November 2016

Healing Our World With Curanderismo


Athena Wolf


Working through illness without drugs, hormones, or chemicals can help us heal our world and ourselves, according to the ancient art of curanderismo. In this way we treat all of our relations with respect. Curanderismo’s holistic methods have been a tradition in the Americas for centuries. It is also known as Mexican traditional medicine, or “medicina del campo.”

The Mexican leader Montezuma grew thousands of varieties of plants in order to research their medicinal properties. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors destroyed Montezuma’s garden and all of the research, as they considered it blasphemous. Although this written information was destroyed, the native peoples passed down the healing traditions orally.

Some anthropologists (including Alberto Villoldo) think that curanderismo goes even further back—to the Indus Valley in India. Thousands of years ago the Indus Valley gave birth to the powerful healing techniques of Ayurveda, to which curandersimo has many similarities. There exists to this day a tribe that has been in existence for 10,000 years, known as the Naga-Maya. These Maya may have been referred to in the Mahabharata, an Indian scripture, which describes a tribe that left the Indian subcontinent, perhaps to settle in México? Ancient Sanskrit texts have been found in the Yucatan, in México.

Curanderismo is a blend of many cultures, as well as wisdom from the curandera’s (or curandero’s) own background. Curanderismo (coo-RAHN-deh-REES-moh) is from the Spanish word, curar, “to heal.” The New Mexico Legislature recognized the value of this healing technique and made it legal to practice in our state.

Curanderas only do healing work with the person who requests healing or that person’s small children. Trying to force change on someone who has not given his or her permission is not curanderismo but sorcery. Even if that person is an adult child of the client requesting help, an ethical curandera will not work on anyone without the person’s permission. Traditionally the curandera has a commitment not only to her community but to the Earth and all of her children—the plant people, the four-leggeds, the stone people, those who fly and those who crawl.

Ancient cultures understood that we live in a delicate balance with Nature. Illness occurs when we are not in tune with our own nature and spirit. Curanderismo helps bring people out of a diseased state and back into harmony.

There are many different types of curanderos. Yerberos are primarily herbalists. Hueseros work to heal bones. Sobaderos are muscle therapists. Parteras are midwives. Oracionistas work with the power of prayer. Although many curanderos do have a specialty, most practice at least a couple of these techniques. As an example, an oracionista may also be a powerful yerbera, and so on. Using limpia (energy cleansing), diet, prayer and herbs one can one find resolution to many illnesses.

These are some traditional words used to describe ailments. Empacho refers to an intestinal blockage and is believed to be caused by eating spoiled food, eating too much, food getting stuck in the stomach or other causes. Mal de Ojo has been referred to as the ‘evil eye.’ This illness is believed to mainly affect babies and is felt to be a result of adults paying too much attention to a child. Envidia is translated as an illness caused by envy. Like mal de ojo, the bad intent must be neutralized by physically touching the person who is envious or envied. Susto, sometimes called PTSD, can be caused by our reaction to traumatic events. Curanderas may also help to remove curses and to clear houses of entities.

A recent study by the National Institute of Health ( says, “…curanderismo involves a coherent world view of health that has deep historical roots… Just as it would be erroneous to assume that urban Western medicine is rational and scientific in all its aspects, so it is also clear that cuandersimo contains many elements based on empirical observation and shares certain scientific concepts and procedures with Western medical practice.”


Athena Wolf is the founder of the Escuela de Curanderismo. She has a healing practice in the Mimbres. 575.536.9335,



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