Traditional Remedies

Cusqueños Cure Sprains and Blows with Natural Poultices

A Natural Poultice in Cuzco

As is well known, our bodies are exposed constantly to a whole range of things and actions that can damage us. Often, without knowing it, we can develop bruises and even wounds due to the ordinary movements we make. To care for them people did not always rely on pills, shots, and so on, the base of modern medical therapies. People, as a result, would rely on the plants of their environment to cure their pains and their wounds. They relied on a great variety plants and used them every day.

We could say that people relied on natural medicine rather than on chemical or even alternative medicine, as many people call them. In places distant for the cities, where alternative and chemical medicine still does not arrive, people rely on plants and things that they have at hand about which their ancestors had taught them.

This legacy is very important, especially in our Inca and Cuzco culture. Natural remedies are still very much used and, of course, they are often effective. We have many ways to use natural medicines, such as ingesting them in teas, anointing ourselves with them, and putting them on us in poultices.

Poultices are a kind of dressing made of paper on which the remedy of natural medicine is placed and then the medicated paper is used to cover the affected area of the body in order to alleviate whatever the trouble is.

A poultice of egg is one of the most common and most used. For this, the egg white needs to be beaten to stiff peaks. Once done you take a piece of paper in the right size and make a lot of hole in it with a pin or needle. Then you spread the beaten egg white over the paper and place the paper, egg side down, on the bruised area and you cover it with a bandage or cloth.

Alternative Medicine, Medicinal Herbs For Sale at the Market
Alternative Medicine, Medicinal Herbs For Sale at the Market

The poultice of fat is made from animal fat, especially a medicinal one we call cebo, that you melt and then spread on the paper, making sure the fat is not too hot. Then you place it on the damaged part of your body and cover it.

We also have the clay poultice. Just like the one of egg and cebo, you put the clay on paper and then place it on the impacted part of the body. These poultices are very important for us. They help alleviate blows and internal heat.

There is another poultice we use. It is made from an herb called chirichiri, a Quechua word which means “cold-cold”. This herb is a member of the aster family and has a mucilaginous substance much loved for medicine. It is known scientifically as grindelia boliviana. It is considered the strongest poultice to alleviate and help heal the impact of blows and of dislocated bones and sprains. It is made just like the other poultices.

The medicinal poultices, in conjunction with cooling teas, or teas made into crèmes are the most effective. For example, a poultice of egg helps to pull out internal heat when a person has too much. What is better that taking, afterwards, cooling teas to completely do away with the problem caused by too much internal heat and get better.

Just as we have the remedies mentioned here, there are many more that are used for different concerns and diagnoses. They serve to heal and to alleviate other ills. Our mother earth has given us a great legacy and placed a great responsibility in our hands.

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