Curanderismo is a holistic system of Latin American folk medicine. This type of folk medicine has characteristics specific to the area where it is practiced (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Argentina, Mexico, the southwestern region of the United States, etc.). Curanderismo blends religious beliefs, faith, and prayer with the use of herbs, massage, and other traditional methods of healing. Curanderismo can be defined as a set of traditional beliefs, rituals, and practices that address the physical, spiritual, psychological, and social needs of the people who use it.The Spanish verb curar means to heal. Therefore, curanderismo is translated as a system of healing. The goal of curanderismo is to create a balance between the patient and his or her environment, thereby sustaining health.The healer who practices curanderismo is referred to as a curandero (male healer) or curandera (female healer). Healing terms vary with the language and culture of the area in which the system is practiced. For example, a female healer in Argentina is called a remedieras.OriginsCuranderismo in Mexico is based on Aztec, Mayan, and Spanish influences. The ancient native cultures believed that a delicate balance existed between health, nature, and religion. Illness occurred when one of these areas was out of balance.The use of nature's resources was very important to the native cultures. In the fifteenth century, the Huaxtepec garden was developed by the Aztec leader Montezuma I. This garden was a collection of several thousand medicinal plants. The Aztec priests used this garden to perform research on the medicinal properties of the plants.When the Spanish conquistadors came to Mexico in the sixteenth century, they destroyed the garden and all of the priests' research because the Catholic Church considered these "sciences" to be blasphemous. Although the written knowledge was destroyed, the plant wisdom was remembered, passed down by the native peoples, and became an integral part of curanderismo.The Spanish missionaries who were sent to the New World introduced the native peoples to the Catholic religion and European healing philosophies. Prayers to Catholic saints were soon integrated into healing rituals. Another doctrine that was passed on to the native peoples by the Europeans was their belief in witchcraft, sorcery, and other superstitions, and the philosophy that illness is often caused by supernatural forces.As the native and Spanish cultures intermingled over the centuries, a new culture was formed, as was the folk medicine of curanderismo.BenefitsCuranderismo is used to treat ailments arising from physical, psychological, spiritual, or social conditions. Illness is said to be caused by either natural or supernatural forces.Naturally caused illness is treated with herbal medicine, massage, and prayer. Much of this illness is thought to be brought about by intense emotions caused by trauma or a specific event. Susto, for example, is an illness that is caused by fright. A startling event such as a fire, earthquake, dog attack, car accident, or death may cause the patient to become ill. Symptoms of susto are insomnia, diarrhea, extreme nervousness, sadness, depression, loss of appetite, loss of brilliance in the eyes, and lack of dreams. The events are thought to dislodge a person's spirit from the body...Supernaturally caused illnesses or conditions are initiated by witchcraft, sorcery, or hexes. Physical symptoms might manifest as nervous breakdowns, paranoia, schizophrenia, depression, or excessive worrying. Supernatural forces can also create social problems. A person who has a streak of continued bad luck, or who suffers from marital problems, the loss of a job, or car troubles will deem the problem to be caused by a supernatural force. To heal these ailments and remove the hex or problem, the curandera uses rituals, spiritual cleansings, herbs, and prayer. DescriptionPrayer is the foundation of curanderismo. Curanderas have strong religious faith and believe that they were given the ability to heal as a gift from God. Curanderas pray to spirits and/or Catholic saints for help in healing their patients, often praying to specific saints for particular conditions.A traditional healing session may include one or more of the following: spiritual cleansing (limpia), ritual, massage, and/or herbal therapy. Curanderas use a variety of objects in their healing sessions, including herbs and spices, eggs, lemons, flowers, fruits, holy water, pictures of saints, crucifixes, candles, incense, and oils. Each object has a specific purpose.Holy water is used for protection from negativity or evil spirits. Eggs and lemons are patted on the patient's body to absorb negative energies. Rosemary, basil, and rue branches are brushed on the body to remove negativity.Candles are burned to absorb negative energy and create a healing environment. Different colored candles are burned for different reasons: red for strength, blue for harmony, pink for good will. Incense is used to purify the room, while garlic and oils are used as protection from negativity and bad spirits.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g2603/is_0003/ai_2603000312/pg_1
They are often respected members of the community, being highly religious and spiritual. Literally translated as "healer" from Spanish, curanderos often use herbs and other natural remedies to cure illnesses, but their primary method of healing is the supernatural. This is because they believe that the cause of many illnesses are lost malevolent spirits, a lesson from God, or a curse.There are different types of curanderos / curanderas. “Yerberos” are primarily herbalists. “Hueseros and Sabaderos” are bone/muscle therapists who emphasize physical ailments. "Parteras" are midwives.Curanderos treat ailments like espanto (Spanish for "shock"), empacho (Spanish for "surfeit"), susto ("fright"), mal aire (literally, "bad air"), and mal de ojo ("evil eye") with religious rituals, ceremonial cleansing, and prayers. While curanderos are capable of treating these ailments (and do), in reality they seldom do, for many ailments, such as empacho, can be treated by family members. Often Curanderos employ the use of sung Icaros to contact certain spirits to aid them in their healing work.The remedies of the curanderos are often helpful, but sometimes have negative effects on the health of their patients. For example, a common method of healing mollera caída, a condition in which an infant's fontanelle has sunken, is to hold the infant's feet with its head down and perform a ceremonial ritual. Other remedies are harmless – a common method of treating mal de ojo is to rub an egg over the body of the sick to draw out the evil spirit causing the disease.Remedies also vary between regions, in Andean countries the guinea pig is often used as a ceremonial medium.These methods of treating health problems often lead to conflict with modern medicine, because doctors reject the curandero's healing as superstitious and worthless. As a result, curanderos have often experienced discrimination and been likened to witches, both by the medical profession and non-hispanic communities. However, because of the importance of the supernatural in traditional Mexican culture, these insults generally lead only to disagreement and rejection of modern medicine by traditionally-minded Mexicans. Other medical doctors, recognizing the benefits of the spiritual and emotional healing offered by curanderos, have begun to work in conjunction with them, supporting their use of rituals and ceremonies in the healing of the sick while insisting that patients receive modern medical attention as well.The Moche people of ancient Peru often depicted curanderos in their ceramics.  Curanderos in FictionCuranderos, probably because of the mystery and intrigue that surrounds them, are frequently included in fictional works:"Bless Me, Ultima", by the Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya. The life and writing of Miguel Ruiz was also influenced by curanderismo, since his mother was a curandera. The original screenplay for the film Viva Zapata! involved a curandera predicting the birth and death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. The original played much more heavily on the supernatural than the chosen script. "Eduardo The Healer", is a documentary that follows the life of a Peruvian curandero. "Forests of the Heart", by Charles de Lint features a curandera protagonist. "So Far From God", by Chicana author Ana Castillo, features the curandera character Doña Felicia.