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Health and Traditional Medicine

For the Quechua people, the origins of many diseases are mysterious. Therefore, to diagnose and cure, they have to simultaneously resort to explanations; ancestral cosmic remedies - including a rich tradition in the use of the Andean pharmacology -; medical concepts that Colony brought with it and concepts from the modern science. Seeding with many species in many places at different times, the farmer reduce agricultural risks with the same rationality that it is facing with diseases.


For native conception, there are not differences between natural or magical diseases / treatments. It is more unified, like a system of relations between the body, its several souls, the society and the cosmos, full of so alive and real beings as we. It is like inseparable parts that form a harmonious whole. The Andean medicine has a globalized conception of body and soul, person, society and the cosmos; it has natural treatments, personal cares and ritual remedies that facilitate the satisfactory response of the Andean patient.

Yatiri(Ay) Especialista en ritual y medicina entre los aymaras y atacameños.

Yatiri (the one that knows) is the specialist for diagnosis and treatment of all type of disorder physical-psychic-cosmic (including diseases). Moreover, its specialization could include learning processes, and as a last resort, could be of supernatural type, because of to have been touched by a lightning or to have already received superior powers in the birth. Simultaneously, the Yatiri is a doctor, fortune teller and priest. It dominates the ritual resources, although it also knows the natural ones. Within these, jampiri or qulliri (the one that heals) is specialized in diseases and has a wide knowledge of herbs and other natural medicinal resources.

Rica-Rica: an Altiplanic Medicinal Herb

The Rica-Rica is characterized by its aromatic and strong essence and its medicinal properties. Its scientific name is "phil deserticola Alcantholippia" and belongs to the Verbenace family. It is a perennial plant of about 50 cms high that grows associate to tolilla and bailahuén. Its violet flowers appear in October and is consumed like tea. It is an astringent and is used for dysentery and diarrhoea.

In Socaire it is used for the discomfort produced by the meals and against the cough in Toconce. In some others places is called "cori".

Brígida Huanca, producer of Quechua medicinal herbs, lives in Ollagüe and collect herbs on Amincha and Puquios, in Pampas and small farms.

According to Ms Brigida, the Rica-Rica is used for problems of the heart, kidneys and circulation of the blood.


  • Infusion (Herbal tea) : For adult use a teaspoon
  • For young 7-14 years: 1/2 teaspoon
  • F for children 1-6 years: 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Add hot water and let rest.
  • Optional: Mix with Chacacoma for a good digestion
  • Precaution: once per day and one time per week.


Prescription: Brígida Huanca, that collect traditional Quechua herbs. Ollagüe.

Traditional Atacameño Medicine. Parra, Ahumada and Necul. 1997.

The Kallawaya Medicine Manual

Some historical sources cite the Kallawayas as the first to use the dried bark of the cinchona tree, the source of quinine, which was used for many years to prevent and control malaria and other tropical diseases. Likewise, cocaine - the main alkaloid present in the coca plant- was one of the first tropical anesthetics used by the Kallawayas and later adopted by modern medicine.

Among the other plants found in the Bautista Saavedra province and the illnesses in which these have been used are:

Red Kantuta: the national flower of Bolivia is a red-yellow-green bell-shaped flower that grows in the high valleys of the Los Yungas. The fresh or dried leaves, are boiled in water and then used as a poultice over an abscess or tumor. Also, the fluid may be used for swollen eyes after soak the fresh leaves in clean water for three or four hours.

Espino (Colleita spinosissima): is a type of thistle that grows in the high valleys in Charazani and Chajaya regions. The fresh stalks are ground with other three plants.

Copal, from the Tropical region of Caranavi, is the incense of the Los Yungas, and wairuru of the region of Santa Cruz. It is used to make plaster and for immobilizing fractures and lesions. The boiled bark is used in the preparation of a sweaty bath to treat rheumatism. The ground bark soaked in alcohol is used in the treatment of anemia.

Perlilla (Dalea weberbaueri), grows in the high valleys of Charazani y Cruzpata regions. The fresh or dried boiled leaves have been used to treat smallpox and measles. Ground and mixed with pig grease without salt is used to burn warts.

Diente de león (dandelion), grows in the damp zone of the high valleys. The infusion of fresh leaves is used to treat heartburn. The fresh leaves, stalks and roots are used as a diuretic. The dried roots are applied to heal wounds.

The Kallawayas

The province of Bautista Saavedra, north of Lake Titicaca is 2.525 square kilometers of Kallawaya territory. There, venerable healers live with their families in villages such as: Curva, Chajaya, Chari, Inka, Huata Huata y Pampablanca. From this lonely Andean region of northwestern Bolivia, the Kallawayas have traveled into Perú, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Panamá. They travel around Ancient Inca trails crossing the dried Altiplano and descending to the Tropical lowlands with their chuspa - a colored woven bag filled with herbs- and the blessing of the Aymara gods from pre Inca times to protect them in their journey and give them a safety return.