Ancient wisdom

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Ecuadorians have begun to reconsider ancestral medicine 

Flanked by flowers and herbs and dressed in a white polo shirt and black apron, Rose might not look like a doctor – but that’s exactly what she is.

The difference is that, rather than prescribing pills and painkillers, Rose uses herbs, nettles, egg yolks and candles to cure everything from nervous tension to angst, insomnia and depression in her corner stall at Quito’s Mercado San Francisco.

Rose and her Inca ancestors have been been performing limpia (spiritual cleansing rituals) for centuries but, in recent years, the Ecuadorean folk medicine has become increasingly popular  – as the line out of her door bears testament to.

This sudden surge of interest in a medicine that has been around for thousands of years can be attributed, in part, to the twenty first century wellness mantra of illness prevention over the modern approach of cure.

For while western medicine is high cost and high tech, something that in this age of austerity feels uncomfortably wrong, limpias cost on average US$8 meaning they are affordable – in addition to being a safe and natural form of medicine.

Certainly the ‘no risk’ factor, has helped turn many of the younger generation of Quitoans onto limpia – as David Cadena, a 34 year old tour guide living and working in Ecuador’s capital can attest.

“I have a busy job that sees me running – literally – around the city 24/7. The hectic pace combined with modern technology that has made it harder than ever to switch off once I do finally get home, means I frequently feel frazzled.”

Caden continues: “My Grandparents  – who were very fit  – used to swear by their regular limpiadora sessions and one day I just woke up feeling especially stressed and thought ‘if they used it, why not me?’ I now visit a limpiadora whenever I want to feel renewed.”

After listening to David, I decided to undergo a limpia – which involved Rose using a combination of herbs and stinging nettles (known across the Andes for its cleansing properties) to gently beat me all over, in a bid to rid my body of any badness and negativity – while in Quito. Well, when in Rome… Rose also prescribed a potion which I am to apply daily to banish the “evil eye”.

I exited Rose’s shop invigorated, having reached the opinion that while the western medical approach should always be used for life threatening and acute conditions, regular limpiadoras can certainly help lead lead to a happier and healthier life.

Regardless: with a history of dating back thousands of years, it’s a system of medicine that shows no signs of fading away …

Healers tip: Tuesdays and Fridays are the most propitious to banish the evil eye.

For more information on the culture of Quito , visit

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