Eliseo ‘Cheo’ Torres’ ‘Curanderismo’
Folk healing expert sees a new healing model where modern medicine incorporates traditional remedies
Who in New Mexico doesn’t know that the chile pepper is the state’s most famous condiment?
But are New Mexicans aware that hot pepper has been used as an herbal medicine by Native people of the Southwest before the arrival of Spaniards?
In his new book, “Curanderismo, The Art of Traditional Medicine Without Borders,” Albuquerque author Eliseo “Cheo” Torres writes that the Southwest’s pea-sized hot pepper (chilipitin) “is an anti-inflammatory and is believed to release capsaicin and endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller, and is used topically for pain and joint issues.”
Eaten in the fall and winter, the pepper stimulates circulation and bolsters a sluggish digestive system, he adds.
Torres explains the medicinal uses of many other local plants, such as rosemary (with the leaves to make a tea to use as an antioxidant and other purposes); lavender (the fragrance is an antidepressant; the flowers fight infections and can be used to make a mouth rinse and an antiseptic); and wild marjoram, aka oregano, is used for sore throats and coughs because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Torres is an expert on folk healing and folk healers worldwide, though his interest has focused on Mexico and the American Southwest. The folk healing he studies and teaches also involves the use of rituals, cupping, laughter, fire, earth, oils and spiritual cleansing.
He uses “Curanderismo” as the text for the University of New Mexico classes he teaches. “Curandero, Traditional Healers of Mexico and the Southwest” is a supplemental text for the course. Both were published this year.
The online classes take place in the fall and spring semesters. He also offers a two-week summer class drawing healers and students from many countries.
“In Mexico, healing is a full-time profession,” Torres said. “The healers here, many have university degrees and are taking the best from Mexican healers and are curating a new healing model, in my opinion, that seems to be very effective. I’m beginning to see a new system.”
He holds the title of vice president for student affairs and is a faculty member of the department of language, literacy and sociocultural studies at UNM.
Torres said that he will talk about the reasons for writing the two textbooks in a discussion/book signing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW.
“Also, I’ll discuss some of the material in the book, my personal experience with curanderos, with rituals, and I will touch on the other books I’ve written and how it all connects together,” he said.
Torres’ books on related subjects include “Healing with Herbs and Rituals, A Mexican Tradition,” edited by Timothy L. Sawyer Jr. (2006), and “Curandero, A Life in Mexican Folk Healing, cowritten by Sawyer. (2005)