Indians Swallow Raw Fish to Cure Asthma

India is known for the wide variety of folk remedies for various ailments, and one of the most popular right now is the raw-fish-swallowing therapy practiced by the Goud family, in Hyderabad.

Asthma is one of the most serious respiratory conditions a person can have, and since conventional medicine doesn’t offer a permanent cure, many are willing to try any kinds of treatment, no matter how bizarre. One of these is the fish swallowing cure offered by the Goud family, for the last 166 years. Every year, during the month of June, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Hyderabad to try this unusual remedy, on the day of Mrigashira Karthi. Around 500 volunteers administer the miracle cure: live 2-inch to 3-inch long murrel fish which have been fed a drop of the secret herbal formula the Goud’s claim cures asthma within three years.

Ingredients for the medicine are collected two-three months before the big day, mixed the day before using water from the Goud family’s well, and administered to asthma sufferers free of charge. The patient is advised not to eat or drink anything four hours before swallowing the raw fish and two hours after. Also, he must be aware that he must come back for the cure three consecutive years, if he wants to get rid of the asthma permanently.

Photo by Noah Saleem/AFP

The ingredients of the medicinal formula are a closely guarded secret so it’s practically impossible to know what effects it has on certain people, or if it actually works in any way. If you ask some of the people who have tried this raw-fish treatment, many of them will say it gives them great relief, but there have been cases when the “patient”, although having taken the medicine, suffered severe asthma attacks, and physicians warn that the fish itself could trigger an allergic reaction.

Child rights group Balala Hakkula Sangham has recently requested the raw murrel fish not be administered to children, claiming the process is unhygienic since the people handling the fish don’t even wash their hands. The Goud family refuses to reveal the formula, but says children aren’t in any kind of danger and that the people complaining were paid by pharmaceutical companies who produce conventional asthma drugs, worried the free fish therapy is affecting their business.