Nature is very generous with humanity. In Cusco we have medicinal and nutritious herbs that our ancestors used to care for their health. Today, we still use the natural medicines they drew from our Mother Earth. A clear example is the clay we call chaco.
Chaco is sold in the majority of the popular markets of our city: the San Pedro market, the Ccascaparo, Ttio, and Wanchac. This clay is available to everyone in little bags in the section of medicinal herbs.
Wanting to know more about the medicinal benefits of the chaco clay, I went to the San Pedro Market. There I met a casera, vendor, named Inés. She has a stand in the herbs sections where she specializes in natural medicine. She has herbs, poultices, massages, and more for every kind of internal and external suffering.
When I came up she was dressed with her green apron and a maroon hat. Very kindly she said: “What are you looking for, casero? Can I help you with something?”
I responded right away that I was looking for chaco.
With a smile on her face she asked me if I had stomach problems. I said no, bu she pulled out a white bag with pieces of dried chaco clay.
“How much do you want, casero? I have it at 2/S, 4S/ and 6S/.”
Inside the bag I saw small pieces of dried chaco clay. Its color was light gray. I asked her what medical benefits it brought.
“Uf, it is a first aid. It is good for stomach infections, ulcers, parasites, as well as for stomach acidity caused by drinking alcohol. It detoxes and at the same time mineralizes the stomach.”
I was surprised with the security of her tone and words. “Where does this clay come from”, I asked.
“The chaco comes from Puno and from Sicuani, she responded. In puno people eat it with boiled potatoes or with huatia (earth baked potatoes). They mix the dried clay with a bit of boiled water until it is creamy, like a sauce. They add salt to taste and then put it on their potatoes like butter.
They do not just use it as medicine there, but as a daily food since it has calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. “
To say goodbye I asked for a two sol bag of chaco. Before I left the casera told me that I could also consume it as a drink. She told me how to prepare it.
“Soak two or three teaspoons of chaco in a glass of warm water. Waiit for half an hour for it to dissolve. Then you stir it and drink it. It is recommended that you drink it in the morning, mid morning, mid afternoon, and an hour and a half after your last meal of the day.”
At home, I felt I wanted to taste the chaco clay. I prepared it as she had told me. Whe I put it in the glass I could see how the water dissolved the clay and mixed bringing out a bone color. Its taste is soft and light. On the teeth it feels a bit like sand, but with no flavor.
Despite the great benefits promised by chaco clay, the majority of Peruvians still do not know of its existence and of its benefits for health.