CAIRO Jan 12 In an economic crisis that has led
to a shortage of medicines, Egyptians are skipping trips to drug
stores and instead turning to herbal remedies to treat every-day
In the Cairo working class neighbourhood of Basateen, dozens
can be seen lining up outside a decades-old herbal spice shop
with pyramid-shaped stacks of jars on display, filled with
everything from honey and ginger to camel's hay.
Apothecaries say there is a roughly 70-80 percent increase
in sales after a series of harsh economic reforms hit medicine
supply in pharmacies across the country and increased the cost
of some generic and even life-saving drugs.
Store owner Samy al-Attar - whose last name is Arabic for
apothecary - says a knowledgeable apothecary can find
substitutes for drugs treating almost all non-terminal
Just like pharmacies, the walls inside al-Attar's store are
lined with drawers and containers. But rather than
pharmaceutical drugs, they hold herbs, each said to have its own
unique healing property.
Customers impatiently crowd outside the shop window, where
employees can be seen dashing around the tiny interior, choosing
from a variety of textures and colours, filling clear plastic
bags with orders.
Al-Attar's role is like many pharmacists. Customers explain
their symptoms and he produces a concoction of spices and herbs
along with a method of administration.
Egypt's health ministry is in the middle of negotiations
with pharmaceutical companies over a 15 percent increase in
prices of locally-produced drugs, and a 20 percent increase in
the prices of imported ones.
Local spices and herbs, meanwhile, cost between 5 and 10
Egyptian pounds ($0.27-0.54) per kilogram.
($1 = 18.5000 Egyptian pounds)
(Writing by Seham Eloraby; Editing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Mark