by Vladimir Rozanskij
Only 150 infections in the country. People attribute the low number to the properties of isryk, the Syrian rue made from the harmala seed, already used as a sacred drink in the Aryan (Vedas) and Zoroastrian rites. But for the ministry of health “there is no scientific evidence” on the good effects of smoking the rue. The “Mongolian triangle”, which also includes Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, is however one of the areas least affected by the pandemic.
Tashkent (AsiaNews) – On the streets of the Uzbek capital, there has been a strong burning smell for days, with the pungent aromas, so much so as to force people to close doors and windows, despite the high temperatures.
The women of the municipal department warn the Novaja Gazeta reporter: “We keep our door closed, but not because of the smoke: we are afraid that the coronavirus will enter”. On the contrary, the smoke is “blessed”: it is from the isryk, the Syrian rue also called harmala, despised even by wild animals, but very popular these days throughout Central Asia.
The yellow or light green bunches of isryk are burned together with the waste paper in special boxes, where the bitter seeds of the plant are placed, which are snapped up in all the bazaars of the country. In pharmacies, the herb is also sold in powdered form, in small packs that cost less than a dollar. The label states that isryk is used for “prophylaxis of respiratory infections, flu and colds, and also against domestic insects”, and it is recommended to “place it on a fireproof surface and burn it”. Each bazaar counter has placed metal colanders on the sides, from where the miraculous herb is fumigated continuously.
The effect is also slightly hallucinogenic. Isryk is also known as somi or khaomi, used in massive doses for “sacred” drinks of the ancient Aryans, according to the Indian Vedas or the Zoroastrian Avesta. It is also used by Central Asian Sufis as “mystical incense” to reach ecstasy. It was a Muslim sage, the famous Avicenna (Abu Ali ibn Sina, a native of the Uzbek city of Bukhara), often quoted by St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote in the “Canon of healing science” that isryk is the best medium to treat respiratory inflammation, and can also be used as a diuretic and pain reliever.
The Uzbek ministry of health issued a statement in early March that “there is no scientific evidence that isryk is effective against coronavirus.” But this did not affect citizens’ trust in the alfalfa. Also because there are still few infections in the country (50 cases out of 2.5 million in the capital Tashkent), and it would be part of an area of central Asia called in these days the “Mongolian triangle”, which seems refractory to the epidemic. This is explained by the particular dryness and healthiness of the air and by the use of the isryk / hermala herb, also recommended in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, two other “triangle” countries.
The first cases of infection, however, have nonetheless emerged post March 30, and there would already be about 150 across the country, with some deaths, for which there is currently no official information. The government has announced quarantine measures, to which even the most famous billionaire in the country, Alisher Usmanov, Putin’s great supporter and Ella Musk’s Tesla financier, voluntarily submitted.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has tried to reassure citizens, terrified after weeks of great security, saying that “if our people remain united and follow the indications, we will quickly defeat this disease”, also by burning a few more isryk bushes.