Debunking Folks’ Medical Advice: Part 5

Several weeks ago, I came down with a viral illness that derailed me for a couple of days. Yes, doctors get sick too. My wife gave me some tender loving care, including a foot massage, chest and back rub and herbal tea. This brought memories on how my mother and father cared for me when I was sick during my childhood days. Let’s examine if there’s some medical validity on these practices.

1. Baños or hot water bath for fever.

When I was young, whenever I would have a high fever, my mother would give me what she called baños (Spanish for bath). This involves having warm water in a small planggana (basin) and she would soak my feet in that basin, and with a small towel, wipe my neck, arms and legs with the hot water. The water was not scalding, though in my child’s mind it was boiling hot. She would though place another towel soaked in ice water on my head while she gives me the hot water sponge bath.

I was not a fan of that treatment, as I have seen her also pour hot water on dead chicken before she pluck out its feathers. And I am no chicken! Though I enjoyed the chicken in the tinola (a traditional Filipino dish) after it was cooked.

Several years later, after going through medical school and gaining more understanding, I realized that there’s science on this practice as the water bath can really bring down the fever. Though the water need not be very hot, just tepid temperature is enough. The evaporation of the water on the skin cools us and brings the temperature down. You can argue that using cold water will bring the fever much faster. However, cold water will cause more shivering and chills, and that will bring the core body temperature higher, so it will be counter productive. Thus tepid water is advisable.

How about the cold towel soaked in ice water in the head? That is to prevent the temperature in the head going even higher which can trigger fever convulsion, while having the hot bath.

My mom was right all along.

2. Salabat or ginger tea for sore throat.

You probably have been given salabat for sore throat before. Salabat has been known to be taken by singers or by people who use their voice a lot, when they are hoarse. Some suck the ginger itself to soothe their throat. Some people even believe that it can make their singing voice mellow.


Ginger has been studied for its medical properties. It was found to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. So there’s truth to this home-made remedy.

Ginger has also been used for cough, headaches, stomach ache, toothache and even joint pains. Some studies even suggest that ginger has anti-cancer properties. So go ahead and sip that salabat. It goes well with bibingka too (rice cake).

But the best use of ginger for me, is when it flavors the tinola!

3. Ampalaya (bitter melon) leaves’ extract for cough.

When we’re little and we have cough and thick phlegm, my father will get ampalaya leaves and pound it and get its extract. It was the most bitter substance I have tasted in my life! My father said that it would get the thick mucus out. Maybe it did, for I almost to the point of vomiting and coughing my lungs out after I took a teaspoonful of this bitter extract.

Ampalaya is being used for many disorders, including fever, cough, hemorrhoids, and stomach problems. There’s even studies showing benefits for diabetes, as it has insulin-like peptides that has properties to lower the blood sugar.

As far as its effect on the cough, I did not really find the exact mechanism of action of how it works. Maybe the bitterness caused my body to abhor it so much that I got better faster so I would not take those bitter extract again.

4. Warm kalamansi (calamondin) extract or juice for colds.

I remember my father or mother would squeeze 2 to 3 kalamansi into a spoon, then would give it to us to drink when we have the colds. That’s sure took away the colds as well as the smile on our face. Sometimes they will even heat the spoonful of kalamansi over the flame to make it hot before giving it to us. Or they would prepare kalamansi with warm water but no sugar for us to drink, which to me was more tolerable.

Kalamansi, as well as other citrus fruits, are rich in vitamin C. And we know that vitamin C is good for us, especially when we are fighting infection. So there is truth on this folk’s medical practice. Even today, doctors will advice people who have colds or flu to take lots of water as well as fruits rich in vitamin C to help fight off the sickness.

So taking a spoonful of squeezed kalamansi  when you have a cold? Go right ahead. But skip heating it up over a flame. Vitamin C is easily denatured or destroyed with heat.


So there you have it people. These old folks’ remedy were effective after all. Who said you need an M.D. title to give sound medical advice?


(*photos from the web)

Still Water

During our recent trip to Poland I was asked a question that I have never encountered before.

We were in a restaurant when the waiter asked me what I wanted to drink. I then requested for water. To this the waiter further asked:

“Still or gassed?”

I looked at him intently and bid him to repeat the question, and he asked me again, “Still or gassed?”

Is he asking me if I wanted “distilled” water? But what about the gas? Does he know that I am feeling gassy? Will they gassed me or something?

