Bolivians Turn To Traditional Medicine To Prevent Viruses

La Paz, BOLIVIA (AP) – In the middle of a Bolivian market, a long line of people waits their turn to enter a disinfection booth where they will take a “steam bath”. The practice is done with plants that are used by Andean medicine healers.

Authorities from international entities such as the World Health Organization have repeated that there is no specific remedy to prevent or treat COVID-19, but many Bolivians believe in ancestral medicine and the government supports them: even the Political Constitution of the State guarantees its practice and regulates it with a law since 2009.


“It is a help that they give us so that we do not get sick,” Juan Alberto Aguilar, a 45-year-old construction worker who cannot stay at home because he needs to continue earning money and now helps his wife sell, told The Associated Press vegetables.

“At home we also use it and for me it is better to enter them (the cabins), because we already know this type of natural medicine,” he added.

In Bolivia, ancestral medicine is especially ingrained in the Andean region, where healers have great influence among the people. To carry out practices such as the steam baths offered in the La Paz market, they use plants such as eucalyptus, wira wira and chamomile, which they place in a pot with boiling water and then vaporize. According to Ana Choque, in charge of Traditional Medicine at the Ministry of Health, herbs help disinflammation and disinfection of the body.

Shock explained that the government considers it important to respect the customs and customs of millennial peoples despite the pandemic. However, this does not exempt the authorities from reaching out to people and speaking to them in Aymara and Spanish to raise awareness about the importance of handwashing and other widely accepted measures for the prevention of the new coronavirus.

“People come who in many cases must go out to sell, to work by force majeure, and they come to vaporize, it is a way of protection,” he added.

The Deputy Minister of Traditional Medicine, Felipe Quilla, explained that —as a preventive measure, not a curative measure— ten other tents will be used, given that the first three have been “well received”.

However, not everyone agrees, including specialists such as pediatrician Reynaldo De Ávila, who described steam baths as “quackery” because there is no study that certifies that the use of cameras helps to disinfect or prevent respiratory diseases.

Bolivia began a total quarantine on March 22 to prevent the spread of the virus. The Ministry of Health recognized that the country has the poorest health system in the region and will not be able to attend to all those infected if there is a massive outbreak.

The report of that office reports in the country 632 confirmed cases and 40 deaths.