When taking patient histories, we always ask the patient if they take any medications. For many, the answer is a straightforward “No.”
However, when asked if they use any medicinal herbs, the same patients will answer “Yes.” What are these herbs and what are they used for? And do they really work? With the frequency that people in the Sacred Valley use herbal remedies, it is important for us as medical providers to understand what these plants are and what interactions they might have with other drugs. My research in this field has focused on building a database of commonly used medicinal plants, their uses, preparations and side effects.
Herbs are often the first line of defense against any malady, and herbal knowledge here is profuse. In interviews with locals, I have already been given the names of 52 different herbs with uses spanning sore throats and stomach aches to kidney stones and dysentery. Personally, I believe that some of these remedies do produce real benefits for patients. Clinical trials have pitted a selection of these plants against various infectious agents with encouraging results. Already clove extract has proven to be an effective broad spectrum antimicrobial agent and many other plants show promise. My hope is that we can eventually figure out simple, effective, plant-based remedies that our promotoras can use as another tool to better the health of their communities.
Written by Sacred Valley Health Volunteer Casey Basham