Indians swallow live fish in traditional treatment for asthma

An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (left) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (left) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family holds a live murrel fish and medicine before administering 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family holds a live murrel fish and medicine before administering 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (left) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (left) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indian residents wait to receive 'fish medicine' from the Bathini Goud family at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Indian residents wait to receive 'fish medicine' from the Bathini Goud family at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (right) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. The medicine, which has been offered by the family of the southern Indian city to patients for the la
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (right) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. The medicine, which has been offered by the family of the southern Indian city to patients for the last 163 years as a cure for asthma and other breathing disorders, is placed in the mouth of a live murrel fish and then slipped into the mouth of the patient. The medicine is administered on the auspicious day of 'Mrigasira Karti' which falls in June with the onset of the annual monsoon. The treatment, which is based on a secret herb formula, draws thousands of people from all over the country. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (right) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. Thousands of Indians have lined up to swallow live fish in a traditional treatment for asthma adminis
An Indian member of the Bathini Goud family (right) administers 'fish medicine' to a patient at the exhibition grounds in Hyderabad on June 8, 2014. Thousands of Indians have lined up to swallow live fish in a traditional treatment for asthma administered annually in the country's south. -- PHOTO: AFP

HYDERABAD, India (AFP) - With pinched noses and watery eyes, thousands of Indians have lined up to swallow live fish in a traditional treatment for asthma administered annually in the country's south.

Asthma sufferers gather every June in the southern city of Hyderabad to gulp down the fish stuffed with a yellow herbal paste, in hopes it will help them breathe more easily.

The wriggling 5cm-long fish are slipped into the throats of patients in a bizarre treatment that leaves them gagging.

The Bathini Goud family, which administers the treatment, says the fish clear the throat on their way down and permanently cure asthma and other respiratory problems.

But the family has declined to reveal the secret formula, which they say they got from a Hindu saint in 1845.

Parents are often forced to pry open the mouths of reluctant children who cry at the sight of squirming fish, while others pinch their noses, tip their heads back and close their eyes.

Thousands of people travel from across India for the free medicine during a two-day period, the specific dates of which are determined by the onset of the monsoon every June.

Rights groups and doctors have complained that the medicine is "unscientific", a violation of human rights and unhygienic, claims rejected by the family.

The Indian government arranges special trains for the "fish medicine" festival every year and extra police officers are on duty to control crowds.

After digesting the treatment, patients are told to go on a strict diet for 45 days.