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...
As I mentioned, there were a few of us that went down with bugs, and after using an egg as a diagnostic tool, Sebastiana wrapped one person's head and armpits in the leaves causing extreme perspiration that sucked the pathogen right out. His recovery was nothing short of remarkable.
One of the more unique experiences of this trip, working and learning from true medicine women and men that have true healing talents and capacity. I consider myself lucky and blessed to cross their path.