. The poor cannot afford to buy it and moreover its
use cannot be safely entrusted to everybody. But water is available
everywhere. We may not despise its therapeutic value because it is obtained
so easily. Knowledge of common household remedies often proves a godsend in
many a crisis.
Key to Health, 1960, p.71-72
Steam is a more valuable therapeutic agent. It can be used to make the
patient sweat. Steam baths are most useful in cases of rheumatism and other
joint-pains. The easiest as well as the oldest method of taking steam bath
is this. Spread a blanket or two on a sparsely but tightly woven cot and put
one or two covered vessels full with boiling water under it. Make the
patient lie flat on the cot and cover him up in such a way that the ends of
the covering blankets touch the .ground and thus prevent the steam from
escaping and the outside, air from getting in. After arranging everything as
above, the lid from the vessels containing boiling water is removed and
steam soon gets on to the patient lying between the blankets. It may be
necessary to change the water once or twice. Usually in India people keep an
angithi under the pots to keep the water boiling. This ensures continuous discharge
of steam, but is attended with risk of accidents. A single spark might set
fire to the blankets or to the cot and endanger the patient's life.
Therefore, it is advisable to use the method described by me even though it
might seem slow and tedious.
Some people add neem
leaves or other herbs to the water used for generating steam. I do not know
if such an addition increases the efficiency of steam. The object is to
induce sweat and that is attained by mere steam.
In cases of cold feet or aching of legs, the patient should be made to sit
with his feet and legs immersed up to the knees in as hot water as he can
bear. A little mustard powder can be added to the water. The foot bath
should not last for more than fifteen minutes. This treatment improves the
local circulation and gives immediate relief.
In cases of common cold and sore throat a steam kettle which is very much
like an ordinary tea kettle with a long nozzle can be used for applying
steam to the nose or throat. A rubber tube of required length can be
attached to any ordinary kettle for this purpose.
Key to Health, 1960, p.73-75
Akash might be taken for the empty space surrounding the earth and the atmosphere
Key to Health, 1960, p.75
Sky or the ether is the abode of the atmosphere. One can pump out air say
from an empty bottle and create a vacuum, but who can pump out the vacuum
itself? That is akash.
This akash we have to make use of to maintain or to regain health.
Key to Health, 1960, p.76
The more we utilize this great element
akash the healthier we will be. The first lesson to be learnt is this, that we
should not put any partition between ourselves and the sky — the infinite —
which is very near and yet very far away. If our bodies could be in contact
with the sky without the intervention of houses, roofs and even clothes, we
are likely to enjoy the maximum amount of health. This is not possible for
everyone. But all can and should accept the validity of the statement and
adapt life accordingly. To the extent that we are able to approach the state
in practice, we will enjoy contentment and peace of mind.
Key to Health, 1960, p.77
This train of thought will make the thinker keep his surroundings as open as
possible. He will not fill the house with unnecessary furniture and will use
the minimum of clothes that are necessary. Many households are so packed
with all sorts of unnecessary decorations and furniture which one can very
well do without, that a simple living man will feel suffocated in those
surroundings. They are nothing but means of harbouring dust, bacteria and insects.
Key to Health, 1960, p.78
One should make it a point to sleep in the open. Sufficient covering should
be used to protect oneself against the inclemencies of the weather — against
cold and dew. In rainy season an umbrella-like roof without walls should be
used for keeping the rain out. For the rest, the starlit blue canopy should
form the roof, so that whenever one opens one's eyes, he or she can feast
them on the ever changing beautiful panorama of the heavens. He will never
tire of the scene and it will not dazzle or hurt his eyes. On the contrary,
it will have a soothing effect on him. To watch the different starry
constellations floating in their majesty is a feast for the eyes. One who
establishes contact with the stars as living witnesses to all his thoughts
will never allow any evil or impurity to enter his mind and will enjoy
peaceful, refreshing sleep.
