According to “Popular medicine in the northern coast of Colombia: a general vision”, a study published by the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, traditional methods for curing diseases through plants reflect the influence of indigenous customs throughout Colombia’s history and, for this reason, they are a fundamental part of its culture.
Colombian abuela’s (grandmothers) have been essential for the preservation of these traditions. These are five of the most popular home remedies:
Herbal tea for headaches
The medicinal properties of herbs are widely known, and they continue to be a vital remedy for many Colombian families. Among the most popular teas you’ll find peppermint, an herb that, according to grandmothers, helps heal stomach pain and headaches. Another recommended drink is chamomile tea, used for insomnia and anxiety.
The preparation of these teas is quite simple: all you need is two tablespoons of dry leaves and boil them in a cup of water. Then you let it sit for around 30 minutes until it’s time to drink.
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Aloe vera as an anti-inflammatory treatment
Aloe is another plant that has been used for its medicinal properties, especially as an anti-inflammatory and regenerative treatment. The most common use for aloe vera gel is as a treatment for first-degree burns; however, it’s also used to get rid of dandruff, conjunctivitis, and even to prevent hair loss.
Grandmothers believe that massaging the scalp with aloe vera gel will help avoid baldness.
Calendula for skin wounds
This plant has been praised for its antiseptic properties and for tissue healing, so it has been widely used to treat skin wounds and scars.
Grandmothers also recommend calendula tea for digestive problems like gastritis, heartburn, and indigestion. In some homes, it’s common to drink a cup of calendula tea after every meal to help with food digestion.
Ginger as a cure
Ginger is a common ingredient in cuisine from different regions of the world. However, in Colombia, this root is recommended as a cure for sore throats, coughing, bronchitis, hoarseness and cold. Just like calendula and peppermint, ginger is consumed in a hot tea. Cut the ginger in slices and boil it in hot water until it becomes an aromatic tea.
Aguapanela, a traditional beverage
This is probably the favorite remedy in Colombian households. It is prepared with panela, a by-product of sugar cane, grown mainly in the Valle del Cauca department.
There are many recipes for aguapanela. In the department of Cesar, it’s usually mixed with ground ginger and rum to stop a cough; while the people from Cundinamarca and Boyacá prefer to add aguardiente or brandy and eucalyptus leaves for chest conditions. However, the most traditional option is aguapanela with lemon, something that grandmothers usually recommend for colds and sore throats.
The use of plants for medicinal purposes is part of the daily life of Colombian families and an example of the cultural wealth of this country.