3 min read · May 19, 2022
In winter and spring, almost every family in Ulaanbaatar stock their refrigerators with wild cranberries, cranberry leaves, sea buckthorns as well as aarts (curd drink from sour milk). All of them are the main weapons to combat against cold and flu and a clear example of common usage of medicinal herbs of Mongolians.
With the help of this powerful "weapons", Mongolians endured the years of the most dangerous epidemics of influenza that caused a great concern to the World Health Organization. At that time, a few years back, the government of Mongolia even allocated a special budget for the distribution of wild cranberries and sea buckthorn syrup to kindergartens, schools, as well as to pregnant mothers and low-income families.
Wild cranberries and sea buckthorns are the most beneficial berries in the cold climatic zone. These berries do not lose their qualities even at a very low temperature of -40C. They provide necessary vitamins not only for people, but for birds and animals. Wild cranberries are used in many countries with a cold climate, and can even be found in the recipes of many dishes. Sea buckthorn is known for its amazing content of vitamins and medicinal properties. That is why it is called "the king-berry". Its health benefits will be a longs list. Recent research proves that sea buckthorn can help cancer treatment.
Medicinal herbs such as dog-rose, plantain, viviparous snake-weed plant, rhubarb, and white fungus are used in everyday life. For example, when children get a scratch on their hands and legs, you can put the leaves of the plantain on the wound for fast healing. Mongolians created their own unique culture and knowledge to use medicinal herbs like the rest of the world. The culture has passed through generations of descendants. There is even a saying “The elderly lady who has been through a lot is better than the nature-healer who does not know the prescription”.
Ordinary cattle breeders are able to distinguish between 70-100 and even 200-300 species of medicinal herbs. They know when and how to collect them and at what illnesses the herbs can be applied. Unfortunately, with the advent of modern medicine, people began to choose an easier way for treatment, which causes the loss of ancient knowledge. Therefore, scientists and researchers have run researches for many years and are working to preserve the cultural heritage of the past.
The nomadic way of life of the Mongols allows them to observe animals in their habitat: in what season and under what natural phenomena animals, subject to their intuition, use this or that herb plant. Of course, this has become a fertile ground for the emergence and development of traditional medicine. The same phenomenon can be seen in traditional veterinary medicine. For example, depending on the malady of animals, a mixture of different herbs and plants is ignited and animals smell the “magical” smoke for a while for treatment.
For the years of its development, the methods of traditional treatments have grown into an integrated system, which in modern times is called "Mongolian Traditional Medicine." An important part of it is traditional pharmacology. Ancient books and treatises were brought to us from ancestors witnessed the history of the development of Mongolian medicine. In the traditional medicine, the medicines are not made solely with herbs. There are many medicines made by minerals and raw materials of animal origin.
Traditional medicine classifies 108 kinds of diseases. Most of them can be cured by changing lifestyle, psychotherapy and exercise. The rest are cured with medication and treatment. Diseases and their corresponding medicines are divided into "hot" and "cold", and also fall into five categories or the so-called five elements. And also, the vital activity of the organism is supported by the joint work of three regulating systems: Slime (badgan), Bile (ball) and Wind (chi).
For example, the spring pasqueflower is considered as the “hot herb”. Thus, if a patient with a “hot” illness related to “Slime”, eats it, he/she might suffer a negative reaction. Therefore, the nature-healers should decide what medicine to give to patients for a particular disease treatment. During traditional treatment like acupuncture and cauterization that is used along with medicine herbs, it is very important to follow a certain regimen.
In Mongolia, there are well-known and famous medicinal herbs, such as roseroot and garnet as well as many other herbs and plants which only an experienced healer can recognize. Mongolia is a country of a vast territory, with high mountains, forests, grasslands and Gobi. Therefore, it is not surprising that Mongolia is abundant with a variety of different medicinal herb plants. And they should be used correctly and preserved in the nature, according to established traditions.