Pasma - Real? ... or Myth?

Is Pasma real or just a myth?

Lately, we had discussed everything about Bangungot - the causes and effects, and the reality and fiction sides of the said disease. Now, let's have Pasma in our discussion.


My grandmother often advises me not to take a bath after doing something, especially if I'm soaked with my sweat. The only reason is, Baka pasmahin ka!. I don't know how to translate it properly in English. Maybe this, You'll get pasma!. There's no English word equivalent to that, if I'm not mistaken.

Actually, its not only my granny who diligently warns me about it, but also my aunts and uncles, and my parents. I am sure, its not only me who experienced this kind of cautionary. Perhaps, all of us Filipinos heard it.

Pasma is a Filipino word origintaing from Spanish term espasmo which means spasm. Spasm, according to my dictionary, is an involuntary sudden muscle contraction. That is very much different to Pasma. Like what I had said, there is no English word for this.

Pasma is a unique Filipino illness. It is mostly connected or brought by heat and cold. Its when a the body's muscles (kalamnan) are said to be "hot" and should not be too quickly brought into contact with "cold," in this case usually meaning cold water or air conditioner.[a]

Filipino albularyos enumerated many causes, symptoms, and effects of this disease. They also know how to avoid and treat it by their folk medicine. Medical experts don't recognize this as a disease even though there were reports of people who died of this.

Signs and Causes

People who are execising or working and get soaked with sweat are usually the one who acquires pasma.

A person is pasmado if he has a sweaty palms, and if his hands are shivering uncontrollably. Pasma can also affect eyes, they'll get blurry. That's when you take a bath after reading and/or facing a computer for a long time, or before sleeping while you're hair is still wet.

Aside from the traditional cause of "init" and "lamig," which is a traditional concept sufficiently intact in the contemporary Philippine psyche to be accepted, alone as a cause for pasma, some correlation has been noted with diseases already recognized by contemporary medicine. For example, symptoms of pasma are similar to those found in people with diabetes mellitus and thyroid dysfunction. It has also been suggested that the complaints are often neurological in nature and may be linked to some kind of nervous dysfunction.[a]

The Sweaty Hands, which is one of the signs that a person is pasmado, may be caused by Hyperhidrosis. It is a disorder in which a person had an excessive sweat on face, hands, feet and armpit no matter what the temperature is.

Folkloric treatments for Pasma include massages using ginger, coconut oil, alcohol, garlic, and camphor oil. Soaking in lukewarm salted water or rice water is believed to cure Pasma, as well is Pasmang-bituka, a daily salted decoctions of solasi (Holy basil).[a]

There are reports of people who died suddenly and some became mentally ill pointing the cause to pasma. Even though there more reliable explanation of these cases, Filipino still believe it was the main reason. These victims perhaps just had done something pasmatic, and encountered signs similar to pasma.

I had once a neighbor who suddenly became mentally ill. My granny told me what he did before becoming like that. She said, Masipag kasi ang taong iyon. Nagtatrabaho ng halos buong araw, tapos hindi sapat ang tulog. Isang gabi naligo raw iyon pagkauwi ng bahay. Kinabukasan, nagkaganoon na siya. (He was a hardworking man. He was working almost the whole day, and his sleep was not enough. One evening, he took a bath after arriving home. In the next day, he just became like that.)

Have you read my recent post here, about my neighbor who was suspected to be an aswang? Some people claimed he isn't, that he just died suddenly because of pasma.