Spring 2003 (11.1)
Medieval Secrets of Health
Alakbarli: Researching Baku's Medical Manuscripts
by Jean Patterson
developed an early interest in animal and plant life. Here at
age 11 with his parakeet.
At age 40, Dr. Farid
Alakbarli is already the leading authority on medieval medical
texts from Azerbaijan. In his research at Baku's Institute of
Manuscripts, he has studied hundreds of rare texts - most of
them written in the Arabic script - to learn how medieval doctors
used traditional medicine to treat their patients. Many of these
remedies have long since been forgotten.
Medieval physicians have much to teach us about medicine, Farid
believes. Their traditional approaches have the potential to
be used once again in modern medicine, once they have been properly
investigated and scientifically analyzed. To restore and disseminate
this lost knowledge, Farid has spent the last two decades reading
and translating medieval medical manuscripts. His discoveries
suggest that modern man still has much to re-learn about the
human body and how to enjoy optimal health.
When it comes to Azerbaijan's
Medieval Medical Manuscripts written in Arabic script, Farid
Alakbarli has a lot of "firsts" after his name. He
was the first to undertake serious, in-depth study of all the
medical manuscripts that are housed at Baku's Institute of Manuscripts.
This resulted in his compiling a catalog of 365 manuscripts.
Among his discoveries were the manuscripts of two previously
unknown Azerbaijani physicians: Abulhasan Maraghai (18th century),
Murtuzagulu Shamlu (17th century).
He was the first person in Azerbaijan ever to study the concept
of preventive medicine as it existed in medieval Azerbaijan,
especially as it related to lifestyle, nutrition, sports, control
of emotions, protection of the environment, medicine and pharmacology.
Left: The Institute of Manuscripts in downtown
Baku. One of Oil Baron Taghiyev's buildings constructed at the
turn of the 19th century.
Another of his "firsts"
was the study of natural medicines as described in medieval Azerbaijani
manuscripts. Before him, scholars such as I.
Afandiyev and Arif Rustamov had written descriptions about the
ancient history of Azerbaijan's medicine, but none had approached
this complex study by drawing upon both social and natural sciences.
Because one of his doctorates is in Biology, it enabled Farid
to be the first person to study the species of herbs, minerals
and animals as described in medieval Azerbaijani sources and
analyze them from the biological, medical, philological and historical
points of view. As such he has identified 256 species of medicinal
herbs that had been forgotten. Once these natural substances
have been tested experimentally and clinically, many can be included
in the armory of modern medicine.
In addition, he found 866 types of complex medicines (such as
tablets, pills, syrups), identifying their composition and describing
their medical properties. Though found in medieval Azerbaijani
manuscripts, they had never been analyzed scientifically before.
Farid was the first to propose that a new system of health protection
should incorporate both traditional Azerbaijani medicine with
modern scientific medicine. His ideas are summarized in various
books and articles in Azeri, Russian and English. Thanks to his
meticulous research, a new 1,400-term glossary (1992) exists
of medieval Azeri pharmacological terms. Such a glossary had
never been published before.
Below: Farid Alakbarli, 8,
with his grandfather Aghabeyli Aghakhan (1904-1980) in 1971.
Farid credits his grandfather with instilling in him a love of
history by telling him stories about famous kings, writers and
poets. Aghabeyli was a professor of biology, a geneticist, and
a Corresponding Member of the USSR Agricultural Academy Of Sciences,
an honor bestowed on only two Azerbaijanis during the Soviet
period. He created a new breed of buffalos, the Caucasian Buffalo
(now, called the Azerbaijan buffalo). His book "Buffalos"
was published in Baku, Moscow and Vietnam (in Vietnamese language)
Prior to Farid's research, no medieval
Azerbaijani medical books had been investigated, translated and
published. In 1989, he and his colleagues published "Tibbname"
(Book of Medicine by Muhammad Yusif Shirvani) which had originally
been written in an old style of Azeri that was in use when it
was first penned in 1712. This volume is now available both in
modern Azeri and in Russian. This publication enabled readers
for the first time to be able to access information about Azerbaijan's
ancient medicine, as a primary source. The book has already been
published twice - 50,000 copies each time - which is considered
a very large print run for Azerbaijan.
