To learn about natural healing, I choose a homestay with Dona Lucia in Nicaragua. Call her a curandera, herbalist, or a campesina. Clearly, Lucia understands the value of nature as medicine. We relate. First, I believe in natural healing. For example, I have great respect for the Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Indigenous teachings.
Secondly, I am an advocate of plant-based diets. In these remote mountains, families eat mostly organic vegetarian foods. They aren't following trends. Rather, they are self-sufficient.
They respect their farm animals. Actually, Lucia's husband milks their cows daily. And, with the several buckets of milk they get, daily, they make their own cheese. Due to no refrigeration, cheese is consumed quickly.
As a result, Lucia's typical plate has rice, beans, fresh tortillas, plantains and cheese. At times, she may add a bit of vegetables or chicken. What's more, thermoses of coffee and herbal tea stay on the table all day.
Their water comes from a well. Likewise, light comes from solar panels. These homes have no outlets. Nor, flush toilets. Yet, they have large rooms with beautiful plants and trees surrounding them.
Interestingly, while Lucia and I come from different backgrounds, many of her natural healing recipes are similar to mine.
Spinach. My body craves spinach. Lucia says that it's good for the blood and circulation. I know I need circulation boosts.
Basil. Lucia makes a compress out of basil. She adds cedar, basilica and garlic for bruises or body pains. Basilica, she says, is good for the nerves and low blood pressure/fainting.
Cilantro helps restore the levels of iron in the blood, she says. It's also good for colic. Ayurvedically speaking, cilantro is a great balancer for the doshas. I add it to all my juices and smoothies.
Ginger. Hands down, this one of my favorites. I make fresh ginger lemon tea, daily. In my book, it's good for the thyroid and digestion. It's also a good dosha balancer, particularly for those with tendencies for respiratory issues. Not surprisingly, Lucia uses it for digestion, plus coughs.
Licorice. Ayurvedic wisdom says licorice pacifies vata and pitta. Among other things, it is an expectorant. Lucia claims that it is good for the throat. In particular, for people that are feeling hoarse.
Absinth (Wormwood). Not as common as some of the other herbs, this is one Lucia likes for internal and external infections.
Lemongrass. I once interviewed someone about the healing qualities of lemongrass, according to traditional Thai beliefs. While it tastes great in stir fry, the essential oil smells wonderful, too. In India, not unlike in Thailand, lemongrass is credited for healing many disorders. Lucia says it's good for de-stressing. Once stress is managed, you can minimize other dis-eases.
Epazote. Native to Central America, this herb is believed to be beneficial in the treatment of parasites. Lucia says it's also good for cramps.
Altamisa/Mugwort. This is your PMS relief, according to Lucia. Similarly, Ayurveda says it's good for the uterus, and hormonal cramping or discomfort.
Valerian. Lately, valerian is popular in the Western world. Many enjoy valerian essential oil to help them sleep at night. Ayurvedic recommendations for valerian include to ease the nerves and promote blissful sleep. It's also suggested to help skin, digestion, and balancing of the doshas. So, it's not surprising that Lucia uses this herb for insomnia and nerves.
In the mountains where Lucia lives, nothing is wasted. They buy their own rice and oil, but most everything else is from their farm.
Lucia and her husband give the bad corn kernels to the livestock to eat. The corn ears are used as firewood in their wood-burning stove.
They use all parts of plants. For example, Lucia takes resin from the banana root and infuses it in hot water to treat diarrhea. The leaves of oranges, along with many other fruit leaves, are used to flavor herbal teas. Plus, they provide medicinal oomph.
Orange. This one, according to Lucia, is good for balancing the nerves. She also says it's good for pregnant women.
Guarumo. Here's another example of taking leaves of a Mesoamerican tree for medicinal uses. Lucia suggests soaking the guarumo leaves in hot water and making compresses. These are good for intestinal woes like colitis.
Dandelion. These nasty weeds are getting popular among the natural healing crowds. Lucia recommends it for anemia. Not surprising, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including iron. In Ayurveda, dandelion is said to help balance the liver and blood. Dandelion tea is especially appropriate for counteracting pitta imbalances.
Mango. Lucia uses mango leaves for teas, compresses and bathing. She says it's good for inflammation. I add fresh ginger to my home-made mango juice. With cilantro, it's refreshing and balancing for the doshas.
Guava. I have an extreme dislike for cough syrups. Primarily because they have a high alcohol content. Fruit leaf tea seems more soothing. Lucia says it works, and that it's also good for nausea and vomiting. According to TheAyurveda.org, guava is good to reduce phlegm. And, "Since, 1950s the leaves of Guava tree is used as a potential medicine to cure many diseases like Diabetes, cholesterol and heart problems."
Limonaria. Here's another leaf that shouldn't be discarded. Lucia says it can be used for toothaches. Of course, a dentist is the best fix. But, when you're isolated in the mountains, you need first-respondent natural healing care even more.
Jocote. This is a Central American fruit. Lucia takes the leaf and grinds it up. Then, she adds it to the juice, with lemon, to soothe ulcers.
Cinnamon. Beyond the sticks, Lucia says the leaves are good in tea for pregnant women. She often mixes them with fruit leaves.