WITCH-DOCTORS, MAGIC, AND MEDICINE
Balinese love a clear skin and they are disturbed by the
prevalent skin diseases, from the ugly but harmless kurab,
a skin discolouration produced by a parasitic fungus, to
itches, framboesia, and tenacious tropical ulcers. The kurab
(called bulenan when in small patches) appears as whitish
spots on the brown skin and spreads all over if not checked.
It is cured by rubbing the affected areas with lalang Grass,
but it has been discovered that it disappears quickly with
salycilic alcohol from the Chinese druggists.Itches
are cured with lemon juice, coconut oil, and frequent baths
in hot water in which legundi and ketawali leaves are macerated.
People after middle age complain of " bone trouble,"
rheumatism, due to the extreme humidity of the island, and
as a preventive they wear bracelets of kayu uli, a sort
of black coral from Borneo. It is said that the pain can
be driven out by marking the feet with a hot iron, which
does not hurt the patient because " the teeth of the
fire are taken away by a mantra." Headaches are cured
by massage, but it helps to spray the forehead with a mixture
of crushed ginger and mashed bedbugs. For stomachache they
drink the red infusion of medarah bark from Java.
cough is relieved by drinking an infusion of blimbing buluh
flowers mixed with parched, grated coconut, also sprayed
externally on the throat. Head colds are cured by massage,
but it is good for sneezing to smell a piece of telor bark
three times. Such are the most common of domestic remedies,
but for each illness there are seven medicines used consecutively
when the preceding ones fail to give relief. The keystone
of Balinese medicine is the principle of " hot "
and " cold," irritating and refreshing, also applied
to foods. Thus a heated or irritated condition is cured
by a cooling-medicine.
Balinese are helpless in the case of infected wounds, but
it is always a means of breaking the ice with a foreign
neighbour to ask for medicine for an infected cut covered
with a greenish mess and wrapped in a dirty rag. Rose treated
many such cases soon after our arrival in Belaluan and eventually
we had a great circle of faithful friends who brought presents
of food to show their appreciation.
our return trip we found that the full responsibility for
such cases had fallen on our American friends Jack and Katharane
Mershon, former dancers, who had settled on the malarial
Sanur coast, where they conducted an improvised but effective
free clinic. They spent their spare money on medicines and
took turns every day treating scores of people, often coming
from afar with the most frightful sores. The disinterested
work of the Mershons made them the idols of the neighbourhood
and they are known only as tuan doctor and nyonya doctor.
There is of course a fine modern hospital in Den Pasar,
but the Balinese prefer the more informal, sympathetic clinic
of the Mershons.
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