Let us descend from the akash above to the akash
within and immediately about us. Thus the skin has millions of pores. If we
fill up the empty space within these pores, we simply die. Any clogging of
the pores therefore must interfere with the even flow of health. Similarly
we must not fill up the digestive tract with unnecessary foodstuffs. We
should eat only as much as we need and no more. Often one overeats or eats
indigestible things without being aware of it. An occasional fast, say once
a week or once a fortnight, will enable one to keep the balance even. If one
is unable to fast for the whole day, one should miss one or more meals
during the day. Nature abhors a vacuum is only partially true. Nature
constantly demands a vacuum. The vast space surrounding us is the standing
testimony of the truth.
Key to Health, 1960, p.79-81
Sunbath is as useful as ordinary water bath though the two cannot replace
one another. In cases of debility and slow circulation, exposure of the
uncovered body to the morning sun acts as an all-round general tonic and
accelerates the metabolism. The morning sun has the largest amount of
ultra-violet rays which are a most effective component of the sun's rays. If
the patient feels cold, he should lie in the sun covered up and gradually
expose more and more of his body as he gets used to it. One can also take
the sunbath pacing up and down in the sun without any clothes on, in a
private enclosure or in any other place away from public gaze. If such a
place is not within easy reach, one can just cover up the private parts by
tying up a piece of cloth or a langoti and expose the rest of his body to the sun.
Key to Health, 1960, p.81-82
I know of many persons who have been benefited by sunbaths. It is a
well-known treatment for tuberculosis.
Key to Health, 1960, p.82
Sun treatment often results in the cure of intractable ulcers.
Key to Health, 1960, p.82
This fifth element is as important as the four already discussed in the
foregoing pages. The human body which is composed of the five elements
cannot do without any one of them. Therefore no one should be afraid of air.
Generally, wherever our people go, they make devices to keep out the sun and
the air and thus jeopardize their health. If one cultivates the habit of
living in the open in the midst of plenty of fresh air, right from
childhood, the body will become hardened and he or she will never suffer
from cold in the head and the like ailments.
Key to Health, 1960, p.83
The Extent of Medical Aid
With the commencement of the activities of the A.I.V.I.A., medical aid finds
a prominent, if not almost an exclusive, place on the programme of many
workers. The aid consists in distributing among the villagers free
medicines, Allopathic, Ayurvedic, Unani or Homeopathic, or all combined.
Druggists selling these medicines are quite ready to oblige workers
approaching them for a few medicines, which co£t them a trifle and which, in
their opinion, may, if they look at the gift selfishly, bring them more
buyers. The poor patients become the victims of well-intentioned, but
ill-informed or over-enthusiastic, workers. More than three-fourths of these
drugs are not only useless but imperceptibly, if not perceptibly, harmful to
the bodies into which they are put. Where they do bring some temporary
relief to the patients, their substitutes are as a rule to be found in the
Therefore, A.I.V.I.A. is leaving medical relief of the kind I have described
severely alone. Its primary care is educative in matters of health as well
as of economy. Are not both inter-related? Does not health mean wealth for
the millions? Their bodies, not their intellect, are the primary instruments
of wealth. The Association, therefore, seeks to teach people how to prevent
disease. It is well known that the food of the millions is very deficient in
its nourishing value. What they do eat they misuse. Their knowledge of
hygiene is practically nil. Village sanitation is as bad as it well can be.
If, therefore, these defects can be put right and the people imbibe the
simple rules of hygiene, most of the ailments they suffer from must
disappear without further effort or any outlay of money. Hence the
Association does not contemplate opening dispensaries. Investigations are
now being made to find out what the villages can supply in the shape of
drugs. Satish Babu's. cheap remedies* are an effort in that direction. But
incredibly simple though they are, he is experimenting with a view to
making drastic reduction in the number of these remedies, without
diminishing their efficacy. He is studying the bazaar drugs and testing them
and comparing them with the corresponding drugs in the British
pharmacopoeia. The desire is to wean the simple villagers from the awe of
mysterious pills and infusions.