Farid's most recent "first" comes this year, 2003,
when he published for the first time a book about ancient Azerbaijani
medicine in Russia (St. Petersburg). Along with his colleague,
Akif Farzaliyev, the medieval treatise, "Tuhfat al-muminin"
is now available. This was the third book that Farid had published
together with his colleague in the Russian language.
The primary question that Farid has been dealing with for the
last 20 years is how human beings, as revealed centuries ago
in medieval manuscripts, learned to take care of their health.
In the process, he has gained the perspective of early medical
specialists to some of the major topics that scientists are interested
in today, such as the secret to longevity. Today's doctors tell
us to eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly and stay away
from unhealthy habits like smoking or eating too many sweets.
Medieval Azerbaijani doctors had their own theories about what
constituted good health; some of their ideas align with the accepted
advice of today, others differ radically. Did they know something
that we don't?
Most definitely they did, says Dr. Farid Alakbarli, a medical
historian who has studied hundreds of medical manuscripts written
between the 9th and 18th centuries. These ancient manuscripts
are housed at the Institute of Manuscripts in Baku.
Medieval doctors prescribed a wide variety of medicines made
from plants, animals and minerals. In his research, Farid has
identified 724 plants, 115 minerals and 150 animals that were
once used for medicinal purposes in Azerbaijan. Of these, 256
species of medicinal herbs had completely been forgotten. Farid
has also identified 866 types of complex medicines, such as tablets,
pills and syrups, and described their medical properties.
Left: From the 13th century text: "The
Book About Surgery and Surgical Instruments" by Andalusian
(the Arabic name for Spain during Mauritanian rule) Arab scholar
Abulgasim Zakhravi who was known in medieval Europe as Albucasis
and whose books were translated into Latin and taught in medieval
What do doctors from
600 or 700 years ago possibly have to tell us that we don't know
already? Traditional medicine holds the key to untold advances
in treating and preventing disease, Farid believes. "If
we combine ancient knowledge with modern medical achievements,
we can arrive at a new concept of preventive medicine.
"People often ask me why ancient medicine is so important,
when we already have such strong modern preparations, like antibiotics
and sulfonamides. First of all, natural medicine, if used correctly,
doesn't have as many side effects as manufactured chemical preparations
do. Secondly, in some cases, herbs may even be more effective
than modern medicine. This is not to say that modern chemical
preparations are weak. On the contrary, they are able to kill
thousands of species of microbes. But an ax is less versatile
than a surgeon's knife. Herbal medicine is like a surgeon's knife:
it can be used precisely and gently because it is sufficiently
sharp and effective at the same time
Left: The very informative pharmacology book,
"Karabadin" (Pharmacy Book) by Nuh Afandi written in
"People often ask
me why ancient medicine is so important, when we already have
such strong modern preparations, like antibiotics and sulfonamides.
First of all, natural medicine, if used correctly, doesn't have
as many side effects as manufactured chemical preparations do.
Secondly, in some cases, herbs may even be more effective than
modern medicine. This is not to say that modern chemical preparations
are weak. On the contrary, they are able to kill thousands of
species of microbes. But an ax is less versatile than a surgeon's
knife. Herbal medicine is like a surgeon's knife: it can be used
precisely and gently because it is sufficiently sharp and effective
at the same time.
"Traditional medicine can be more effective than modern
medicine, with fewer side effects. For example, some doctors
treat urinary diseases with antibiotics and sulfonamides. However,
almost all antibiotics can result in mycosis [an infection caused
by a fungus] as well as many other diseases. Sulfonamides can
concentrate in the kidneys and lead to the formation of kidney
stones. On the other hand, herbal teas made of cypress cones,
chamomile and other herbs may be used to treat urinary diseases
without any negative side effects."
