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Birds vs. Billy Rubin

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Topic: Medicine on Shabbos

Carol Brown wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

We use Echinacea (pronounced eckinaysha), a natural extract of flowers, in liquid form, to prevent or reduce effects of colds and flu. It has become a very popular remedy and preventative, and we find it to be very helpful. We don't take it on a regular basis, only when we feel the onset of a cold (e.g., raw or dry throat, sniffles, etc.) or when someone else in the family has a cold or flu. Echinacea boosts the immune system so the body can naturally fight off the infection. Is one allowed to use this on Shabbos?

Also, we are told that there is a mystical kind of treatment for hepatitis in Israel involving placing pigeons on the abdomen of the patient. The pigeons somehow absorb the toxins from the patient's body and die. I would like to know the origin and validity of this treatment.

Dear Carol Brown,

Any substance that is eaten only for medicinal purposes, either as a preventative or therapeutic medicine, may not be taken on Shabbat unless the sickness is one of the following: a) Life threatening; b) Affecting the entire body; c) Severe pain; d) Affecting the eyes.

There is a Jerusalem tradition for the treatment of hepatitis in which a pigeon is placed on the patient's navel and the pigeon dies. Generally, this has been known to be a successful method of reducing bilirubin count in patients. As far as I know, this method has never been subjected to double-blind studies under controlled conditions, so it has no significant statistical basis. However, it has very strong hearsay evidence.


Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 328

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