I’m always curious about folk healing. First, because it was around (and mostly effective) long before science took over. Second, because it’s interesting to see both similarities and differences between cultures. It’s especially interesting to note how the same herb is used for the same thing, regardless of what part of the world you may be in. Lastly, most folk healing recognizes the connection between our mind, body and spirit – something that is sorely lacking in today’s medicine.

When this introductory course on curanderismo (folk healing in the southwestern US, Mexico and parts of Central & South America) was announced, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about another culture and hey, it was FREE.

Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. The course really should be entitled, “Introduction-Lite”. A maximum of 45 minutes’ of videos a week and a multiple-choice test (where you get two tries to get it right?) doesn’t give a whole lot of information. They don’t explain some things at all – just demonstrate. I’m guessing it’s a teaser to get you to take the two-week, in-person course they offer every summer at the University of New Mexico. For me, ain’t gonna happen – I have obligations that keep me in the office, y’know?

One of the things that sort of befuddled me was in the video about making tinctures (yer standard folk method), they mention that in Mexico, caña is generally used as the menstruum. That’s effectively a cane sugar version of Everclear. In lower proofs, you know it better as rum. However, in the video, they used vodka. That got me a little confused because cane sugar alcohol is readily available here in the US. So, I visited my favorite bartender, who just happens to be from Guadalajara, and asked him. He, too, was confused. But I got a tidbit from him I’ll share with you:

Caña isn’t much available outside the border states with Mexico. That said, apart from your favorite brand of rum (which comes in both 80 and 100 proof if you make your tinctures scientifically), there is something called aguardiente. Here you have to be careful because that can be made with something other than cane sugar but … it comes as high as 54% alcohol, which is 108 proof. Carlos says it’s smoother than rum and, understanding what I was getting at with my questions, thought it would make a more palatable tincture than straight vodka or rum. Although vodka is considered a “cleaner” alcohol than rum (and thus would make a better tincture), I really don’t like the taste of vodka – even in drops –  so I’m going to get some aguardiente and try it.

Back to the course: I had a lot more luck poring through their “recommended reading” books than watching the videos. Although you will never learn to be a curandero/a (the Spanish language differentiates nouns between the masculine & feminine, if you didn’t know) without studying/apprenticing under someone, the reading gave a lot more in-depth information on how they go about things. Of the five books recommended, I found the following two of the most interest:

Woman Who Glows in the Dark by Elena Avila

Sastun by Rosita Arvigo

The first because it’s written by someone with extensive experience in the allopathic (scientific medicine) world who left it behind to follow her heritage. The second because, although it doesn’t really go into a lot of detail, it’s written by someone who grew up in the United States with our allopathic system and apprenticed under a curandero in Belize.

Although I like my doctor, I wish there was a curandero/a nearby. I think it’s important to treat the whole person and, although she tries, my doctor doesn’t have time because she’s dependent on that insurance reimbursement.  If he was a hierbero (or yerbero), we could compare notes between their use of herbs & mine – I studied Western herbalism. I’d find that fascinating.