A few years back in Cuzco, any illness or disease you had was cured only with medicinal plants. People did not have the customs of going to doctors not to hospitals. So, on their own, people had to seek their own resources to deal with sickness and hurts.
The oldest people were considered those who knew the most about medicinal plants. They knew all the plants and what they were good for. Cuzco and its people have a very long tradition, going thousands of years into the past, of knowing what the different plants of our environment are, and which ones have medicinal value.
Specialists from other parts of the world, such as ethnobotanists, have come to study our plants. From them medicines have been made that now are sold in pharmacies. But our grandmothers, and the ladies who sell herbs in the market, still keep the knowledge of our plants and can tell you what is good for what ails you.
Many people in Cuzco still prefer to use herbs rather than pills. We just think they are better for you. Here are some examples of herbs we frequently use.
Rue is a clear example of a natural antibiotic. It eliminates quickly headaches and stomach intoxications.
When you burn it, rue quickly tells you if someone is suffering from an illness we call wind sickness (mal de viento), because if they are then you will hear certain unusual sounds in the burning rue.
For us, rue comes as male and female. They are distinguished by the size of their leaves. The male has the largest leaves, while the female’s leaves are smaller.
People also say that when brewed with milk, rue can provoke miscarriages.
You will see rue in almost all the businesses of Cuzco, because it is used as part of ritual to attract money.
White mallow (malva blanca) is a beautiful plant that has the power of diminishing internal inflammations in the body by means of warm baths. The leaves of the white mallow throw off a thick liquid that is transparent in color but is thick and viscous when they are boiled in a pot.
Yerba buena (mint), besides being edible and a necessary companion of chicharrón (crispy, fried pork) is also medicinal. A mint tea will help alleviate stomach and menstrual colics.
Marcco (ambrosia peruviana willdenow) cures rheumatism, people say, along with bone aches, aches of the waist, back, and buttocks. You use it for hot baths and also as a cream, we call frotación, for making poultices.
Rosemary has special nutrients that are useful for your scalp. It combats baldness and prevents the loss of hair.For treatment you infuse the rosemary in water. It also prevents cavities as a mouth rinse. People say it also helps women regain their body after giving birth.
Aloe vera is of great importance in our repertoire of natural medicines. It combats internal inflammations, hair loss, and dandruff. People also use this plant to make poultices and its is taken orally to stop inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) and of the gums.
This is but a small part of our repertoire of herbs. If you do not feel well, all you have to do is speak with the older women of your family, or go to the herbalists of the market and they will help you figure out what is wrong and what you can do about it, using our medicinal plants.