The selected works of Mahatma Gandhi

Key To Health


Table of Contents

About This Book

Written by : M. K. Gandhi
Edited by : Bharatan Kumarappa
Foreword by : Morarji Desai
First Edition : 3,000 copies, December 1954
Fifteenth Re-print : 5,000 copies, March 2011
Total : 69,000 copies
ISBN : 81-7229-040-3
Printed and Published by : Jitendra T. Desai
Navajivan Mudranalaya,
© Navajivan Trust, 1954


Chapter 11: Earth

These chapters are written in order to introduce the reader to this most important branch of therapeutics and tell him how I have made use of these methods in my own life. The subject has been touched upon in the foregoing chapters. It will be dealt here. The science of natural therapeutics is based on a use, in the treatment of disease, of the same five elements which constitute the human body. To refresh the reader's memory, these are earth, water, ether, sunlight and air. It is my effort to point out how they can be utilized for health purposes.
Up till the year 1901, although I did not rush to doctors whenever I happened to get ill, I did use their remedies to a certain extent. I used to take fruitsalt for constipation. The late Dr. Pranjivan Mehta who had come to Natal introduced me to certain drugs to remove general lassitude. This led me to read literature on the uses of drugs. Add to this a little put in at a cottage hospital in Natal. This enabled me to carry on for some time, but none of the drugs did me to carry on for some time, but none of the drugs did me any good in the end. Headaches and loss of a sense of general wellbeing persisted. I was very dissatisfied with this state of things and what little faith I had in medicines began to fade.
All through this interval my experiments in dietetics were continued. I had great faith in nature cure methods, but there was nobody to help me with practical guidance in their use. With the help of whatever knowledge I could gather by reading little of nature cure literature, I tried to treat myself by diet regulation. My habit of going out for long walks also stood me in good stead, and thanks to that habit I did not have actually to take to bed. While I was thus managing to keep going somehow, Mr. Polak handed me just's book, called Return to nature. He did not follow just's instructions himself, except that he tried to regulate his diet more or less according to Just's teaching. But knowing me as he did, eh thought I would like the book. Just lays great emphasis on the use of earth. I felt that I ought to give it a trial. For constipation, Just advises cold mud poultice on the lower abdomen throughout the night. The result was most satisfactory. I had a natural well-formed motion the next morning and from that day onwards I have hardly ever touched fruitsalt. Occasionally, I feel the need of a purgative and take less than a dessert spoonful of castor oil early in the morning. The mud poultice should be 3 inches broad, 6 inches long and 1 inch thick. Just claim that mud can cure man bitten by a poisonous snake. He would pack wet earth all round the body. I mention this for what it is worth. I would like to put down here what I have tested and proved applied to the head, relieves headache may be due to several causes, but whatever the cause, as a general rule, an application of mud poultice relieves it for the time being.
Mud poultices cure ordinary boils. I have applied mud to discharging abscesses as well. For these cases I prepare the poultice by packing the mud in a clean piece of cloth dipped in potassium permanganate lotion. In the majority of cases this treatment results in complete cure. I do not remember a single case in which it has failed me. Mud application immediately relieves the pain of a wasp sting. I have used it in many cases of scorpion bite though with much less success. Scorpions have becomes a nuisance in Sevagram. We have tried all the known treatments for scorpion bite, but none has proved infallible. I can say this that the results of mud application are not inferior to those of any other form of treatment.
In high lever, an application of mud poultice on the head and abdomen is very useful. Although it does not always bring down the temperature, it does invariably soothe the patient and make him fell better, so that the patients themselves ask for these applications. I have used it in several cases of typhoid fever. The fever no doubt run sits own course but mud applications seem to relieve restlessness and abate the suffering. We have had about ten cases of typhoid fever. I have not used any drugs in the treatment of these cases. I have made use of other nature cure methods besides mud poultices, but about those in their own place.
In Sevagram we have made free use of hot mud poultices as substitute for antiphlogistine. A little oil and salt is added to the mud and it is heated sufficiently long to ensure sterilization.
I have not told the reader what kind of earth should be used for mud poultices. In the beginning I used to procure sweet smelling clean red earth. It emits a delicate smell when it is mixed with water. But this kind of earth is not easy to obtain. In a city like Bombay it is a problem to get any kind of earth. It is safe to use soft alluvial clay, which is neither gritty nor sticky. On e should never use of earth taken from mannured soil. Earth should be dried, pounded, and passed through a fine sieve. If there is any doubt as to its cleanliness, it should be well heated and thus sterilized. Mud used as a poultice on a clean surface need not a thrown away after use. It can be used again and again after drying it in the sun or on fire and pounding and sieving it I am not aware that mud poultice made out of the same earth again and again as described above, is any the less efficacious. I have myself use it in this way and did not find it any the less efficacious for repeated use. Some friends who regularly used mud poultices tell me that mud from Jumna's banks is particularly good for this purpose.

Eating Earth

Just writes that clean earth may be eaten in order to overcome constipation. Five to ten grams is the maximum does. The rationale is said to be this. Earth is not disgusted. It acts as roughage and must pass out. The peristalsis thus stimulated pushes out of the faucal matter as well. I have not tried myself. Therefore those who wish to do so, should try it on their own responsibility. I am inclined to think that a trial or two is not likely to harm anyone.