Left: Farid Alakbarli. The first time a medieval
treatise about ancient Azerbaijani medicine has been published
in Russia. Coauthored with Akif Farzaliyev. St. Petersburg, 2003.
is still very much alive in countries like Iran, Pakistan, India
and China. In some cases, healers treat diseases without the
use of medicine at all. For example, yoga can be used to treat
some nervous disorders through breathing and mental exercises.
For example, standing on one's head improves blood circulation,
enhancing memory and preventing sclerosis. Similarly, Chinese
healers use acupressure and massage to treat nervous diseases.
"But what does modern medicine do?" Farid asks. "Doctors
prescribe a lot of pills and infusions that aren't necessary.
Gradually, the patient loses self-confidence and becomes completely
dependent upon these drugs. He doesn't realize that he can help
himself by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, eating a nutritious
diet and getting regular exercise. Instead, he wakes up with
a capsule and goes to sleep with a tablet. This kind of psychological
dependence is very dangerous for the body and the soul.
"Many of the people who read my books try to use herbs for
self-treatment. For example, a famous historian was recently
complaining that modern medicine wasn't helping him. He asked
my advice about herbal treatment, so I recommended several herbs.
A week later, he called to thank me. His problems had been solved.
As it turns out, the herbs I had recommended were very effective,
whereas the enormous amount of antibiotics that he had taken
before had only worsened his condition.
There are many such examples." Azerbaijanis have a long-standing
tradition of using herbs as medicine. For example, many use chamomile
flowers to treat urinary and intestinal disorders. Valerian root
is well known as a sedative. "Unfortunately, people don't
always know the correct dosage or how to combine these herbs
with other herbs," Farid says. "Nor do they always
know which herb is the most effective in specific situations.
They drink the same herbs out of habit, without taking into account
differences in age, gender, weight or other important factors.
Therefore, the efficacy of the herb varies. In my books, I try
to explain the correct way of using these herbs, as portrayed
by medieval physicians."
Lifestyle for Longevity
Left: Last page of a medical manuscript where
a copyist or reader added his own opinion or that of others in
related fields. Such practice was quite common in that day.
Farid discusses medieval
conceptions of health in his extensive volume, "A Thousand
and One Secrets of the Orient," which was published in 2000
in Russian. This compendium of his work on traditional medicine
features an exhaustive listing of medieval prescriptions. In
ancient Eastern philosophy, he says, the emphasis was not so
much on treating diseases as it was on preventing them from occurring
in the first place.
One of most important sections of the book relates to diet. "Modern
dietitians tell us not to eat animal fat because it contains
harmful cholesterol," Farid says. "And yet, many Azerbaijanis
who eat meat and animal fat live to be a hundred years old or
more. How is this possible?
"According to ancient traditions, the secret is to eat meat
in moderation along with fresh vegetables, in order to prevent
the assimilation of fat. As a result, the organism gets all of
the necessary elements and is not damaged. This proves that the
recommendations of ancient traditions and medieval medicine are
sometimes wiser than modern judgment."
How did Farid become interested in a field that was rarely studied,
yet which holds much potential? He says his passion for scholarly
work began in childhood. Farid grew up in Baku's Ichari Shahar
(Inner City), the medieval walled city that foreigners often
refer to as the "Old City." "I was surrounded
by minarets, ancient fortress walls and towers," Farid says.
"Maybe that's one of the reasons why I became so interested
Farid's parents are both scientists who work in the field of
genetics. Inspired by their example, Farid spent much of his
childhood reading books from the family's extensive library,
especially books on history and biology.
