Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Purhepecha Indian Medicinal Plants Good for a Variety of Ailments
Ran MAY 22, 2006 in The Monitor in McAllen, Texas

Monitor Staff Writer

URUAPAN, Mch., Mexico — Stomach ache? Drink some albahacar tea.

Got a bruise? How about a salve made of arnica flowers. The plant is also good for diabetes and ulcers.

Of course, arnica isn’t the only medicinal plant the Purepecha Indians use for a broad range of ailments. They also use sosa for rheumatism, romero for muscle pain and gordolobo for cough, plus a host of other plants. Many of these plants are found at the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio on the western edge of Uruapan , Michoacan, Mexico, west of Mexico City.

On a recent morning, Marta Leticia Roman Mares had set up a table with medicines made from those plants, preparations created by the Unidad Regional Michoacán de Culturas Populares e Indigenas. The air was alive with the intoxicating murmur of rushing water, the musty scent of old forest and damp earth, permeated by a gentle coolness. Water rose from the floor of a man-made stony alcove nearby, the crests capturing bits of sunlight bouncing through the trees.

Around the walls of the alcove were pictures of native plants and their uses. There was the chicalote, a spiny, treacherous-looking plant whose white blooms, stems, leaves and fruits are used in a salve for rheumatism. There was the juicy blackberry (situni in the Purepecha language) whose leaves are good for headaches. The stems and leaves of the cedro are good for stomach ache.

Mares, a special researcher with Culturas Populares e Indigenas, said she and other representatives of that organization have done thorough investigations of medicinal plants used for centuries by the Purepecha Indians. The tribe has a strong presence in this part of Mexico.

Her organization did manage to isolate the active ingredients and develop combinations of various plants to treat nerves, diabetes, cough, allergies, acne and other health problems. Many of those remedies are now found in a book called Medicina Tradicional, created by Unidad Regional Michoacan de Culturas Populares e Indigenas.

“This is a lot of traditional information from investigations with the curanderas,” she said. “The recipes from the grandmothers have been passed down from generation to generation. They want to give the information. Before they had doctors, they would go to get cured with a curandera.”

Mares knows the park, and its plants, very well; she grew up just a few blocks away and has visited here often throughout her life. Walking along a trail, she stopped at a coffee plant and pinched off a ripened bean. The fruit was soft and sweet, the bean hard as a pebble. The fruit, she said, is good for stomach ache.

“You put the flowers of the coffee in a tea and it’s good for the headache, for a very strong headache,” she said.

Look up Mares’s organization at www.culturaspopulareseindigenas.gob. mx/unidades.estatales.htm.

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