As Christmas draws near, Filipinos join the mad rush to prepare for the festivities—by buying gifts, attending innumerable Christmas parties, and bringing out sumptuous traditional recipes for the much-awaited noche buena feast. As we delight in the company of family and friends and enjoy the hearty fare prepared by loved ones, it is easy to get carried away in the merriment and have more than our share of rich, delicious lechon. That is, until a few hours later (or the following day, if we’re lucky), when a familiar sharp, nagging pain reminds us of yet another traditional holiday visitor—arthritis!
Now, if arthritis happened only once a year, (like Christmas!) all would be well. But the fact is, many of us live with this debilitating pain not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. So what exactly is arthritis, and is there anything we can do about it other than take the usual anti-inflammatory drugs?
An Albularyo explains Arthritis
For answers, we turn to Dr. Bibiano “Boy” Fajardo, a chemical engineer and albularyo (Filipino traditional healer) who has been healing with traditional Hilot and herbs for almost fifty years. “According to our ancestors,” Dr. Fajardo begins, “we should only eat the amount of food that our system can digest. If we consume more than this amount, the excess food will not be properly digested.”
If we take in too much protein, he says, this results in an accumulation of nitrogenous waste, one of which is uric acid— the main culprit for arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis
In the beginning, according to Dr. Fajardo, you can feel warmth in the areas where there is an accumulation of uric acid. As time goes by and the person continues to consume an excess of protein, the uric acid in the blood begins to deposit in the tissues of the body, and finally, in the bones.
“When you get up in the morning,” Dr. Fajardo says matter of factly, “and you begin to feel pain in particular areas of your body, that’s where the uric acid deposits are.”
Traditional Hilot-Herbal treatment for Arthritis
So what are the traditional Filipino remedies for arthritis?
“In the early stages, when the uric acid is still only in the blood, it can be flushed out with tea made from boiling lemongrass stalks and/or pancit-pancitan,” Dr. Fajardo explains, “also, our wise old healers had a secret formula for cleansing which helps relieve arthritis.”
“However, if there are already uric acid deposits in your muscles and bones, these cannot be flushed out by herbs alone,” Dr. Fajardo points out. “Physical Hilot manipulation is needed to break down these deposits so they can eventually be flushed out of the body.” To hasten the treatment, Dr. Fajardo explains that thin slices of ginger (oiled and slightly warmed) could also be applied to the affected areas, preferably overnight, for faster relief. “But,” Dr. Fajardo cautions, “take care that the area is not exposed to the cold.”
Hilot for the holidays
So if after a night of partying, you begin to feel that old, familiar ache (but are tired of worrying about the side effects of your pain medications), take heart! You have Filipino traditional Hilot and herbs on your side—a safer, gentler, and more natural way of relieving arthritis, made possible through the wisdom handed down to us by generations of Filipino traditional healers.