"I loved reading illustrated books about nature," he
says. "I would spend a lot of time at the zoo and at the
Baku Botanical Gardens, where I was fascinated by the various
kinds of exotic palms, orchids and cacti. I also kept a variety
of pets at home, such as parrots, fish, lizards and tortoises."
At age 11, he owned a parakeet - a little Australian Wavy parakeet,
Farid says. "These birds are small like sparrows, mostly
green, but sometimes blue or yellow. They are very common in
Baku and very cheap. This particular parakeet had obviously flown
away from its former owner and happened to land on my balcony.
I managed to catch him with a colander from my mother's kitchenware.
After a while, I realized that the parakeet seemed to miss the
company of other birds, so I bought a friend for him from the
ZooShop for 3 rubles (about $3). I ended up with a male and a
female. I put them in a cage together and made a little nest,
hoping that they would mate. But it seems they weren't interested,
even though I had diligently read a book on raising parakeets
and followed the instructions."
Farid's grandfather on his mother's side, Aghakhan Aghabeyli
(1904-1980), was also an academic, specifically a biology professor
and one of Azerbaijan's two corresponding members of the USSR
Agricultural Academy of Sciences. "My grandfather inspired
me because he was such a knowledgeable person," Farid recalls.
"He developed a new breed of buffalo, the Caucasian Buffalo
(now called the Azerbaijan buffalo). His book 'Buffalos' was
published in Baku, Moscow and in the Vietnamese language.
"My grandfather was a biologist, but he also knew the Arabic
script, Persian, German, literature, poetry, history and many
other things. Besides, he had artistic ability and could draw
and play the piano and tar. When I was young, he would often
tell me stories about history and the famous kings, writers and
poets of Azerbaijan."
When Farid was growing up, the official alphabet in Azerbaijan
was Azeri Cyrillic, which had been imposed by Stalin in 1940.
(Azerbaijan switched to the Azeri Latin script in December 1991.
International 8.1 (Spring 2000). Search at AZER.com.
At that time, only the older generation knew how to read the
Arabic alphabet, which had been used from the seventh century
up until 1929. When Farid was nine or ten years old, his grandmother
Ruhsara began teaching him how to read in Arabic. Soon he was
able to read the older Azeri books in the family's library. Today,
Farid is one of the few Azerbaijanis in the Republic who is able
to read the Azeri handwritten manuscripts penned in the Arabic
script though, of course, Azerbaijanis who live in Iran, which
number approximately 25-30 million, would not have much difficulty
in reading Azeri in Arabic script.
School and Komsomol
As a student at Baku's No. 134 Secondary Russian School, Farid
excelled in subjects like biology, history and geography. However,
during the Soviet era, good grades were not enough. All young
people in the USSR between the ages of 14 and 29 were expected
to join the Communist Union of Youth, or Komsomol. This was a
prerequisite to joining the Communist Party.
"When I was in 10th grade, my classmates were all members
in the Komsomol, that is, except me," Farid remembers. "I
avoided it because I didn't want to attend those endless boring
meetings and listen to contrived speeches, verses and songs about
how great the Communist Party was and how wise and kind our 'grandfather'
Lenin was. My teachers used to ask me why I hadn't joined the
Komsomol like other 'good boys.' Usually, I would tell them that
I didn't consider myself to be ready for such a great honor and
responsibility. They would look at me in astonishment, suspecting
that surely I was jesting.
"Finally, they issued a stern warning that I would not be
accepted into the university if I didn't join the Komsomol. Despite
my aversion to things political, I had little choice if I wanted
to pursue an academic career. So I agreed. My acceptance was
granted on the last day before I graduated from high school.
However, I still tried to avoid attending the Komsomol meetings
as much as possible. Eight years later in January 1990 [Black
January], when the Soviet Army entered Baku and killed hundreds
of civilians, I took advantage of the opportunity, as did many
others, to protest the massacre by leaving the Komsomol officially."
