Indian believers swallow live fish as asthma cure

June 8, 2012 - 10:27 AM
APTOPIX India Fish Medicine

A member of the Goud family administers “fish medicine” to an asthma patient in Hyderabad, India, Friday, June 8, 2012. Started by the Bathini Goud family, the therapy is a secret formula of herbs, handed down by generations only to family members. The herbs are inserted in the mouth of a live sardine, or murrel fish, and slipped into a patient's throat. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Tens of thousands of asthma-sufferers mobbed a southern Indian stadium Friday to swallow live sardines smeared with a yellow herbal paste they believe will cure their breathing problems.

Despite doctors' criticism, the Goud family has drawn throngs of people for years with a secret fish and herbal formula it says it received from a Hindu saint about 170 years ago. They give it away for free annually and refuse to reveal the mix, saying the saint warned it would lose its potency if commercialized.

One man died of a heart attack and several others sought medical attention for breathing difficulty after waiting hours for the treatment, Hyderabad police said. They said the stadium was unprepared to deal with the 70,000 people who rushed the gates when they opened.

The family offers the treatment annually on a day chosen by astrologers.

After swallowing the live fish, believers are told to abstain from fried foods and keep to a strict 45-day diet of 25 different foods, including lamb, rice, white sugar, dried mango, spinach and clarified butter.