When Indian school teacher Faseela BV Shersha, 50, developed a terrible headache after taking the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 in February, she turned to Unani instead of allopathic medicine for relief and treatment.
“Immediately after taking the vaccine, I developed a severe headache and a blood-red eye, which did not heal even though I used allopathic eye-drops for two weeks,” she adds.
She then consulted a Unani medicine doctor in Dubai who gave her an eye gel made of herbal medicine and also advised her to treat her eyes using frozen teabags.
“Within days, I was feeling better and the eyes were cured,” she adds.
The entire family swears by the effectiveness of alternative medicine, and has been using it for the past 12 years, says Faseela.
Unani is an ancient Greek system of medicine based on the qualities of four temperaments — the pre-psychology identification of personality types: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic — and four humors — an ancient understanding of chemical systems regulating human health. Unani medicine recognizes the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical causes of illness or health and believes that each individual should take responsibility for their own well-being.
In the UAE, many patients are turning to alternative methods of treatment, especially for post-Covid symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, body and head aches, says Dr Syed Asaduddin Ahmed, Unani medicine and hijama practitioner, and owner of the Al Hijama Alternative Medicine Center in Dubai.
“We have been approached for post-Covid weakness, which we have been treating through different approaches, including counseling and telemedicine,” he says.
One stumbling block: at the beginning of the pandemic, the UAE ministry of health issued strict protocols for practicing alternative medicine treatment.
“We have been allowed to do consultations only and have stopped treatments such as cupping and massages,” he says.
Dr Asad adds that herbs used in Unani medicine help build immunity and dilute phlegm that builds up in the lungs during and post-Covid. “We advise our patients to take Joshanda or Ayush kada, roughly blended drinks containing nine herbs,” he says.
He also says that people coming to his clinic are wary of the side effects of allopathic medicines after recovering from Covid. “Unani medicine helps build immunity and that is what is important,” says Dr Asad, adding that he prescribes vitamin C as well as mulathi (mulberry) powder to cure dry cough and a sore throat.
In other examples of the clinic’s methods, it claims that five almonds soaked overnight and taken with salt in the morning can help cure a dry cough while turmeric taken in warm milk serves as a natural antibiotic.
“Studies show that the use of steroids to treat Covid has led to a spike in blood-sugar levels, which we also treat with herbs,” he adds.
Using Ayurvedic medicine post-Covid gave Dubai-based Indian national Mohammed Kareem much needed peace of mind.
“It was as if Covid had affected my mental health,” he explains. “And I felt confused and also had memory lapses. But when I consulted an Ayurvedic doctor, I started feeling much better over time.”
Kareem, 35, says he fell severely ill due to Covid in March and though he did not need hospitalization, he struggled to get back on his feet after recovering. “It was a very traumatic time for me,” he adds.
Ayurveda literally means “the science of life” and is a form of medicine that looks at a holistic approach to healing rather than just medicine. Both Ayurveda and Unani medicine are based on natural concepts and look similar to each other but are different in essence.
Dr Jasna Jamal Shaju, medical director and founder of Dr Jasna’s Ayurveda Clinic, Dubai and an Ayurveda general physician licensed by ministry of health and Dubai’s health authority, claims that Ayurveda medicine is very effective in post-Covid management.
“It improves immunity and has worked on cases where there has been immense weakness,” she explains.
Consulting with a doctor is the most important step, after which patients are usually asked to change their lifestyle and diet. “We give treatment according to what a patient’s body type requires, so it differs from person to person, and that is why consultation is very important.”
Dr Jasna, who has been practicing in the UAE for the past 15 years, has helped Covid patients who complained of stress, lack of sleep, headaches and fatigue — all recognized, prolonged post-Covid symptoms.
Asma Ali Zain
Asma Ali Zain is a Dubai based journalist with a field experience of 19 years. She has written extensively on a range of topics and key issues in the region and beyond but her areas of expertise are health, wellbeing and lifestyle writings. She loves tea, cats and sunsets.