A Guide to Health/Part 2/Chapter 3

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A Guide to Health  (1921) 
Mohandas K. Gandhi, translated by A. Rama Iyer
The Use of Earth
S. Ganesan pages 95-98

Chapter III

THE USE OF EARTH

We will now proceed to describe the curative properties of earth, which are, in some cases, even more remarkable than those of water. That earth should have such properties need not cause us any surprise, for our own body is compounded of the earthly element. Indeed, we do make use of earth as a purifying agent. We wash the ground with earth to remove bad smells, we put it over decaying matter to prevent the pollution of the air, we wash our hands with it, and even employ it to clean the private parts. Yogis besmear their bodies with it; some people use it as a cure for boils and ulcers; and dead bodies are buried in the earth so that they may not vitiate the atmosphere. All this shows that earth has many valuable properties as a purifying and curative agent.

Just as Dr. Kuhne has devoted special attention to the subject of water-cure, another German doctor has made a special study of earth and its properties. He goes so far as to say that it can be used with success in the treatment of even the most complicated diseases. He says that once in a case of snake-bite, where everybody else, had given up the man for dead, he restored him to life by causing him to be covered up with earth for some time. There is no reason to doubt the veracity of this report. It is well known that great heat is generated in the body by burying it in the earth; and although we cannot explain how exactly the effect is produced, it is undeniable that earth does possess the property of absorbing the poison. Indeed, every case of snake-bite may not be cured in this way; but it should certainly be tried in every case. And I can say from my own experience that, in cases of scorpion-sting and the like, the use of mud is particularly beneficial.

I have myself tried with success the following forms of earth-cure. Constipation, dysentery, and chronic stomach-ache have been cured by the use of a mud-poultice over the abdomen for two or three days. Instant relief has been obtained in cases of headache by applying a mud-bandage round the head. Sore eye has also been cured by the same method; hurts of all kinds, whether accompanied by inflammation or not, have been healed likewise. In the old days I could not keep well without a regular use of Eno's Fruit-salt and the like. But, since 1904, when I learnt the value of earth-cure, I have had not a single occasion to use them. A mud-poultice over the abdomen and the head, gives distinct relief in a state of high fever. Skin-diseases like the itch, the ring-worm, and boils, have been cured with the use of mud, though no doubt ulcers from which fus issues are not so easily cured. Burns and scalds are likewise healed by mud, which also prevents inflammation. Piles, too, are cured by the same treatment. When the hands and feet become red and swollen owing to frost, mud is an unfailing remedy, and pain in the joints is also relieved by it. From these and other experiments in mud-cure, I have come to the conclusion that earth is an invaluable element in the domestic treatment of diseases.

All kinds of earth are not, of course, equally beneficial. Dry earth dug out from a clean spot has been found the most effective. It should not be too sticky. Mud which is midway between sand and clay is the best. It should, of course, be free from cow-dung and other rubbish. It should be well sifted in a fine sieve, and then soaked in cold water to the consistency of well-kneaded dough before use. Then it should be tied up in a piece of clean, unstarched cloth, and used in the form of a thick poultice. The poultice should be removed before the mud begins to dry up; ordinarily it will last from two to three hours. Mud once used should never be used again, but a cloth once used can be used again, after being well washed, provided it is free from blood and other dirty matter. If the poultice has to be applied to the abdomen, it should first be covered over with a warm cloth. Everybody should keep a tinful of earth ready for use, so as not to have to hunt for it whenever an occasion arises for its use. Otherwise, much precious time may be wasted in cases (as of scorpion-sting) where delay would be dangerous.