• Is “Usog” for Real?

    Find out the truth once and for all behind this age-old Filipino belief.
    by Ina Atutubo, MD .
  • baby“Usog” is a Filipino belief that we all grew up with. It is believed to be a discomfort brought about by a stranger or visitor thought to have an evil eye (masamang mata) or who brings an evil wind (masamang hangin) or a hex. A simple greeting or praise like "wow! Such a cute baby!" is said to be enough to cause the hex or usog. To counter the usog, the stranger would usually say "pwera usog!" then lick his or her thumb and apply saliva while tracing a cross on the baby's forehead or abdomen.

    The afflicted are usually infants and toddlers who may have a bloated tummy, followed by incessant crying and later, farting, very much similar to the symptoms of colic. The child may also experience fever or nausea and vomiting, supposedly as signs of usog. Sometimes an unton, a tiny red pillow containing “kontra-usog” materials like tree bark or other “anting-anting”, is kept pinned on baby’s clothing in order to prevent usog.

    If the child is afflicted with usog, an elder in the family would normally try to ”treat” the baby by applying coconut oil (langis) or aceite de manzanilla (chamomile oil) to warm the baby’s belly. Others would recommend going to an albularyo or a hilot (faith healer) who would typically use a concoction of different leaves, like bayabas, sambong, among others. This assortment of leaves is chewed by the hilot and spit out then spread onto the baby’s abdomen while an orasyon or bulong is said.  

    On the medical front, discoveries about the components of saliva reveals that it actually contains a substance called opiorphin, related to morphine and other opioids, which are generally used in modern medicine as a pain killer. Research done in the Pasteur Institute in Paris has proven the effect of opiorphin as an analgesic but, so far, only to rats. More research must be made if this has any actual benefit to humans.  

     

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