This post originally appeared in my Sihanoukville Journal on 04 December 2015
I do express my opinion in my Sihanoukville Journal, but rarely write about myself. Most of my readers don’t know that I’ve been moving at a snail’s pace since the 2012-13 dry season. I’d had some problems with my right knee before then, but a Chinese herbal remedy kept it under control. Then one day the last of the cartilage in my right knee wore out and I found myself standing in the middle of the road in pain. Until Sophie got me a Cambodian natural medicine, my health was going downhill fast from pain, lack of good sleep and almost no exercise. Now it looks like I’m on the road to recovery.
About six months after that painful moment, I had my knees scanned and it was clear that there was no cartilage in my right knee. There was nothing I could do about it, so I decided to live with it. It was bad enough then, but got worse about six months ago. It got so bad I spent an inordinate amount of time planning my movements to avoid having to walk any more than I had to. Ten metres was about all I could manage comfortably. More than that and I’d have to reconcile myself to every step being agonising.
At about the same time, Sophie had to go to Phnom Penh for an operation. Then she went to a small village in Svay Riengh to have a traditional healer help her with a much more serious illness. His treatment worked and I asked her if he had anything that could treat my knee. He didn’t have any in stock, but knew where to get them. This healer is in great demand, though, and he wasn’t able to get away to gather the plants he uses in his practice until he nearly exhausted all his supplies.
About two months ago, he set off to a number of parts of Cambodia to gather plants, going as far as Preah Vihear to forage for mine and some others. When he came back two weeks ago, Sophie brought my first batch home.
My Magic Cambodian Natural Medicine*
Here’s a photograph of the medicine Sophie brought back with her:
It looks like a bunch of twigs, leaves and bark and that’s exactly what it is. Every morning, Mama cooks up a tea and pours it into a thermos. I’m supposed to “drink it like water” throughout the day. I started drinking it on Monday the 23rd of November. I was going to take a video of myself hobbling along before I began the treatment, but unfortunately waited five days. By then I had already improved remarkably. Had I made the video before I started the treatment, you would have seen me wincing with every step and moving very slowly. I’m not going to share my video with you yet. I’ll wait until I have a second one, for comparison’s sake. I still limp in the video, but I’m moving at a regular walking pace and smiling throughout. I made the video on Friday the 27th, so was only up to my fifth day of the treatment.
Rather than bore you with every detail, I’ll just share a quick timeline:
- 23 November: Start treatment (about six cups of tea per day)
- 25 November: My feet feel very warm
- 26 November: I can still see the veins in my right foot at noon. Before then, it swelled up by 10:00 a.m.
- 27 November: It doesn’t hurt when I throw my leg over my motorbike seat.
- 28 November: Friends comment that I’m not limping as badly and that I have more colour in my face.
- 29 November: I go to the beach for a swim. That had formerly been a long process of walking from where I parked my motorbike to the steps at the edge of Independence Beach. I sat there for about 10 minutes to prepare for the agonising walk through the sand and into the water. This time, I walked straight in and when I got out after my swim, I felt refreshed and my leg wasn’t in agony. A Cambodian acquaintance remarks: “You look like tiger today!”
- 29 November (afternoon): I take the kids to the Don Bosco Hotel for a swim in the pool and trampoline jumping. I wouldn’t have considered going out a second time after a morning swim before I started the treatment. This time, I not only walk relatively pain-free, but continue walking around taking pictures and ordering ice cream.
- 01 December: While waiting for Kelly to get out of school, I notice my legs are trembling. My muscles had become so atrophied, they were having trouble coping with all the walking I’d been doing.
- 03 December: Slight cramp in my right thigh. I think it’s because I’m using muscles I haven’t used in years.
I still have the cramp in my thigh, but will go for a massage tomorrow and see if it helps.
Sophie says her healer gave me a weak medicine because I’m old. I didn’t expect to see any improvement for at least a month, if then. I was astounded by how quickly the medicine worked. It’s supposed to be able to restore the cartilage, too, but that will probably take time. I’ve decided I got a little overexcited about the results, so am going to pace myself more. My leg muscles need to strengthen and I don’t want to overwork my knee.
This isn’t the first time so-called “alternative” medicine has worked for me or others I know. I’ve seen it do wonders in Bali, Australia and here in Cambodia. I cover most of the treatments I’ve used or observed in my book and when I’m satisfied with it, I’ll let you know how to get a copy.
*Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert and am not pretending to offer a treatment. Obviously, you’re welcome to your own medical preferences. I’m just sharing this information about a Cambodian natural medicine based on my experience so far. I tried an anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drug early on, but didn’t like the side effects. Then I switched to glucosamine, but gave up on it after about six weeks because it hadn’t helped at all, though I’m told it has worked for others. I was on the verge of going to Thailand for an operation when Sophie told me her traditional doctor had a treatment. It was a long wait, but worth it.