Indigenous Medicine, Pharmaceutical Companies and the Mother of Tomatoes

Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES — Native Americans maintain a vast knowledge about curing diseases with plants and substances from their natural environment. What’s most interesting about this practice is that it understands and treats diseases not as disorders that are exclusive to the body or the soul, but in an amalgam of the two.

An ailment isn’t resolved with mere concoctions, what is needed is a deeper assessment of the being – at least that’s what I’ve heard from mystics and philosophers.

For centuries, large pharmaceutical companies have been appropriating and adapting this knowledge to the Western paradigm, to the degree possible.

Descendent of the indigenous.

It’s not that Bayer and other firms are inherently bad – it’s the spirit of the times. They provide a social benefit, take a good cut, and as a side effect cause a lot of damage.


In Cuba few indigenous peoples remain, but thanks to our exchanges with Venezuela, a greater amount of ancient American culture is seeping into the island.

Since a few months ago, the Havana Times photographer and blogger Caridad has been in Venezuela in the search for those forgotten times.

Enriched cow dung.

In addition to being a fanatic about the colorful pro-Chavez marches there, Caridad is a self-taught anthropologist, and knowing my thirst for new (or very old) paradigms, she sent me a beautiful book1 on indigenous medicines and cures.

The book collects recipes and methods practiced since ancient times by the “original” people of the continent. Here’s an example.

To relieve asthma:

1) You take a tablespoon of powdered cow dung2, well ground and sifted, and dissolve it in a glass of water. This should be drunk in the morning and at night. It also relieves breathlessness suffered by children…

2) You take fresh dung and filter it through a cloth to distill the liquid it contains. Then gently strained, drink half a cup in the morning and another at night…

I'm thirsty for new models.

This medication is very effective in treating asthma, vomiting and other chest illnesses.

I think our delicate modern and urban physical constitutions can no longer support such remedies these days.

However, if by chance you find this worthwhile, don’t miss the upcoming posts in which we will publish the complementary treatment: Indigenous healing of parasitic diseases.

Oh, by the way, I don’t see any amalgam of the body and soul anywhere. Could it be that I lack the vision for recognizing this?

1. The book mentioned is Medicamentos Indigenas, published in 2007 by the Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana. Author: Jerome Pompa.
2. Havana Times denies any responsibility for the consequences of the medicinal use of cow dung.


Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.

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One thought on “Indigenous Medicine, Pharmaceutical Companies and the Mother of Tomatoes

  • Haha, Erasmo! I’ll look forward to more posts on this subject. Like you, I have an interest in “natural” remedies – assuming it is natural to drink dung.

    Of course, someone had to eat the first tomato, pound white willow bark into aspirin, and so forth. But, drinking cheap beer is medicinal enough for me!

    I have heard that the urine of a pregnant mare is good for…something. Maybe your book will tell you about that.

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