Key to Health, 1960, p.59
Where cases of fever, constipation or such common diseases come to village
workers for help they will certainly have to render such help as they can.
Where one is certain of the diagnosis, there is no doubt that the village
bazaar medicine is the cheapest and best. If one must stock drugs, castor
oil, quinine and boiling water are the best medical agents. Castor oil may
be locally procurable. The senna
leaf may serve the same purpose. Quinine I should use sparingly. Every
fever does not require quinine treatment. Nor does every fever yield to
quinine. Most fevers will disappear after a fast or a semifast. Abstention
from cereals, pulses and milk, and taking fruit juices or boiling raisin
water, even boiling gud water with fresh lemon juice or tamarind, is a semifast. Boiling water is a
most powerful medical agent. It may move the bowels, it will induce
perspiration and therefore abate fever; it is the safest and cheapest
disinfectant. In every case where it is required to be drunk, the water must
be allowed to cool till it is fairly bearable to the skin. Boiling does not
mean mere heating. The water begins to bubble and evaporate after it is on
Where the workers do not know for certain what to do, they must allow the
local vaidya to have full sway. Where he is non-existent or unreliable and the workers
know a philanthropic doctor nearby, they may invoke his assistance.
But they will find that the most effective way of dealing even with disease
is to attend to sanitation. Let them remember that nature is the finest
physician. They may be sure that nature is repairing what man has damaged.
She appears to have become powerless when man continuously hampers her. Then
she sends death — her last and peremptory agent to destroy what is beyond
repair — and provides a fresh garment for the wearer. Sanitary and hygienic
workers are therefore the best helpers or the best physicians every person
has, whether he knows it or not.
H., 5-4-’35, p. 59
Medical relief as part of village work or social service plays an important
part in many reports I receive from numerous organizations. This relief
consists of medicines supplied to patients who from far and near flock to
any person who advertises himself as distributor of such relief. It means no
trouble on the part of the medicine man. He need not have much or any
knowledge of diseases and the symptoms. Medicines he often receives free
from obliging chemists. Donations are always to be had from indiscriminate
donors whose conscience is satisfied if they can distribute their charity in
aid of suffering humanity.
This social service has appeared to me to be the laziest form of service and
often even mischievous. It works mischief when the patient is expected to do
nothing save to swallow the drug given to him. He is none the wiser for
having received the medicine. If anything he is worse off than before. The
knowledge that he can get for nothing or for a trifle, a pill or a potion
that will correct certain irregularities will tempt him to repeat them. The
fact that he gets such aid free of charge will undermine his self-respect
which should disdain to receive anything for nothing.
There is another type of medical relief which is a boon. It is given by
those who know the nature of diseases, who will tell the patients why they
have their particular complaints and will also tell them how to avoid them.
Such servants will rush to assist at all odd hours of the day or night. Such
discriminating relief is an education in hygiene, teaching the people how
to observe cleanliness and to gain health. But such service is rare. In the
majority of cases mention of medical relief in reports is a piece of
advertisement leading to donations for other activities requiring perhaps
as little exertion or knowledge as medical relief. I would therefore urge
all workers in the social field, whether urban or rural, to treat their
medical activity as the least important item of service. It would be better
to avoid all mention of such relief. Workers would do well to adopt measures
that would prevent disease in their localities. Their stock of medicines
should be as small as possible. They should study the bazaar medicines
available in their villages, know their reputed properties, and use them as
far as possible. They will find as we are finding in Sindi (a village near
Wardha) that hot water, sunshine, clean salt and soda with an occasional use
of castor oil or quinine answer most purposes. We make it a point to send
all serious cases to the Civil Hospital. Patients flock to Mirabahen and
receive lessons in hygiene and prevention of diseases. They do not resent
this method of approach instead of simply being given a powder or a mixture.
H., 9-11-’35, p.308
* Home and Village Doctor, By Satish Chandra Das Gupta, Khadi Pratishthan, 15, College Square, Calcutta.