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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme in Gaza

Ask him to find me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the salt water and the sea-strand,
For then he'll be a true love of mine.

Herbs replace drugs in Gaza amid suffocating siege

GAZA, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Walking out of a spice shop with difficulty, 51 year old Um Muhammad Oreif carried parcels of herbs which she wishes can alleviate her increasing pains due to rheumatism.

"I'm not quite sure if these herbs will give the sought results, but what else should I do? I'm running out of money and prices of medicines at pharmacies are sky rocketing," Um Muhammad complained.

The old lady, who never parallels natural herbs to a medication, has to turn to herbs now because of the deteriorating domestic economy.

"In such conditions like ours, in which we can hardly provide our children with the least they need, I have to buy the cheap herbs, instead of the extravagant medicines," she said helplessly.

Rheumatism is not the only chronic disease that Um Muhammad is counting on herbs, she even dose the same to the more dangerous diabetes she suffers.

To lighten the burdens on the shoulders of his unwaged husband, Um Muhammad replaced appropriate medication for diabetes with dry pomegranate peels and aloe.

Treating diabetes with pomegranate peels only may sound ridiculous, however, more and more Palestinians in Gaza began to resort to such indigenous methods rather than a scientific but expensive medication in the face of Gaza's worsened economy amid Israeli siege.

Tareq Ziad, 26, was another case. "I'm not in need for headache relief tablets. They cost me 10 Shekels (2 U.S. dollars). Now I use chamomile, it is very cheap and gives great outcomes," said the young man who has been unemployed since he graduated four years ago.

Good to Ziad, the herbs seem to take positive effect to his headache.

"I guess these herbs have real certain advantages, not only because they are cheap, but they also don't include any chemical materials," Ziad said.

His confidence in herbs is apparently accumulating. "In the past, there were no medicines as we have now. People for sure were only using herbs and natural materials to recover from illness."

Bad economy in Gaza and good effect of herbs were both at work in raising the popularity of herbs.

Owners of spice shops, to their delight, found that people have increasingly resorted to herbs treatment due to the high prices of medicines and the lack of cash in Gaza.

Abu Farouk Kmeil, a 70-year-old spice shop owner, said that he planned to close his small store which he has operated for 35 years but now changed his mind after the sky rocketing medicine prices bring his customers back.

While being pleased by the prosperous business, the old storekeeper expressed fear that his business may go down again, if his shop can not be replenished with new stuff amid Israeli siege.

As an alternative, herbs certainly bring some help to the Palestinians in Gaza, but there is also some problems.

Dr. Mazen el Saqqa, a physician of herbal treatment, urged for a censorship on herbal business.

He warned that spoiled stuff were sometimes detected in herbal shops and many owners of those shops are inexperienced novices.

The Gaza Strip has been under a strict siege by Israel since the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) routed secular Fatah loyalto Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and seized control of Gaza in June.

The tightened blockade put the Palestinians in backwater Gaza in hot water. "Though herbs can be cheaper and easier to get than chemical medicines, but it has still been so hard to get for many Palestinian poor families," Dr. Saqqa's words may make it out in some ways.


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