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Implements: Metal objects used for massages are lined up in a therapy room. JP/Ika KrismantariA 15-minute massage can heal chronic coronary heart disease, and heated coconut water is able to treat stroke patients so they can walk again. Or, a necklace can ease the pain of those with cancer. All without drugs.
Does this sound far-fetched?
Well, not in Indonesia, where alternative health treatments have found their niche.
The country has seen a growing number of people looking for other options aside from doctors or hospitals to cure their illnesses.
The 2010 National Economic Social Survey showed that the number of Indonesians choosing alternative treatments more than doubled in the last 10 years. In 2000, 16 percent of the total population went to alternative clinics, but the number jumped to almost 40 percent in 2010.
Many believe the country’s poor and unreliable health system has contributed to this trend.
Getting proper health services is not easy in the country, especially for those who don’t have much money.
This discrimination is believed to have prompted the proliferation of alternative health therapies. Various treatments and therapies using different and perhaps unscientific methods can be seen almost everywhere, catering to the needs of the unfortunate and their health.
However, plenty of the rich have also been seen joining the bandwagon of alternative treatment enthusiasts, but for different reasons.
One of them is 65-year-old Siregar, who says he is currently undergoing a treatment called pennasia, which involves massages to cure his heart problem.
His main motive behind choosing the treatment was because it involved no drugs.
The business consultant said he was tired of taking drugs for the disease and wanted to try something different.
“I’ve only attended four times. I haven’t felt the results yet so I cannot comment a lot,” he told The
Jakarta Post over the phone recently.
One Jakarta-based pennasia counselor, Priyo Hutomo, discussed the superiority of the treatment compared to others because it promotes self-healing within the body. According to pennasia practitioners, all illness stems from poor blood circulation.
Therefore, the massage sessions, which utilize metal-colored objects in strange shapes, are aimed at helping ease blood flow.
Priyo said the therapy, which began in 1993 with Surabaya-based chemical expert Azis C Widoyoko, can cure migraines, vertigo, asthma and heart disease without pain or side effects.
Pennasia treatment is similar to another practice started by Sugondo, or Gondo, who uses a special medical gadget he terms the ATFG-8, short for Gondo’s physical therapy device type 8.
The gun-like metal device is used to cure illnesses using heat and pressure.
The therapy also offers similar claims to provide treatment with no drugs.
There are many other alternative health therapies available in Indonesia that do not promote the use of drugs. All can easily be found with a few clicks of a mouse. These alternative treatments have started promoting themselves online, complete with video links to view the testimony of recovering patients.
Other non-drug treatments that can be found on the net include therapies using jade or necklaces to stimulate good energy within the body.
These kinds of treatments are positioned as the antithesis of modern medicine, which usually involves prescriptions. The argument for these non-drug treatments is the belief that drugs are foreign substances that can cause addiction and may harm the body.
However, as of now, no empirical evidence has been found to support the formal use of these kind of therapies in health treatments.
Pondok Indah Hospital Group chief executive officer Yanwar Hadiyanto regards these kinds of therapies only as alternatives to existing conventional medicine.
“We cannot say the methods are valid without conducting scientific research first,” he said.
Yanwar said the conventional medical world was actually open to the existence of these kinds of alternative treatments. He referred to the adoption of acupuncture, the ancient Chinese needle therapy, by Western medicine as an example of that openness.
However, alternative health treatments must pass a set of scientific tests before their methods can be adopted by the mainstream medical world.
He said mostly the strict requirements of research have prevented alternative treatments from being acknowledged as valid healing methods.
Despite the obscurity of the efficacy of alternative medicine, some still opt for unofficial treatments to treat their illnesses.
This includes 60-something Selan Raid Basan, who suffered from a stroke last year that left him crippled.
After getting medical treatments from a doctor for some time but not feeling any progress, the retired businessman, after being tipped off by one of his sons, decided to seek help from a person that claims to heal diseases with hot coconut water.
The treatment required him to submerge his entire body in cooked coconut water.
Believe it or not, after undergoing the treatment for a month, Selan recovered and was able to walk again without consuming any drugs.
He explained to the Post that economic factors were the primary reason he had the alternative treatment.
“When you are going to the doctor, you are not sure when you will recover while the cost is draining to your wealth,” he said.
It seems that in the end, as long as there has been no progress in the country’s health sector, it is expected that there will be more and more Selans who prefer having alternative treatments rather than seeking professional help from doctors.