Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mother Nature is Making Way in Modern Chilean Medicine

By: Trianna Connolly
Produced & edited by: Michelle Michael

Doctors suggest that the best way to get rid of a cold is to get a lot of rest, stay hydrated, and load up on vitamin C. What is the best way to help cure something that goes beyond physical health? The answer could lie within the traditional medical remedies of the Mapuche people.

Mapuche People and Alternative Medicine

Originally located in southern Chile, the Mapuche is a group of indigenous people. In recent years, they have been slowly branching out into the rest of the Chilean society. With them they bring knowledge of medicinal care that could revolutionize modern medicine.

The Mapuche, whose name means people of the earth, believe in the magical-religious properties of curative plants and herbs native to Chile. Some of these include triwe, refu, and wingam—all of which are used to get rid of evil spirits causing sickness. Their medicine provides patients a connection to the earth.

Although these remedies have been passed down through generations within the group, their mission is to share their tradition of healing to anyone who seeks it.
“More and more people are looking for benefits in medicine that go in better harmony with the body and soul,” Claudia Saavedra, a frequent user of Mapuche products said. Saavedra, a health professional in Chile, wants the Mapuche medicine to be incorporated into public health care programs so all Chileans can fully understand its benefits.

“It is out of respect for our roots,” she says. “It helps us see our bodies as a sacred temple that must be protected.”

Pharmacies around Chile are beginning to add Mapuche medicine to their shelves. The Mapuche have even created their own pharmacy brand known as Makelawen, which includes all their herbal products and remedies.
Ancient Mupache Machis.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The Mapuche healers, known as machi, use their medicine and wisdom to treat lifestyle illnesses such as sleep deprivation, obesity, and even terminal illnesses such as cancer.

“They see everything. They can see the color of your urine or your defecations or your eyes,” 30-year-old Marcarena Isabel Machdo Delpiano explains. Delpiano, a southern native, is familiar with the healing capabilities of Mapuche medicine. She says the healers can diagnose from observation alone.
The Mapuche treatments are diverse, extending to cosmetology and skin needs. “Once I had a really bad burn and my friend gave me a cream that was a Mapuche cream for burns and it was very, very good,” Delpiano said.
Many Chileans believe there is a growing concern for chemicals in modern medicine and Mapuche treatments are sold as natural, organic products.
Alternative vs. Modern Medicinal Practices
Public Health Care in Chile 

Even though this form of medicine may be gaining some traction among the Chilean population, according to Dr. Daniel Silva Naveas, it cannot be prescribed as a form of treatment unless it passes a filtering system similar to other drugs.
“Current medicine provides proven treatments to patients with the least possibility of risks. This implies that each prescribed substance must have studies that endorse its indication,” said Dr. Naveas, who specializes in mental health. 

However, Naveas is optimistic about such traditional practices, “it gives us [doctors] new therapeutic options to explore.”

“Normal doctors can recommend us that kind of medicine but not prescribe it because it doesn’t come from a laboratory,” 34- year-old Santiago resident John Thomas Cleveland Acuña said.

Psychologists often recommend this type of medicine to their patients because they do not have the same medical degree as most practitioners and they are unable to prescribe medicine.

The Ministry of Health in Chile wants to incorporate more traditional, organic medicine into the health care system outside a pharmacy setting. They hope it will improve health care for the Mapuche people and get them interested in seeing regular physicians.  

A modern hospital in San Pablo, Chile.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons.
“There have been instances of conversation between health authorities and representatives of the Mapuche people to extend their knowledge. It seems that certain hermetic positions on the part of the Mapuche make it difficult to achieve,” Naveas explains.

Chile’s current healthcare system is divided into two structures, a public and private sector which is inclusive for all Chileans, indigenous or not. Each of these sectors have issues that hurt the lower classes.

“Public health care is terrible…long queues, bad quality of services, not enough professionals. Private health care, although has more rapid health benefits [and] is restrictive in relation to the payment of insurance providers,” industrial engineer Nicolas Nardecchia said.

The citizens of Chile hope the government will understand that good health is a right of every citizen. For now, people can obtain Mapuche medicine, but on their own risk.

“Since all the ingredients are natural, people don’t take it very seriously even though they can be dangerous,” Acuña stated. Many believe “that you can solve all your problems with Mother Nature, but that is not always the case.”

**Global Spotlight is a nonprofit educational production, constituting a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided under Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.  

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