By Aurelio Pedroso (Progreso Semanal)
HAVANA TIMES – It is the last thing researcher Jose Seoane Gallo would have thought. That after his marathon-like and productive crusade to every corner of the Camaguey province back in the ‘60s. the result, his encyclopedia “Medical folklore in Cuba”, would come back to life in the hands of young people and renowned doctors.
The unheard of here is happening today. A patient goes to the doctor who provides them with a solution. However, before filling out a prescription, the doctor asks the patient whether they have X medicine at home. Or whether they can get hold of Y medicine. Lastly, if the patient is unable to get a hold of a medicine because it’s not available at drugstores, the doctor doesn’t think twice before clearly saying:
“A tea of guava tree leaves brewed for an hour, three times a day.”
Seaone’s work is priceless in its tenacity and perseverance (Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1984). He interviews every herbalist, healer, witch doctor and botanist he came across when passing through Camaguey’s flatlands. His conversations with Mambise veterans are extremely interesting.
Spiritualists, fortune-tellers, palm readers, psychics and other members of this strange world take secondary place in the book. To treat impotence the options include an infusion out of yawweed, lemongrass, wreckfish head or fry a cockerel’s crest.
This so-called “green medicine” or homeopathy has gained unusual force of late. Remedies at a time of medicine shortages and closed borders when deliveries can’t be sent in the post. Many of the ingredients featured in the book are abundant in the flora of our fields. Breaking it down, shortages of antibiotics must be resolved with whatever a Cuban has in their garden or backyard.
These are very trying times for some sick people. Everything is geared towards fighting COVID-19 and select diseases that require urgent treatment such as cancer and kidney failure. The economic toll the pandemic has taken is visible for all to see and undeniable. The government is picking up the cheque, while our drugstores starkly reflect the reality of shortages.
The example I gave you before of the doctor and their patient doesn’t stop at guava tree leaves. Soon after, once the patient’s head wounds healed, the patient returned to the same GP because of recurring diarrhea. The patient said the doctor remembered his diagnosis clearly. He asked whether he had the savior tree he used to treat his head infection, nearby. The patient told him that he did, that it belonged to a neighbor. The doctor put the prescription pad to one side again, and recommended in a very didactic way:
“This time, ask her for some guavas.”