In 1980, Farid graduated from high school and began studying
biology at Baku State University. In addition to science, Farid
focused on learning foreign languages, especially Persian and
Arabic. He had already studied Russian, Azeri and English and
was studying the Arabic alphabet and the Persian language on
"I used to open the dictionary and memorize the Persian
words by heart," he says. "I also had an Arabic textbook
by Alasgar Mammadov that I studied step by step. I would bring
the textbook with me to the university so I that could read and
translate during my breaks between biology classes. Unfortunately,
the textbook was filled with Bolshevik propaganda about Revolution
in Arabic countries, Azerbaijan and Russia. So I read additional
books like the Koran. Along with my study at the Biology Department,
I also attended the two-year Persian courses at the Institute
of Foreign Languages. I successfully completed the course and
qualified as a Persian language teacher."
At that time, Azerbaijanis who were interested in religion or
foreign languages were under strict surveillance by the KGB.
"I was no exception," Farid says. "The situation
became even worse when some students and I formed an informal
club to discuss political and cultural issues. One of my classmates
was an informant for the KGB and I soon found myself in trouble.
Our group did hold lively discussions about the possibility of
independence of Azerbaijan from the USSR. [Azerbaijan did succeed
in gaining their freedom from the USSR in December 1991].
"In 1982, I was called in and interrogated. They threatened
me and told me to put an end to my anti-Soviet activity. I realized
that the situation was becoming dangerous not only for me, but
also for my parents and relatives. I felt like I had no right
to put them at such risk, so I immediately went home and burned
my diaries and notebooks in which I had written down my thoughts
about scientific, cultural and political issues. I was 22 at
Institute of Manuscripts
After graduating from the university, Farid decided to specialize
in the History of Science. Combining his education in Biology
and his knack for reading ancient scripts, he began working at
the Institute of Manuscripts that is under the umbrella of the
Academy of Science. Farid refers to the Institute as a "sacred
temple of science" because of its enormously rich historical
archive of about 40,000 works in Azeri, Turkish, Uzbek, Persian
and Arabic. Many of the manuscripts date back to the Middle Ages.
"I was only 22 years old when I began working at the Institute,
but I knew that I wanted to devote my life to serious research,"
Farid says. "I became the first person there to focus on
studying medieval medical manuscripts."
Farid approaches his research from a multi-disciplinary point
of view, which gives him a broader understanding of the medieval
texts. He has a well-rounded education, with a Candidate of Science
degree in Biology (1992) [equivalent to a doctorate] and a Doctor
of Science in History (1998) [equivalent to a post doctorate
degree]. When he studies manuscripts, he is able to analyze them
from the point of view of a historian, botanist, biologist, physician,
dietitian and linguist. At the Institute, Farid received advice
and guidance from a number of mentors, including Dr. Mohsun Naghiyev,
Nasib Geyishov and Muzafaddin Azizov. "Dr. Mohsun Naghiyev
was head of the Persian department when I first started working
at the Institute," Farid says. "He was such a kind,
rare person. He knew Persian fluently and helped me from a linguistic
point of view by explaining the meanings of words and teaching
me how to read the various styles of cursive Arabic script."
Nasib Geyishov, a specialist in poetry and Sufism, shared his
immense knowledge of how to translate accurately. "Geyishov
was the only person at the Institute who really understood how
to read the medieval medical texts," Farid says. "He
told me which manuscripts were the most important and advised
me on the best medieval and modern dictionaries and catalogues
to use. Despite that medicine was not his field of expertise,
he helped me read and translate many medical manuscripts."
Calligraphy expert Muzafaddin Azizov taught Farid the essentials
of Arabic calligraphy. "Studying the art of calligraphy
helped me learn to appreciate the beauty of medieval Eastern
culture," Farid says. "Calligraphy is an integral part
of Muslim culture, just as it is for the Chinese and Japanese.
