Hispanic Folk Medicine

folk medicineStereotypically, folk medicine is thought to be utilized only by the poor and unacculturated individuals. But the truth is, almost everyone has used this type of treatment in the form of home remedies. We often use them to deal with minor illnesses like fever or headache. These remedies are proven to be efficient for sickness that does not call for a doctor’s attention.

The Hispanics are very fond of using folk medicine to cure their loved ones and friends. The remedies that they use are also dependent on their personal belief system. Some of the reasons why they like using folk medicine are its accessibility, affordability and these are validated by their family and faith. Although the medical industry tends to discourage the use of these remedies, many of them have been around for thousands of years already and some even claim to have physical benefits.

Origins of Hispanic Folk Medicine

When people become ill, they tend to look for reasons to understand it. The Greeks believe that when people get sick, there is an imbalance of the four humors. This belief greatly influenced that of the Hispanics – diseases are caused by an imbalance between hot and cold principles. The Latinos believe that exposure to extreme temperatures is unhealthy.

They say that a person has a ‘cold’ disease when there is low metabolic rate and vasoconstriction while a ‘hot’ disease is characterized by high metabolic rate and vasodilation. Their examples of ‘cold’ diseases include menstrual cramps, pneumonia and colic while those that fall under ‘hot’ diseases are hypertension, diabetes and acid ingestion.

For the Hispanics, their goal of treating diseases is to restore harmony and balance in the body. So what they do is they treat ‘cold’ diseases with ‘hot’ remedies and vice versa.

Utilization of Lay Healers Among Hispanics

Hispanics very rarely use the services of a lay healer. Instead, they get medicines from a hierarchy of lay healers. They usually get their information and referrals from their neighbors. Latinos are known for seeking the help of herbalists, massage therapists and mid-wives. However, if these ‘specialists’ cannot cure the problem, they go to a curandero – a lay healer who uses multiple modalities. They are highly respected in the community and possible to have come from a family that has curanderismo traditions who receive the gift of healing.

Curanderos do not have a set price for the services that they render. However, the do accept different forms of gift. They have a clear expertise in folk illnesses but 80% of the folk remedies are meant for medical problems. They admit to situations that are beyond their capabilities and refer severely ill people to medical experts.

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