Finally it dawned on me that he was asking if I wanted “regular” water or “carbonated” water! It’s just that I am not familiar with the term “still” or “gassed” water.

Realizing what his question was, I stated confidently, “Still water, please.”

Something I learned in Poland was, first, they don’t offer tap water in restaurants. Water is always bottled so you have to pay for it. Secondly, they like carbonated water, for some reason or another. And thirdly, they really call the carbonated water, “gassed” water. I think technically it is more accurate than the term sparkling water.

During the rest of our stay there, I was requesting for “still water.”


Polish still water

Perhaps I am not the only one who wants to drink still water. I was reminded of a popular text in the Bible in Psalms 23, “He leadeth me besides the still waters.”

Apparently sheep cannot drink from a rushing water. So the shepherd has to bring them to a spring or brook with quiet water, or he has to make a small dam for the water to be still, and only then can his herd of sheep drink the water.

But maybe it is not only our drinking water that we wanted to be still.

Last summer, in our home trip to the Philippines, we were able to visit Palawan, and we spent a few days beside the ocean. We rode boats when we went island hopping, did some swimming and snorkeling, and enjoyed some time kayaking.

During those water activities, you want the ocean to be still. We would not dare sail in a turbulent sea or when the waves are raging. So we want the water where we are treading, to be still waters, as well.


photo taken at Sabang, Palawan

However the waters where we tread, are not always still. It can be stormy at times.

Two years ago, the waters near Tacloban, Philippines became turbulent. So turbulent that it caused 15 to 20-foot-high storm surges during the super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). It caused terrific devastation not just near the coast but even spanning to several kilometers inland.

I witnessed this devastation first hand, and it’s not easy to forget such horrendous tragedy . Sadly to say, thousands of lives were lost, with millions more affected. I can only pray for the continuous healing and recovery of those survivors.

(video taken during one of our helicopter medical tour, Tacloban, November 2013)

We may like to have still waters all the time, but you and I know that angry waters is part of our lives. And I am not only talking about drinking water or sailing water for that matter. I think you know what I mean.

You may have not experienced stormy waters before and I hope you won’t ever go through them. Or you may have gone through some rough waters before, and glad that you’re over it. Or you may be going through raging waters right now, that you are desperately asking when will the waters go still.

My friends, we are not promised that we will only go through still waters. But even when I cross through turbulent waters, God has promised that He will be with me, “yea, even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death.”

And when the storm clears, He will lead me besides the still waters, and He will restore my soul.


(*post dedicated to the people of Tacloban, in this 2nd year anniversary of the tragedy brought in by Yolanda)

Live, Pray, Run

Many runners regard their endeavor as a religion. They are so devoted that they may be members of the Nike’s Witness, or the Church of Later-day (and Early-day) Runners, or the Cross-Country Faithful, or the 7-day Joggers. Maybe I am a member of this creed.

Then there are other people who treat other things as their religion. Like eating. They perform this as if it is their sole God-given duty. Well, I will not divulge on this subject any further, at least for now.

But why shouldn’t we treat running as spiritual exercise? I mean, literally.


My training for the half-marathon for this fall is in full swing. I have been doing the short runs (3 miles) at least twice or thrice during the week, and one long run (5 miles and increasing by a mile every week) on the weekend. I am currently on 8-mile long run.

That is a lot of time dedicated (or wasted?) on running, you might say. What else can you do with that time?

For me, I use that time to clear my head. Or do some serious thinking too. With the beautiful scenery around me, my creative moments (due to relative lack of oxygen?) come during those runs. I have even composed in my head, snippets or even whole article blogs during those period, and I just have to download it into the computer when I sit down.


But more recently, I have used those times running alone, as my meditation hour – communing with nature and its Creator. We certainly need those quiet moments. Not much talking, but listening.

Not too long ago, during a heat wave in our area, it was so hot that we had a string of 100-degree F days. It was so dry too that we had no rain for weeks, and we were in a drought-like condition, much to the demise of corn and soybean fields here.

Then one morning, as I went out for my run, the surrounding was all wet from the rain the night before. The parched land was soaked with water. It was breezy, cool and refreshing. I was grateful for the rain, as the farmers in our area were as well.

As I was running, I encountered a deer who perhaps was also thankful for the rain. She stood motionless as I passed by, just staring at me.

A thought was impressed on me. “As a deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.” What a good reminder. To this I add: as a runner panteth for air, so my soul longeth after Thee.

May we all have a blessed week.


(*photos taken with an iPhone during my morning runs)