Kuna Medicine

By Lois Iglesias
Translation by Anna Mazzaro

Very little is known about Kuna medicine. Their entire culture is not very well known to outsiders. The Kuna possess a very rich history. Because of this, talking about medicine is a very broad subject.

The Kuna, as is the case in all the other indigenous groups, have a very close relationship with nature. They take from nature whatever they require to satisfy their basic needs: food, shelter, clothing, and, of course, their medicines to cure people who are sick.

In the preparation of their medicines they include roots of all types, and leaves, mixed with all sort of spices. There is a very important element in their culture: "el curandero", the shaman. He uses other people to help him in the preparation and cure of the different sicknesses. The "Nele", the "Innatukedi", and the "Absoquedi " are the three people responsible for preventing, curing, and "sending away" all the epidemics from the people in the community.

He is the shaman of the tribe. He has to be able to communicate with the spiritual world and to know the healing properties of the plants. He has to have to ability to sing to the spirits so they can tell him the proper way to heal the people in the community.

A Nele is born not made. There are very few people born with this privilege. This person can be of either sex: male or female. What is important is the "conditions" that are shown when they are born. Conditions that the midwives know very well and they have passed from generation to generation.

He is the botanical shaman. His knowledge is based on the plants and what can be extracted from each plant and its parts without making a mistake.

This is the person in charge of presiding over the ceremonies of precaution, eradication, and cure of epidemics. He/she has also the capacity to interpret dreams. This is the role that the least is known about, so there are a reduced number of them.

Two Types of Medicine
There are different types of medicine: one type for bathing, one type to drink, and one to put on the skin. It is very interesting to notice that at the time of birth as well as during pregnancy, the "doctors" have no direct intervention. The Innatuledi are the ones to provide the recommendations and teas in order to have a healthy delivery of the baby. If there is any complication during the birth, the only way they can help is by sending medicines for the protection of the baby and the mother and singing songs with healing purposes.

Thanks to Lois for permission to use this article.

See additonal resources at http://dulenega.nativeweb.org