India's Bizarre Asthma Cure: Sardines, Swallowed Live
Tens of thousands down the fish in annual ritual
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2012 11:55 AM CDT
A child is administered fish treatment by a member of the Goud family in Hyderabad, India, Friday, June 8, 2012.   (Mahesh Kumar A.)
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(Newser) – Tens of thousands of asthma-sufferers mobbed a southern Indian stadium today to swallow live sardines smeared with a yellow herbal paste they believe will cure their breathing problems. Despite doctors' criticism, the Goud family has drawn throngs of people for years with a secret fish and herbal formula it says it received from a Hindu saint about 170 years ago. They give it away for free annually and refuse to reveal the mix, saying the saint warned it would lose its potency if commercialized.

One man died of a heart attack and several others sought medical attention for breathing difficulty after waiting hours for the treatment, Hyderabad police said. They said the stadium was unprepared to deal with the 70,000 people who rushed the gates when they opened. The family offers the treatment annually on a day chosen by astrologers. After swallowing the live fish, believers are told to abstain from fried foods and keep to a strict 45-day diet of 25 different foods, including lamb, rice, white sugar, dried mango, spinach, and clarified butter.