CommentaryTraditional Remedies

Wachuma, The Plant Master

With the passage of time, natural medicine with its plants and herbs as come alive again. Now there are many people who prefer to treat their ills with plants that have a deep natural sense.

Both Wachuma and San Pedro are the same species of cactus whose scientific name is Tricoceresus Pachanoi. It is a plant master known by many Quechua healers as wachuma. It acquired the name of the saint who carries the keys that open the doors of the heaven, according to the Catholic religion, This cactus grows naturally in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In Cusco, it enlivens many homes since people often have it in their gardens as well as in pots inside.

Texturas del Cactus (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Texturas del Cactus (Walter Coraza Morveli)

It has been used for more than two thousand years. The Chavin culture have engravings in stone of the wachuma cactus. Such findings are witnesses of its use by pre-Columbian people. It was used in ceremonies where priests and the devout gathered.

The psychotropic experience when one ingests it is less overwhelming, calmer, and not as demanding physically if it is taken in an open place where you are surrounded by nature. In the city, because of traffic and noise it can be harsher and more suggestive since all of your senses are heightened.

Friends and people who know the experience, corroborate that ingesting wachuma connects you with nature, the Pachamama (Earth Mother), and the universe. There are also many people who claim that it helps to purify your mind, spirit, and body. It moves your feelings and helps you to return to a time of life when a trauma was generated, or a blockage. It lets you reconnect and better grasp who you are. It helps answer questions that were already inside you.

Nature in the Andes
Nature in the Andes

It is widely used by Andean healers today since it is good for combatting stress, insomnia, nervous ailments, drug dependencies, heart ailments, and hypertension.

There are streets in Cusco, such as Tandapata, Choquechaca, and Procuradores, among others, where you can find agencies specializing in mystical or spiritual tourism. In these places they offer session with wachuma, as well as other plants such as ayahuasca, floripondio, and te mascal. They also have Andean masters who help people carry out payments (offerings) to the Pachamama. These are also the ones who guide you through the whole trip with the teaching plants.

In Cusco, you can also find wachuma inside the San Pedro market. It is offered in the section of medicinal herbs. The caseras, vendors, sell a great variety of seeds, herbs, packets for massages, nutritional powders, and more. What they sell more, according to Mrs. Carmen who has 14 years of experience in the market, is wachuma. The healers in Cusco as well as national and international tourists buy the fresh cactus as well as in dried form and in powdered form. The price varies according to the quantity, weight, and also size of the cactus.

Paco, quien que realiza las ceremonias de wachuama, Guias Espirituales (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Paco, quien que realiza las ceremonias de wachuama, Guias Espirituales (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The powdered wachuma is added to cold, boiled water. To a cup you add about 5 grams of wachuma powder. You stir it until the powder disappears. It is best not to smell it and to take it in a single draft since the taste is very strong.

Dried wachuma is soaked in water until the tablets become soft. In this way you have less sensation of having them in your mouth and, as a result, the taste is less strong that with the powdered form. Still you feel it.

For boiled wachuma, you prepare the drink with the green skin of the cactus, a pot with water, and time. You boil the cactus skin for some 7 or 8 hours since that is when the substance becomes concentrated in the water. The you chill it and blend the skin and mix it with the remaining water. This kind of wachuma is less likely to provoke nausea. You also have the option of adding several drops of lime juice to each cup.

Wachuma en polvo y deshidratado (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Wachuma en polvo y deshidratado (Walter Coraza Morveli)

In any of the three forms, the trance begins about thirty or forty minutes. The first symptom is nausea. Then you begin to have heightened sensations in your body. Your senses are stronger and more sensitive. Whether during the night or day it is difficult to close your eyes while under the influence of the cactus.

The vegetable kingdom has always been a much admired symbol of devition and superstition. People’s survival depends on plants. They use them to cure and alleviate sicknesses since from them they draw remedies. Plants are even more. Trees are always an aid, flowers bring joy and fruit is essential nourishment for the body.

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