Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

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Farmer Pepe Casanas is stung by a scorpion in Los Palacios, Cuba, December 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A worker extracts venom from a scorpion to produce homeopathic medicine Vidatox at LABIOFAM, the Cuban state manufacturer of medicinal and personal hygienic products, in Cienfuegos, Cuba, December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A worker prepares bottles of homeopathic medicine Vidatox at LABIOFAM, the Cuban state manufacturer of medicinal and personal hygienic products in Cienfuegos, Cuba, December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A worker shows a scorpion used for venom extraction at LABIOFAM, the Cuban state manufacturer of medicinal and personal hygienic products in Cienfuegos, Cuba, December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Workers prepare boxes with bottles of homeopathic medicine Vidatox at LABIOFAM, the Cuban state manufacturer of medicinal and personal hygienic products, in Cienfuegos, Cuba, December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A worker removes a scorpion from a plastic container for venom extraction to produce homeopathic medicine Vidatox at LABIOFAM, the Cuban state manufacturer of medicinal and personal hygienic products in Cienfuegos, Cuba, December 3, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Farmer Pepe Casanas poses with a scorpion in Los Palacios, Cuba, December 5, 2018. Picture taken December 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Worth the sting: Cuba’s scorpion pain remedy

  • In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar
  • The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity

HAVANA: Once a month for the last decade, Pepe Casanas, a 78-year-old Cuban farmer, has hunted down a scorpion to sting himself with, vowing that the venom wards off his rheumatism pains.
His natural remedy is no longer seen as very unusual here.
Researchers in Cuba have found that the venom of the blue scorpion, whose scientific name is Rhopalurus junceus, endemic to the Caribbean island, appears to have anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, and may be able to delay tumor growth in some cancer patients.
While some oncologists abroad say more research is needed to be able to properly back up such a claim, Cuban pharmaceutical firm Labiofam has been using scorpion venom since 2011 to manufacture the homeopathic medicine Vidatox.
The remedy has proven popular.
Labiofam Business Director Carlos Alberto Delgado told Reuters sales were climbing 10 percent annually. Vidatox already sells in around 15 countries worldwide and is currently in talks with China to sell the remedy there.
In Cuba, where tens of thousands of patients have been treated with Vidatox, each vial costs under a dollar. On the black market abroad it can cost hundred times that — retailers on Amazon.com are seen selling them for up to $140.
“I put the scorpion where I feel pain,” Casanas said while demonstrating his homemade pain relief with a scorpion that he found under a pile of debris on the patch of land he cultivates in Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Rio.
After squeezing it long enough, it stung him and he winced.
“It hurts for a while, but then it calms and goes and I don’t have any more pain,” he said.
Casanas, a leathery-skinned former tobacco farmer who now primarily grows beans for his own consumption, said he sometimes keeps a scorpion under his straw hat like a lucky charm.
It likes the shade and humidity, he says, so just curls up and sleeps.

FROM FARM TO LAB
In a Labiofam laboratory in the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos, workers dressed in scrubs and hairnets tend to nearly 6,000 scorpions housed in plastic containers lined up on rows of metal racks.
Every few days they feed and water the arachnids that sit on a bed of small stones. Once a month, they apply an 18V electrical jolt to their tails using a handcrafted machine in order to trigger the release of a few drops of venom.
The venom is then diluted with distilled water and shaken vigorously, which homeopathic practitioners believe activates its “vital energy.”
The scorpions are caught in the wild as Labiofam workers believe their venom — which is not dangerous — is not as potent when raised in captivity.
After two years of exploitation in the “escorpionario,” they are released back into the wild.
Dr. Fabio Linares, the head of Labiofam’s homeopathic medicine laboratory who developed the medicine, said Vidatox stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
“After four to five years (of taking it), the doctor whose care I was in told me that my cancer hadn’t advanced,” said Cuban patient Jose Manuel Alvarez Acosta, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
Still, Labiofam recommends Vidatox as a supplemental treatment and says it should not replace conventional ones.


Bollywood star Nargis Fakhri to strike a pose at Dubai yoga fest

Updated 20 January 2019
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Bollywood star Nargis Fakhri to strike a pose at Dubai yoga fest

DUBAI: Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri is set to host the opening session of the XYoga Dubai Festival on Feb. 1, so yoga fans can expect to bend, stretch and breathe with the glamorous star herself.
Fakhri has starred in Bollywood hits such as “Rockstar” and “Main Tera Hero” and also crossed over into Hollywood in 2015 film “Spy,” in which she appeared alongside Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law.

The actress is a self-declared fitness enthusiast and will lead a session at the weekend festival alongside yoga practitioner Deepika Mehta.
“Yoga has been a big part of my life for over a decade now — it helps me stay centered, focused and positive throughout the day,” Fakhri said in a statement.
“It is not just about flexibility and fitness but also about will-power, mental strength and finding common ground with others,” she added. “As a devoted practitioner and student, I am really looking forward to learning from Deepika, who is one of the most innovative and inspirational yoga trainers. I’m also looking forward to immersing myself in the practice with yogis in Dubai.”
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So grateful for life. For friends, for family, for my hubby, for my practice, for the nourishing food I eat, my body ... Today on the flight as I was coming to Mumbai, I tried out an exercise and I gave out positivity mentally to any body who caught my eye, and it was incredible, people sensed it and returned it with so much kindness, the air hostess was so kind, the guy sitting next to me on the flight helped me with the baggage, there was this sweet girl waiting outside the airport with a bunch of roses and she gave me the biggest smile back, the taxi guy was lovely .. (but it’s not like Im always this sweet angel or anything, sometimes I can be pretty sharp n cutting , trust me!!!) But the one thing the Universe taught me is that energy is tangible, if I give out good vibes, they are sent back to me. • The last few days I’ve been maintaining a journal of all the things that I’ve been grateful for in a day, it helps me focus on the good stuff, makes me more mindful and I take less for granted. • Maybe try out this exercise of writing down 10 things that you are grateful for tomorrow and see what magic manifests. • Love you guys, happy to be in my sweet city

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Mehta is a household name in India, where she hosts a TV show called “Yoga City,” was a trainer on “The Biggest Loser” weight loss show and is the personal trainer of a bevvy of celebrities.
The opening session that she will co-host signals the start of the free-to-attend two-day festival and, according to organizers, thousands of yoga enthusiasts are expected to converge on Dubai’s Kite Beach with the aim of achieving the “total synchronization of body, mind and soul.”
The third edition of XYoga Dubai festival will offer fitness lovers the chance to try out various forms of the ancient practice, including animal yoga, vinyasa flow and acro yoga.
The festival offers mixed classes, with ladies only sessions set to take place at the XDubai Studio.
Yoga practitioners from around the world are set to host sessions at the festival, including Iranian-Canadian musician Babak Torabi, who performs alongside yoga classes across the world, and Emilie Mikulla, who has taught people the art of movement in Thailand, South Africa, San Francisco and Dubai.
For more information, visit xyogadubai.com.