The Panamanian Embera drive away death from COVID-19 with ancestral medicine

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Gloria Samana (l) together with Reinedio Casama (r) prepare medicinal plants on August 20, 2020 in the town of Ipetí Emberá-Alto Bayano, in the district of Chepo, near Panama City (Panama). EFE / Welcome Velasco

Panama, Aug 24 (EFE) .- “All the brothers who went to the hospital for COVID-19 died,” says Gloria Samana, a botanist from the remote Ipetí Emberá indigenous community of Alto del Bayano, in Panama, while stirring with a spoon its healing leaves that dance inside a boiling pot fanned by the wood fire.
Inside her palafito-style house, built with palm leaves and wood, the 60-year-old already recovered from COVID-19 with traditional medicine prepares a natural concoction to prevent her husband, Reinedio Casama, also a botanist, from the disease he has already caused seven deaths within their village.
Away from the chaotic capital, about four hours by road, the Emberá, one of the seven indigenous peoples of Panama, have resorted to their traditional medicine to heal COVID-19 patients before the abandonment of the health authorities and despite have an official health post, piloted by a neighboring nursing assistant.
“They come to do swabbing, but then there is no monitoring nor do they ask about the needs of the population. They only come with their protection layer as if they were going to the moon, they make samples and leave,” Sara Omi, president of Congress, explains to Efe General Emberá from Alto del Bayano.
Omi, also an authority on other communities of his ethnicity, says that cases with other pathologies such as diabetes or hypertension go to the nearest health center for a test “and that’s when they agree” that they have to do an epidemiological scan.
The leader emphasizes that the people do not reject Western medicine and that they want coordination, since they need masks and alcoholic gel.
In addition, for months, the community’s artisanal aqueduct has been damaged and no water reaches the town, so they have to go to a nearby river to look for it, which makes it difficult to wash hands to prevent contagion.
“WE DON’T WANT TO BE PART OF THE STATISTICS”
According to official figures, in the Ipetí Emberá community of Alto del Bayano there have been 25 confirmed cases of the disease and only one is still active.
However, Omi assures that “98%” of the almost 700 inhabitants of the community have been infected, including her, although she acknowledges that many have not been tested.
“We did not want to be part of the statistics, but to be a model and reference that in the Emberá people we have the alternative of saving lives from COVID-19 through our medicinal plants.”
VAHO AND TEA TO “BURN” COVID-19
Samana walks through her garden, selecting plants that can help heal the virus. With a handmade basket he looks with determination at the leaves, closes his eyes and gives them a reason to tear them off. “Our plants have life, you have to explain why you take them.”
“COVID does not like cold, everything hot,” says Samana as she grabs the pot to perform the protocol that “kills” the virus. He ensures that thanks to traditional medicine all COVID-19 patients are recovered.
The Emberá community saw how the virus entered the town at the beginning of April, they do not know how it happened, but the first sick person was one of their “grandmothers”.
The traditional authorities decided to take her to a health center where at first they did not perform a swab and only prescribed medications to lower her fever.
Without registering any improvement for a week, the “grandmother” came in a second time. She returned to the community testing positive for COVID-19 and underwent traditional medicine.
“I was bad, bad. I was crying, I said goodbye to my family. But after several days with that steam I was encouraged and the fever stopped,” says Horacia, who is over 60 years old.
According to Western medicine, 80% of COVID-19 patients outgrow the disease without medication, just enough to relieve symptoms.
The Emberá botanists have created a protocol to cure and prevent COVID-19: first they must go bathe in the river while in a large pan some soursop leaves and a plant commonly known as disrupter boil for 25 minutes.
Then, the patient sits on the floor with a sheet over it and breathes the vapors that the concoction gives off until they “sweat a lot”, after which they should drink the tea from the same hot water.
The Emberá use the family bubble system: the positive patient isolates himself with his family, thus avoiding the spread of the virus and without breaking “traditional coexistence.” The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has already urged other countries to follow a similar strategy.
With this method, the elderly assure that they have cured a large part of the community without having to resort to Western medicine.
“We do not want to go to the hospital, those who have left,” says Omi, have not returned. ”
Ana de Leon

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