In the Middle Ages, any educated person had to know how to read
calligraphy. I didn't set out to be a professional calligrapher;
I simply wanted to learn how to read and write the various Arabic
script styles. Thanks to Azizov's help, I can now read the medieval
texts written in various calligraphy styles more easily."
For many scholars, delving into manuscripts that were written
hundreds of years ago can be a welcome distraction from contemporary
political issues. But for Farid, the world outside was rapidly
changing. "It was the era of Gorbachev's Perestroika, and
we felt the fresh air of freedom," he says. "Nearly
all of the scientists from the Institute, including me, participated
in meetings of the Popular Front, which was demanding independence
and a solution to the Karabakh question. In fact, Dr. Abulfaz
Aliyev (Elchibey), the chairman of the Popular Front and the
future president of Azerbaijan, worked at our Institute. His
workspace was right next to my table.
"At the time, some of my friends and elderly relatives warned
me: 'be careful! You're working in a very dangerous place - the
Institute of Manuscripts. This institution is comprised of an
array of anti-Soviet elements, starting with Abulfaz Aliyev himself,
whose desk is next to yours!' But I wasn't afraid. On the contrary,
I was proud to work beside such a courageous person, even though
I often disagreed with the ideas and methods of the Popular Front."
Before Farid started his research, none of the medieval Azeri
medical treatises had been investigated, translated or published.
Then in 1988, Farid translated Muhammad Yusif Shirvani's "Tibbname"
(1712) from old Turkish into both Azeri and Russian. Shirvani
had been a palace physician for the Shirvan Shahs.
Once the translation of "Tibbname" was ready for publication,
Farid encountered a major problem: the Soviet censors were not
giving their approval for publishing it.
"The editor cautioned us: 'this book begins with the words,
"Bismillahi rahmani rahim" (In the name of God, the
Merciful, the Compassionate). Such an invocation is politically
and ideologically incorrect because we live in an atheist Soviet
state. You must delete all references to Allah from the book.
You may retain it in only one or two places, if you agree to
type it, not in upper case, but in lower-case letters.'
"My colleagues Akif Farzaliyev and Mammadagha Sultanov and
I all felt that this kind of censorship was utter nonsense. How
could we possibly modify an historical text? Even though we were
not traditional Muslims ourselves, we were scientists and as
such, we were not willing to accept alteration of the text.
"Then the editor crossed out part of the book and said:
'We can't publish these chapters because they deal with astrology,
alchemy and magic, not about medicine. These are ridiculous superstitious
beliefs. We can't mislead our readers.' He still did not seem
to grasp the idea that as ancient text this was a historical
monument that should not be tampered with.
"The next day, the editor found even more shortcomings with
the book. 'We have to remove all of the offensive, crude words
from the text,' he announced. 'This medieval author was a shameless
person. What terrible words he uses to identify sexual organs!
How could you use retain such expressions in the text? Take all
of them out. Yes, the Russians in Moscow are used to such vulgar
words in their books, but we are still not as "civilized"
as they are.'
"After all these corrections, 'Tibbname' became a much smaller
book. We were still hoping that it would be published, but it
turns out that we were mistaken. Six months later, the editor
called us again and said: 'you must exclude these 10 chapters
from the book. All of them are about sex. We are a Muslim nation,
and we should not read such amoral things. If you want the book
to be published, you'll have to remove them.'
"By this time, we were fed up. We told him: 'First of all,
if we really are Muslims, why did you remove the word "Allah"
from the book? Half a year ago, you said that we lived in an
atheist Soviet state. What are you saying now? Secondly, Ibn
Sina, Razi and other medieval authors were also Muslims, and
they wrote about the treatment of sexual diseases. Furthermore,
Prophet Muhammad said many things about sex in his hadiths [collections
of wise sayings attributed to Muhammad by his friends after his
death]. Are we greater than the Prophet and these writers?' However,
the editor did not want to listen to us. Obviously, he was afraid
of pressure from his own bosses, both in Baku and Moscow."
