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A Talk on Tibb in Nablus

by David Osborn, MH, L.Ac
Thursday, June 3, 2010

The following Monday evening at a hotel overlooking Nablus, I gave an introductory talk on Greco-Arabic Medicine, or Tibb, at a conference of local physicians.  I gave a historical overview of Tibb, and introduced the doctors there to some of its basic concepts.  After the talk, I was given an award.

Me and Mohammad at the Lecture

Lecture on Greek Medicine, Nablus

I receive an award in Nablus

An Herbal Secret Weapon

“Mohammad, do you have anything for this terrible chest cold I’ve been suffering from?”

“Yes, I surely do!”, Mohammad declared.

“It’s Adiantum capilla veneris, or Southern Maidenhair Fern.”  He then read to me about it from Al Antaki’s herbal.  Al Antaki held Adiantum in very high esteem for its prodigious ability to clear out heavy phlegm congestion from the lungs and chest.  Mohammad then gave me a supply of capsules of the powdered herb, telling me to take one in the morning and one in the evening.

“Only one capsule at a time?”, I queried.

“Only one.  The herb is quite strong.”, Mohammad assured me.

At first, I didn’t believe that the Adiantum would work, , especially since the dosage was so small.  But, lo and behold, I started heaving up and expectorating large amounts of thick, slimy, morbid phlegm from my lungs, and within a couple of days, the terrible chest cold which had plagued me since my arrival was gone.  Amazing!

“Mohammad, this Adiantum is truly amazing!  It’s a real herbal secret weapon against phlegm.  You really must market it and share it with the world!”

He told me that it was a relatively obscure and forgotten local herb that he had rediscovered.  And who knows how many other amazing herbs like Adiantum, also obscure and forgotten, are lurking out there in the Holy Land, just waiting to be rediscovered, to shower their healing benefits on all mankind?

A Middle Eastern Health Food

That night, we went to eat a light dinner at a restaurant in Nablus that was near my hostel.  One of the items on the menu, which I ordered, at Mohammad’s urging, was a salad made from the tender young shoots of Jarjeer, or Garden Rocket (Eruca sativa), which enjoys quite a reputation for being a male virility tonic throughout the Middle East.  Despite the obvious phallic and sexual symbolism of its name, I did not expeience any exceptional sexual stimulation or excitation after eating it, although I did find it quite nutritious and fortifying.

I was quite surprised to find, when researching this plant on the internet, that it was none other than Arrugala, that salad green that’s a favorite of so many yuppies in California.  Yet I had never heard anything from them about it being a sexual tonic or virilific.

Additional Health Challenges

I had done a lot of walking and hiking, both in Jerusalem, with its side trip to hike both Masada and Ein Gedi, and in Nablus, which is flanked by two mountains.  And now, my left knee was acting up, and was weak and sore.

For this problem, Mohammad took me to see a friend of his, a physiotherapist named Mohsin, whose clinic was nearby.  Mohsin related to me that he had had a very unusual healing journey, one that had taken him all the way to India, of all places, to learn acupuncture.

Mohsin diagnosed the problem as a pathological change in the synovial fluid, complicated by a mild dislocation of the fibula, plus rheumatic and muscular aches and tensions in the surrounding muscles, tendons and periarticular structures.  After some deft manipulation, which was a bit painful, plus some cupping on the inside of the knee joint to draw out stagnant, morbid blood and synovial fluid, followed by some taping below the knee joint to draw the dislocated fibula back into place, voila!  My knee felt a heck of a lot better.  Although it was still not completely healed, I could get around on it pretty well.

But now, a new and major health challenge confronted me.  The weather had warmed up considerably since my arrival in Nablus, and now, in the cheap hostel in which I had been staying, the bugs and fleas were starting to come out of the bedding at night, and were proceeding to eat me alive!

The bites were further complicated by an allergic response, bordering on an autoimmune reaction, which made for excessive and debilitating itchiness and redness, puffiness and swelling.  And now it was time to leave Nablus and head back to Jerusalem.

Back to Jerusalem

My first stop when I got back to Jerusalem was the Sea of Herbs.  I showed Jacob my terrible, disfiguring red and swollen insect bites, which were mainly on my hands and arms, and he gave me Nigella Oil, or oil of the Black Cumin Seed (Nigella sativa) to take, both internally, as well as to apply externally, in frequent doses.

When I expressed my doubts as to whether the treatment would really work, Jacob told me not to worry.  The prophet Mohammad, PBUH, had said that Nigella, or the Black Seed, was a cure for every disease except death.

My initial skepticism about the treatment stemmed from the fact that my skin condition was characterized by both heat, or redness and inflammation, as well as dampness, or puffiness and swelling, plus weeping exudations when scratched.  Let’s face it – I was a total mess!  How could Nigella Oil, which is in itself also warming and stimulating, plus unctuous and moistening, resolve, and not complicate my skin condition even further?

But the Nigella Oil worked much better than I expected to quiet down and soothe the itchiness, swelling and inflammation.  I attributed this to Nigella’s property of being animmunomodulator, or an herb that reduces undesirable allergic and autoimmune reactions while strengthening the righteous and beneficial immunity of the organism.  To date, no pharmaceutical drugs have been developed which have this immunomodulating property.  The best that modern medicine can do for autoimmune disorders is to suppress all immunity and immune responses of the organism, both good and bad, which leaves the body vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

The next time I passed by the Sea of Herbs, I found Jacob’s brother Isaac there.  He told me that he was amazed that Jacob hadn’t recommended their First Aid Cream, which was so good that it had won an award from the Israeli Ministry of Health.  It was chock full of all kinds of good things – essential oils as well as extracts and the fresh juices of many different herbs.  And it smelled great.  It was good, but it didn’t work much better than the Nigella Oil, which I continued to take internally as an immune booster and immunomodulator.

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