9 August 2017

Mapuche herbal medicine

A wide knowledge of plants and herbs healing properties is what mainly characterizes ancestral Mapuche medicine.

Mapuche culture is widely known for maintaining an important connection not only with the earth and nature in general, but also with the energy related to it. According to the traditions of the Mapuche people, the spiritual guides or machis have the necessary healing powers to detect illnesses by deeply understanding nature’s behaviour; along with components related to ancestral and magical wisdom.

For the Mapuches, being ill or feeling well are just two sides of what composes the idea of health. These components are always in balance according to how everyone interacts with the environment; and this can be seen in the daily activities of the communities, such as in political and social aspects, as well as in cosmogonic beliefs or what is related to them. Illnesses are, in that way, a manifestation of an imbalance in some aspect of daily life, either of the individual or the community and therefore needs to be restored with help of a healer or guide.

The machi is crucial in the whole process, because not only has the spiritual wisdom and knowledge to detect the sickness and its cause, but also has studied plants and herbs and all of their healing properties. Taking into account that Chile has a wide variety of endemic species good for our health, is that this medicine has grown not only in Chile but around the world, and has helped to the creation of the first Mapuche chain of pharmacies: Makelawen; that day by day acquieres more acknoledgement and acceptance within different circles and audiences.

Following this, today not only it is possible to find medicine based on Mapuche herbal medicine, but the market has also opened to cosmetics, creams and oils based on plants originally used by mapuches, such as quillay and canelo.

The following are plants and herbs used since ancestral times by the mapuches.

The cinnamon tree, beside being considered as a sacred tree and also the point of conjunction between the earth and the after death, it is also one of the more commonly used plants in herbal medicine. Its bark is used for stomach ache, skin diseases and infections.

Matico or orange ball buddleja is another herb that has been used for centuries by the mapuches under the name of palguñi. It is an antiseptic for wounds and its infusion also helps relieve a stomach ache; the same as llantén or piluhueque.

Among other plants that are widely used, we can mention chamomile, to relieve inflammation; pehuén, for sciatic pain and the lenga, that it is used to alleviate fever.

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