My grandmother has this funny and bizarre collection of health ideas that I do not know whether some of it is true – but I'm sure most of it are just local absurdities. Maybe it is because of information deficiency and the belief in albularyo or local quack doctor.
These health beliefs always remind me what it was like to grow up in the province, fascinated and horrified by the adult world. Right now, it is really reassuring that the things I used to believe were not so strange after all because I discovered that, somehow, most provinces across the Philippines, and even other countries, also have their own or same health legends. And the most common – sleeping with wet hair can cause blindness.
Then again, even communities in Metro Manila and other cities, especially urban poor communities, still believe on these health legends. Although city people have access to electricity and the mass media, much of their health information can be misleading inaccurate or distorted.
These beliefs are really amusing so I take time on finding little facts about it by doing a little research to satisfy my itchy curiosity. I'm not an expert in medicine and my notes are still subject to medical scrutiny.
Here are some of the popular health-beliefs in our town in Mindoro and my personal notes:
1. Sleeping with wet hair can cause blindness – In our province, it is said that if you sleep with wet hair, first you will be cross-eyed, then you will go blind. Meaning, if you happen to wake up in the middle of your sleep with your wet hair, you will only be crossed eyed – and you know what, you are considered lucky – because if you sleep longer you will be blind.
* My Notes: According to John C Hagan III, MD, an Ophthalmologist affiliated with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, that belief is totally untrue. There is no connection what-so-ever between wet hair and eye problems. Why would you want to sleep with wet hair anyway?
2. Urine of frogs causes warts or kulugo – Kokak Kokak! No way. I love playing with frogs when I was a kid, what I got are bruises from chasing them – not warts.
* My Notes: The cause of the typical wart is not a frog. It happens because the wart virus finds a body with a weak immune system.
3. Eating too much mangoes can cause bungang-araw or prickly heat rashes – I'm not really sure about this one. What I personally experience is that I got itchy lips and throat when I accidentally ate a portion of that pico mango fruit rind. Despite the fact that mango can be allergic to a few people, it is still a healthy fruit and I can not help myself eating this fruit – especially those overripe big kinalabaw mangoes, hmm yummy.
* My Notes: Well, the problem is that mango tree sap, and the rind of the fruit, contains urushiol, the same chemical the poison ivy plant produces. Some people experience skin rashes especially in the lips upon contact with the sap or the skins of the fruit. Well, you can not be that hungry that you want to eat even the mango skin – that's reserved for the backyard pigs you know.
4. Eating grilled lizard can cure asthma – The usual practice is to grill a lizard until it turned to charcoal black, grind it then mix it to some juice or coffee so you can not taste what a lizard really taste like. Others just add a whole lizard when cooking rice. Yaikks!
* My Notes: Some experts say that asthma can not be cured. Of course eating lizard is not based on a prescription or medical advice, but at least they believe in alternative medicine. We just really do not know its medicinal effects though. In the meantime, I suggest we should require all lizards to have them labeled with "No approved therapeutic claims." – Until such time that a proper study was conducted. Any objections, Godzilla?
5. Washing hands after ironing clothes can cause pasma – Pasma refers to a folk illness unique to the Filipino culture with symptoms of hand tremors, sweaty palms, numbness and pains attributed to an interaction of "init" (heat) and "lamig" ( cold).
A rather amusing variation on this belief is the idea that condoms cause "pasma" allegedly because the rubber aggravates the body's heat. Ha ha ha, Maybe an impotent Catholic priest, who is fighting against contraceptives and the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, started this rumor. LOL
* My Notes: Pasma is not described in medical textbooks, discussed in medical schools, or generally recognized by contemporary medical science.
6. A lady eating twin bananas will give birth to twins – Eating twin fruits like double almonds and bananas were thought to increase the likelihood of twins.
* My Notes: None – I do not bother Googling this one, because obviously, this is ridiculous. Just consult your local manghihilot to explain this to you in detail or perhaps try visiting the psychic readers in Quiapo if you want more information.
7. Brushing hair 100 times before bedtime can make it softer and shiny – This is the old tale, which claims that brushing your hair a lot, 100 to 200 strokes a day, is good for the hair.
* My Notes: According to the basic hair care article posted in Mercury Drug Website, we have about 100,000 strands of hairs on our head. Each grows for two to six years. It's normal to shed some 50 to 100 hair strands a day. When hair falls out, a new strand eventually replaces it.
* Their Advise: Do not put strain on your hair strands by brushing too much or too vigorously. The story about brushing your hair 100 times a night is not true. Overbrushing the hair simply makes it brittle and may cause the scalp to produce excess oil.
8. Eating ants can improve singing – So finally, Celine Dion and Charice Pempemco's secret is finally out. Sautéed ants are behind their angelic singing voice? Well, if it's true, Willie Revillame and Paris Hilton should've done that two decades ago so that they would not have to be a trying hard singer.
* My Notes: Maybe an old lunatic singer, during one of her epileptic seizures, started sharing her secret about eating ants to improve her voice, her die-hard fans heard her – and from there, the legend goes. Z and Princess Bala will not love this.
9. Drinking seawater can cure cough / colds – In our province in Mindoro, whenever we got cough, my mother will let us have our sea swimming early in the morning and would encourage us to take a gulp of seawater to cure our cough. Of course seawater in our small town is really clear and clean unlike the yukkiiee toxic Manila Bay.
But wait, based on my fact finding spree, this one, which I thought was also an absurd belief is amazingly has some truth in it. Well at least I found out that not all beliefs in my list are just absurdities.
* My Notes: According to a Czech research [Efficacy of Isotonic Nasal Wash (Seawater) in the Treatment and Prevention of Rhinitis in Children], seawater spray cures kids colds. It may be that the salt water has a simple mechanical effect of clearing mucus, or it could be that trace elements in the water play some more significant role, though the exact reason why such a solution works is not known, said Dr. Ivo Slapak and colleagues at the Teaching Hospital of Brno in the Czech Republic.
I'm sure you also know of some health myths – like jumping on New Year's eve to make you taller?