High in the Andes, there is a collection of Peruvian herbs and plants known for their medicinal properties and delicious flavors. They have been in use since the time of the Incas, who used them to fight different diseases as well as to flavor their meals. These traditions continue today, with collection of the herbs following ancestral knowledge of harvest times; periods known as “Qora Pallay”
Ayni Peru is happy to announce that we´ll now be offering these fresh herbal teas and infusions on our homestay tours. Enjoy their unique flavors and aromas, many of which can only be found only in the Andes region of Peru.
In the Cuzqueñean highlands, the majority of these herbs are grown in home gardens, which our clients will visit during their homestay visits. They´ll be able to harvest their own fresh herbs, then enjoy a tasty tea with their host families before heading to bed!
Some of these herbs provide healing properties for various discomforts of the human body such as digestion problems, congestion, high blood pressure, insomnia and muscle tension, others are renowned for their pleasant flavor only. Below is an overview of the most common medicinal plants and herbs used in the Peruvian Andes:
How peruvian plants / herbs
In the Peruvian Andes we live in a close relationship with nature, the Pachamama, also known as our mother earth, with whom we interrelate, communicate, share and learn daily.
In that sense, our mother earth (pachamama) gives us different medicinal and sacred plants, herbs, flowers and leaves which we use different daily and so are part of our daily experience in our society. It is a legacy of rich knowledge and wisdom that our grandfathers “the Incas” left us, or that has passed from generation to generation
A clear example is that every morning, from very early hours, the “emollient” (which does not translate well to English)is sold, a mate or infusion based on different medicinal herbs which are for different ailments and ills, good for health. Fresh mates recommended for digestion and others for inflammation. “As a general rule, what every emoliente must have is: toasted barley, flax seeds, dried horse tail (the herb, not a real horse’s tail!), dried grass, and llantén (plantain leaf). To this you can add as many things as you wish, including aniseed, boldo, lemon verbena, lemongrass, and cat’s claw, a native South American woody vine, consumed for its powerful anti -inflammatory properties.” http://perudelights.com/emoliente/
Also, these medicinal herbs are sold in all the markets of Cusco; one of them the market of “San Pedro”. There our wise mothers chose from the variety of medicinal herbs, native and coming from the Amazon. They are our nurses, we often visit them when we suffer from some illness.
On the other hand, health in the Andean world is based on the balance of all being, in the integrality of the physical with the spiritual.
In the communities of Cusco we have a wide variety of plants within reach. Whenever it is a mutual relationship with the plant, it is a demonstration of reciprocity; we know how to take care of them and respect them, in this way the plants give us their healing spirit.
As Andeans, we first know that food is medicine and gives us our health, Food not only seeks to satisfy hunger but give health; important to health are foods such as potatoes, corn, quinoa among others. The medicine we use is not only for curing, but also for feeding, balancing, preventing and strengthening.
In the Andes, the people who have the gift of healing are the “hampirunas”, they are the people who have the best relationship and manage the knowledge of medicinal plants. Almost all the communities have one, they are like the doctors of the town.
Plants have their spirit, we are in constant relation with them, and they give us their healing spirit. Plants, as in the Andean world, always have a duality, the plants are fresh and warm.
Each plant has its uses and forms of preparation, flowers, leaves, fruits, stems, roots. For example, flowers and roses should rest, but roots and stems are harder and must boil. There are also different healing processes, according to the diseases the plants vary. From them are formed plasters, rubs, mates (teas) infusions, rubs or ferments.
Many of the diseases are not only the body, they are also the bad energies that other people send you, envy, witchcraft, evil wind from the other side, pacha. Illnesses are good and evil, god and devil, evil and good.
The deities help in healing. The Apus, or guardians, are the mountains and snowy, the pachamama, are the ones that will help to transmit the spirit of the plant to heal. Before making a healing process, the people give an offering because the pachamama is hungry It is a part of healing, two offerings, one office for the earth and one for the sick.
One of the sacred leaves in the Andes on the coca leaf is a spirit. The coca leaf has different uses, such as medicinal and ceremonial. Today we use it for infusions, because it has a sedative and soothing effect, an effective remedy for headache. It is also used for divination. Healers use cuy (guinea pigs) in reading of coca, to diagnose the disease, and by this they understand which plants to use and the way they can mix the herbs. Herbs are the tools of healers to heal their patients
Medicinal Plants of Peru
For thousands of years people of the Andes and the Amazon have relied on herbal medicines to treat common ailments like headaches, infections and inflammations. Today, along with modern medicine, people continue utilizing the same medicinal plants of Peru with these positive health benefits, and at Aracari we have certainly tried some of them ourselves!
Many of these medicinal plants are native to the Amazon Rain forest and the Andes of Peru, and for anyone interested in herbal remedies, we can arrange visits to local communities in either region, where you could do a trek with locals or visit a shaman, a spiritual counselor, to learn more about these plants and their medicinal properties. As locally based destination specialists we offer private, tailor made travel to Peru and can connect you with expert guides to learn more about medicinal plants in Peru if you travel here as part of any bespoke itinerary. As an introduction, we’ve selected eight medicinal plants that are well-known and widely used in Peru.