Antep Folk Medicine

The herbs, plants and other ingredients arrived to Gaziantep by silk road played very important role on folk medicine, which was the only way to cure the illnesses. Antep was the former name of Gaziantep before 1921 when the Parliament of Turkey has awarded Antep as “vetran”. I named my article as Antep, because I will write about folk medicine took place during the years of 1850-1900. 
I adopted this article from Kevork Sarafian’s book which is named: Batmuçyun Ayıntabi Hayots/ Armenian History of Aintab Volume II Page:672. The Armenian text was translated into English by Armen Aroyan.
Between 1850-1900 during 50 years, the Armenian Antep Folk Practitioners had a wide activity, until the establishment of American hospital. Dr. Shepard arrived in 1882 and the other doctors from Beirut and Istanbul Universities arrived later. However Antep always had a Turkish docor sent from Aleppo. But, one doctor had to serve for 300 villages. Therefore it was necessary to have folk practitioners to eel up the gap.
Avedis Shitilyan was one these folk practitioners and he was called as “Doctor Shitil”. He used to wear entari (long dress) and a coat over the dress. He also wear a fes (fez, kind of a hat) which he tied a scarf around it. His office clinic was in Kastelbasi to Kozanli. (Two areas next to each other in Gaziantep city). On the shelves he used to have about 20 bottles mostly filled with quinine. He used to have herbal juices, laxative, vasaline and plant roots. Some of these staff were in his drawers. He was like a doctor whenever somebody had an ache or cold, stuffy nose-congestion, pain in the eye or a cut; when they needed vaccination for children the people used to run to him. This man with a lot of patience, used to give them medication and advice. In the mornings his clinic was full of Armenian and Turkish customers or patients and also who had come either local or other villages. Everybody trusted his ability of healing and effectivenes of his medications.
Whenever he was asked, he used to visit sick people at homes. When he entered the room with a smile on his face, everybody greeted him. He would go next to the sick person and hold his wrist, feel the pulse, he used to say: “dear one, don’t be afraid there is nothing wrong with you, you will be allright in two days.” Then he would turn to the head of the house and say: “get me a bottle, I will give you some liquid and he will drink this three times a day. I will give you 12 tablets and he will take these pills four times a day for three days.”
How strange! From the words of the doctor and with the help of the nature the sick person recovered in a few days. Dr. Shitil’s biggest secret to his success was the words he used to develop confidence and moral on the sick person. He also convinced the sick person that he had nothing serious.
Kevork Kelleyan as another folk practitioner in Antep. He was not as popular as Shitilyan, but he was serious and capable doctor. He was looked for when there was a serious illness. He was sought after. He did not have a private clinic. The people who needed him took him to their house.
Harucun Hekimyan as a doctor and pharmacist at the same time. He had a large stock of medicine in a shop in the Karagoz area. Around his shop, there were a lot of Turkish shops. His customers were Turkish wealty families. He had a very good name, because of his experience.
Toros Topcuyan was a barber, sometimes a docor and a dentist. He used to shave, heal the sick and pull the teeth. His shop was in Baliklagan area, where you could see all his barber instruments, hanging plier and you could see the bottles on the shelves. There were no graduate dentists and no graduate doctors. Pulling teeth was left to a few Armenian and Turkish barbers, who were experienced.
Yahya Polisacyan had lost his vision as a young man. He used to walk with a cane in his hand. He always had a guide and was very healty. He possessed unsual strength. He would touch anybody’s any part of the body and he would heal them. He was a specialists to heal the broken bones and adjust joints. He was known as chiropractor of sorts. Dr. Yahya was very developped in his field and in all of the Aleppo province, there were nobody like him. Besides areas of Antep; Kilis, Antakya, Birecik, Urfa as far as Malatya sick people came to him for treatment. Even Dr. Shepard of American Hospital had seen his work and appreciated Yahya’s experience and capability. Whenever needed, Dr. Shepard would sent him to Dr. Yahya. Dr. Yahya did not discriminate, he has saved and healed many people.
Eventhough these doctors had no diplomas, the sons of Kelleyan, Hekimyan and Topcuyan became medical doctors
Ayfer Tuzcu Ünsal
Gaziantep sabah:09.12.2012 [ WELAJANS - V.Beyazgul ]