Cuzco has its own traditional culture of healing blows, sprains, and fractures. Ours is not a culture of taking pills, but rather one of seeking help from people who know about medicinal plants and using them. For us, these plants can heal you quickly.

You grind them using a batán (grinding stone) into a cream to make a poultice, for example, which we apply to the hurt part of the body. We call this a frotacion which means a massage or rubbing of the damaged part of the body. Though more than the rubbing it is the cream made from different Andean herbs, often with no manipulation of the body by the hands, that heals these problems that afflict us as we go about our daily lives.

From early in the morning, every day, the caseras (vendors) set up by the doors of the San Pedro market to sell their frotaciones (creams for “massaging” hurt parts of the body). They bring with them their stock of creams in buckets to meed the needs of the pacients who appear before them that day.

The market is not simply a place of food, not is food separated from medicine. In Cuzco we see food as being very important for good health and, as a result, having a medicinal effect. As a result, it makes good sense to us to have healers located in the markets as well as vendors of food.

Buckets of Ground Herbs for Frotaciones
Buckets of Ground Herbs for Frotaciones

The herbs that the caseras use are gathered mostly in the wild nearby, although some come from domesticated plants and some come from farther away. One of the caseras told me the main herbs used for massages are chirichiri, yawar, chonca, rosemary, maicha, and turpay. Once ground on batanes (grinding stones) they are kept in receptacles, she said.

The massage and other creams are sold by portions and these vary from S/1 to S/5 (about $0.30 to $2.50US). The main variable is the amount the patient needs.

The frotación is applied directly to the sprain or fracture by making a poultice. The caseras recommend beating and egg white with white sugar until it reaches the stiff peaks stage. Then we get paper of a size that will cover the part needing covering, and we perforate it, making small holes with a needle. We then cover the paper with the egg white and then we heat the medicinal cream in a small pan. We put the warm cream on the part of the body that needs it, covering it with the paper and egg white before tying it down with a bandage and letting it stay on all night.

The first thing that we say frotaciones do is to expel all the blow towards the outside of the body. You will see how bruises will appear on the skin. When you put the poultice on you feel how the cream heats the spot and quickly “burns” the blow. It penetrates inside the body. Then it begins to alleviate the pain. Little by little the pain disappears. You need to apply this cream in sections, depending on the seriousness of the accident. It is recommended you do this therapy at least three times.

A Casera Selling Frotaciones by the Market's Door
A Casera Selling Frotaciones by the Market’s Door

Many people arrive at the market to find these frotaciones because we see them as very important. We know the value of these plants. Any accident, be it a sprain, a blow, or a fracture, leads us to call on these frotaciones for assistance. They help you to get better in a fast and natural way, according to the patients.

Cuzqueños and their families are well acquainted with this medicine. Whenever anyone suffers an accident your family will tell you to grind some herbs or to buy a cream in the market. We still have to admit though, that this knowledge is slowly disappearing since more and more people turn away from the use fo natural medicine and prefer pills.

In the countryside the rural people know these plants best. They have a wide knowledge about them. It is no surprise that many of the people who sell the creams and frotaciones come from rural areas.

Since I am an athlete I sometimes need these creams and they are really helpful. Since I play so much soccer I often have lesions of blows and sometimes sprains. I depend on these creams and frotaciones based on natural plants. They help me get better quickly and return quickly to the playing field.


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