The Blessington family from Australia visit Fiji every year for a holiday, but on their last visit encountered a mysterious local woman who claimed to have the ability to cure asthma. Desperate to try a natural remedy for their young son’s chronic asthma and allergy to dairy, they agreed to give Fijian herbal medicine a try. At the age of five, Tanner Blessington from Sydney’s north shore in Australia contracted the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at the start of winter and ended up being hospitalized with hundreds of other children during one of Australia’s coldest winters. RSV is a major cause of respiratory illness across all ages in nearly every country, but school-age children are particularly susceptible during colder months, as colds and flu spread and place their immune systems under enormous pressure.
During a long Fijian ceremony of prayer and chanting, the Fijian woman prepared a concoction of pure coconut water from the orange-red nuidamu coconut tree and the milk sap of the pandanus shrub. The Aussie family was told they had to clear their minds of all negativity and stress for this ancient remedy to work. Leanne Blessington said it was difficult to rid herself of stress, as their home had just been robbed whilst they were in Fiji, but she was determined to do everything to make this work for her son.
Young Tanner then had to swim out to the deepest point in the sea , and throw the dry bark bundle to say “goodbye to your asthma”. He threw as hard as he could, whispering those symbolic words. He was told that he had to drink the rest of the mixture, with top ups of more coconut water, for the next seven days. He couldn’t drink any other liquids including water, juice or the gravy from his favorite curries – only the coconut medicine that had been made. This was probably because it may have diluted the potency of the herbal drink, ensuring the traditional medicine could do its job. Leanne was still skeptical, but there was no money exchanged and Josephine simply asked that the family have faith and put their hearts and minds to believing the treatment would work after seven days.
On day eight, Tanner mustered up the courage to put the treatment to the ultimate test. With his inhaler at the ready, he ordered the biggest ice cream sundae. To everyone’s surprise, there was no reaction. No wheezing, no constricted airway. His asthma had disappeared. For the next 12 months, Leanne held her breath, constantly monitoring her son’s condition back home in Australia, unsure if and when his asthma may return. It didn’t. On their return to Fiji just recently, Tanner fulfilled the one big dream that his previous condition had prevented him from achieving. He learned to scuba dive. “On the dive application form, it asked if I had any medical condition. I ticked no. I used to have asthma but it is now out there at sea” said Tanner.
So does Fijian traditional medicine hold the clues and secrets to curing asthma and other modern diseases? Medical science says no, but for one young Australian boy, the “Tree of Life” takes on a whole new meaning.
* Traditional medicines should not replace the advice of a trained physician and at all times, consult a professional doctor for treatment.