Clinic Days 5-7 were in high gear and we saw lots of action, patients presenting symptoms and
conditions encountered mostly in harsh living and working conditions with little access to fresh
drinking water and proper nutrition; most were severely dehydrated, malnourished, and pretty
banged up. Instead of posting everyday I thought I would reflect on some of the interesting
cases, commonalities and tidbits picked up a long the way. In addition to being able practice the
medicine in the field and give back to others, the jornada is an exceptional learning experience
on many levels.
In addition to acupuncture, body work, and reiki, we were also giving Chinese herbal remedies
mostly in patent "pill" form. This enables us to treat more conditions with each patient. Chinese
herbal formulas is a high level medicine onto itself, one that I am barely scratching the surface.
The formulas are based on indigenous Chinese plants (roots, leaves, flowers, seeds, etc).
However, most native indigenous cultures have their own "plant (or animal) medicines" that
have been handed down generation to generation by healers. In Quiche, we worked with one
such medicine woman, Sebastiana, who not only won our hearts, but treated a few of the
practitioners that were hit with some nasty viruses while working. Within a relative short time
after being knocked on their knees, they were back on their feet. Sebastiana is one of our "promoters", a group of native Quiche that work alongside of us doing reiki, massage,
translating, moxa'ing the patients - doing lots of the heavy lifting actually and ensuring that the
patients were receiving high quality, holistic care.
I was always taken by Sebastiana's ever present warm smile and eagerness to help out in the
treatments, but what really sparked my interest was her knowledge local remedies, in particular the case the woman that
had a parasitic worm in her abdomen around her navel that was difficult to extract manually. The
"doctora", as we were referred to, working on the woman was lancing what appeared to be a blackhead, which was
then going to be suctioned out with cupping. Well, upon lancing the skin, the little blackhead
actually stuck its body out, and a worm was revealed. Then not just one, but another... Who
knows how many. The attempt to extract with tweezers was not successful- the worm body broke off, it was probably rather long in length. Sebastiana, was actually familiar with this parasite and more importantly, a local
plant that could actually extract it. I was fascinated!
The next day I sought Sebastiana out and was pressing
her with lots of questions about the plant and its benefits. The leaf is known to the locals as
Higuerio, or "Mano de Christo", and is said to be effective to extract parasites, tumors, cancers,
and even bullets. Sounds hard to believe, but Sebastiana said that during the "time of violence",
these leaves were placed over bullet wounds and the bullets would actually come out of the body. Only
the external leaf of the plant is used, the fruit is fatal, and if you extract the oil from its seeds
then you get...castor oil! Some of my colleagues were well aware of the many and innate healing
properties of castor oil, and quite a few others that have been traveling and studying in the Guatemala countryside were familiar with the legendary healing capacity of Mano de Christo. The
next day, Sebastiana brought in some of the Higuerio leaves. My first thought, I will not lie, was
to bring back to the states some leaves and seeds, but then decided otherwise (actually jornada
vet and all around pro Julie Stern said "it would be a bad idea"). Didn't want yet another invasive
species destroying our local ecosystems, ala kudzu. According to Sebastiana, the higuerio plant grows everywhere- on the sides of roads, garbage cans. Amazing to have such access to this powerful medicine, yet so few know about it. It has sparked a curiosity of what we have similar in the states...