Indians with asthma line up to swallow live fish

Associated Press
Rukmini Bai, 57, from India's Maharashtra state uses an inhaler  as she waits to receive the" fish medicine" in Hyderabad, India, Tuesday, June 7, 2011.Every June, hundreds of thousands of asthma sufferers gather in Hyderabad to swallow live sardines smeared with secret herbs, convinced the ritual will cure them. The two day free treatment by the Goud family, which claims to have received the formula from a Hindu saint 162 years ago begins Wednesday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
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HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Thousands of people seeking relief from asthma gathered in southern India on Wednesday to swallow live sardines smeared with secret herbs that they believe will cure them.

People travel every June from across India to Hyderabad for the treatment offered free by one family on a day chosen by astrologers.

The Goud family says it received the secret formula from a Hindu saint about 170 years ago, but refuse doctors' requests for the herbal mix, saying the saint warned it would lose its potency if commercialized.

After swallowing the live fish late Wednesday, the patients began a strict 45-day diet of 25 different foods, including lamb, rice, white sugar, dried mango, spinach and clarified butter. They must abstain from deep-fried food and repeat the treatment at least once within two years.

Though the treatment has been criticized by doctors, thousands of people from across the country continue to flock to the annual event.

"I have been coming here for the last two years and it has given me a lot of relief," said Balbeer Singh, a 45-year-old businessman who traveled from the northern city of Ludhiana.

"There is definitely something good in this for our health, otherwise so many people would not have come," said Santosh Ben, 35, a homemaker from the western city of Vadodra.

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