As it turns out, the "Tibbname" translation was eventually
published, more or less intact with its full text. But not until
1990. Since then, the book has become very popular among the
Azerbaijani public, selling more than 50,000 copies in its first
edition. This is considered a very large print run for Azerbaijan
with its population of 7.5 million at the time. But we succeeded
and it marked the first time that Azerbaijanis could read firsthand
about their own ancient traditional medicine.
During his research at the Institute of Manuscripts, Farid has
uncovered several other rare medical manuscripts that had long
been forgotten. These texts were not included in the treasury
of books related to Azerbaijan's history; in fact, Farid was
the first person ever to include them in the scientific literature
One such text is "Mualijati-munfarida" (Treatment of
Separate Medicines) by 18th-century physician Abulhasan Maraghai.
In his book, Maraghai describes the treatment methods that were
used for all of the commonly known diseases of his time. The
title "Separate Medicines" refers to simple medicines
that are comprised of only use one compound. Similarly, 17th-century
physician Murtuza Gulu Shamlu wrote the book "Khirga"
(Apparel of the Sufi) to describe how to treat reproductive disorders.
A "khirga" is a humble cloak that was worn by traveling
dervishes. Shamlu was the only medieval Azerbaijani author to
devote much discussion to this topic (although such books in
neighboring Muslim countries were quite common).
Farid has also discovered two Persian medical manuscripts that
are not known to exist anywhere else in the world: "Arvah
al-ajsad" (Souls of Bodies) by Kamaladdin Kashani (possibly
14th century) and "Zakhira-i Nizamshahi" by Rustam
Jurjani (13th century). Both texts are very extensive books on
pharmacology, with hundreds of formulas and descriptions of plants.
"Zakhira-i Nizamshai" imitates the well-known Eastern
pharmaceutical book "Zakhira-i Krarazmshahi" (12th
Reading these medieval texts is never easy, even for someone
who grew up reading the Arabic script. For one thing, much of
the specific medical terminology can be difficult to translate.
In order to decipher a certain word, Farid may need to consult
a number of different dictionaries, both modern and ancient.
"I must be very responsible and precise," he says,
"because my readers may try to use these ancient recipes
for self-treatment." To help other medical historians decipher
the texts, Farid has compiled and published a dictionary of more
than 1,400 medieval Azeri pharmacological terms.
Any mistranslation could lead to disastrous results. Farid recalls
one colleague who mistakenly translated the phrase "recipe
for a depilatory" (getting rid of unwanted hair) as "recipe
against baldness." "One day when I was working at the
Institute," Farid says, "I heard a scream coming from
the corridor. When I stepped outside, I saw a completely hairless
man grabbing the throat of the translator. As it turns out, he
was someone who did research at the Institute and who had only
a mild case of baldness. He had bought the book, prepared the
formula and applied it to his head before falling asleep. The
next morning, all of his hair had fallen out! He was so enraged
that he came to our Institute with the book in his hands so he
could hit the translator with it."
Right now, one of Farid's goals is to gradually reintroduce the
findings of medieval doctors. "Unfortunately, we have no
laboratory at our Institute to really investigate the potential
of these plants and substances," Farid says. "Medical
institutions in Azerbaijan are still facing an economic crisis
so they are unable to collaborate. So, not all of these herbs
have been tested scientifically yet.
"We can benefit from the wisdom of our ancestors,"
he continues. "The secret is to find out what they were
thinking and then to test it out. Once these substances have
been clinically tested, we can start to include them in the armory
of modern medicine."
To read articles by Farid
Alakbarli in English and Azeri Latin, visit AZERI.org,
which includes more than 20 of his articles plus six "Scientific
Tales for Children". Farid currently has an article,
"Aromatic Baths of the Ancients," published in the
U.S. journal HerbalGram (No. 59). See HerbalGram.com.
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AI 11.1 (Spring 2003)
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