In the Hispanic community, homeopathic remedies have been passed down through generations. Whether it’s at the U.S-Mexico border or in South Tucson, visiting a folk healer or an herbalist can be commonplace in the Hispanic culture.
A homeopathic remedy is an alternative medicine practice that uses natural remedies such as plants, animals and minerals. In many cases, remedies are similar to what pharmaceutical companies use.
Patrisia Gonzales, University of Arizona professor in Mexican American Studies, focuses on indigenous remedies in the Hispanic community. Also an herbalist, Gonzales has found that using plant-based materials in home remedies have helped families thrive throughout the years.
“There is this incredible ecosystems throughout what we call today Mexico and throughout the Southwest,” she said. “There are thousands of plants that people can use for home remedies. When the traditional herbs were outlawed, people started to use other herbs like rosemary, lavender, etc. And people began to see the usefulness of these other herbs, so they incorporated it into their daily lives.”
Herbs such as cumin, rue, sage, spearmint, aloe vera and wormwood are incorporated to treat people.
“The prickly pear fruit is very helpful to those who are diabetic,” Gonzales said. “It is the fruit of the cactus. It has a certain impact on lowering blood sugar levels. Also putting cinnamon in your tea is very healthy for you and helps lowering blood sugars and reduces heart disease.”
Ashwagandha is used for an anti-inflammatory, reduces anxiety and boosts immune health. Black cohosh reduces menstrual cramps and arthritic pain. Calendula is used to reduce inflammation in the throat, mouth or ears, according to Gonzales.
“I’m from the era were my grandma always had cinnamon on the stove,” she said. “Oregano is a great expectorant. It brings up the phlegm that is stuck in your throat.”
A folk healer is known as a “curandero.” Tucson resident Teresa Ortiz comes from a long line of curanderos passed down from generations.
“I felt like it was in me to take on my grandmothers steps and become a curandero,” Ortiz said. “It’s not just herbal remedies, it’s about treating the person as a whole and talk about their spiritual side.”
Creosote, chamomile and arnica are an herb that heals inflammatory and can be put into teas as well.
“It all depends on what is wrong with the person,” Ortiz said. “I use ginger to heal people that have nausea or an upset stomach. I use ginseng for people who are dealing with fatigue or mildly depression. I use hops for people who have insomnia or are experiencing nervousness or anxiety.”
Many Hispanic families have thrived using these home remedies. In low-income Mexican American neighborhoods, people turn to folk healers, especially if they can’t afford health care insurance.
According to Ortiz, a plant such as kava reduces anxiety and helps people have positive energy and a clear mind. She uses it often with people who are experiencing emotional trauma.
Also, “avocado is great for your hair,” she said. “It has a abundance of fatty acids and is rich in vitamins that will help restore your hair.”
“It is all about taking care of yourself and loving your body,” Ortiz added.
“These homeopathic remedies only play 80 percent of being healthy in your daily life. The other 20 percent is resting your mind and trying to refrain from stress or negative energy.”