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Traditional medicine thrives in Oman despite advancements in healthcare

6 Jan 2024 Traditional medicine thrives despite advancements in healthcare in Oma By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – Despite the availability and ease of access to modern healthcare, there is still widespread use of traditional medicinal practices in urban Oman. Herbal medications and traditional massage are the most common forms of traditional medicine (TM) used, according to a study conducted by researchers from Sultan Qaboos University Hospital and College of Medical Sciences, Ibra. 

There appears to be widespread use of TM practices in Oman for a range of ailments, the study found. ‘The proportion of people who reportedly used some form of TM was 67.8%, similar to other reports from countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, India, China and South Africa.’

TM is usually used in Oman to mainly treat chronic conditions that did not respond to modern medications or for ailments such as diabetes, low-back pain and muscular pain, the study published in the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal said. 

Herbal medications (65.8%) and traditional massage (60.4%) were the most common forms of TM reportedly practised.

Among women, 69.2% availed herbal medication,  63.5% opted for massage, 29.8% cupping, 24% wassam and 11.5% acupuncture. In male respondents, cupping was the most common form of traditional medicine (65.2%), followed by herbal medication (64.4%), massage (59.3%), wassam (46.7%) and acupuncture (21.9%).

Close to 66.7% of diabetic and 72% hypertensive patients had reportedly tried herbal medications, with many claiming that they had specifically used it to lower blood sugar (56.2%) or blood pressure (77.2%).

Back pain was the most common condition for which traditional medicine was used, with the majority having tried traditional massage (74.3%), cupping (69.3%) and/or herbal medication (62.4%) to treat it.

Acupuncture was found to be the least common traditional medicine practice (21.2%) used for back pain.  The other conditions treated using traditional medicine were headache, abdominal pain, nerve pain, jaundice and swelling.

Although most respondents felt that TM was not better than modern medicine (80.5%), many (81.5%) felt that it was effective and approximately two-thirds (67.8%) had tried at least one method. Of those who had tried it, a majority (84.2%) found it to be useful, with only a small number (8.3%) claiming that they had subsequently suffered some side effects.

‘Traditional practices are part of the culture and heritage of various communities, though these practices appear to be used less frequently by Oman’s youth compared to its older population. In light of this, interventions to educate Oman’s public regarding the side effects of some of the more harmful methods of TM are imperative. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the benefits of some of these practices is needed to aid their improved integration into Oman’s local healthcare services,’ the authors suggested. 

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