By Linda McFarlin
Healthy Living in Ecuador: My desire for a healthy life in Ecuador has entailed (pun intended) some pretty bizarre treatments, at least from a North American perspective. My latest indigenous natural healing was the strangest of all.
I’ve participated in all-day land clearings to remove bad energies, had my head pounded and my body beaten with stinging nettles to clear my body of negative energy, and watched Gary get an egg treatment to cure his illness. Shaman have rubbed smelly liquids all over my hair, wrapped my head in stinky rags, diagnosed my urine and blown alcohol in my face.
In my search of healthy living in Ecuador, I had an indigenous healing massage lying on reed mats on the ground with dogs and chickens milling around me while a little indigenous lady pulled and rubbed and prodded me. More painful than relaxing. This particular treatment is one I don’t care to repeat, since I had reminders of it for several days in the form of flea bites.
Here's Gary getting his massage from the indigenous woman.
But my most unusual indigenous natural healing treatment so far came after a blood vessel burst in my left eye. I was riding in a cab when I felt an ache in my eye. I thought perhaps I was feeling eye strain from all my hours at the computer and didn’t think any more about it.
That night while brushing my teeth I saw my eye, blood-red and a little swollen. I’ve had this happen before, but this was clearly the worst.
Several days later the blood had spread to encompass all of the white area of my eye and I looked a bit like a zombie. Every day Blanca would comment on my eye, tsking and shaking her head in alarm. She was concerned and thought I should do something about it.
As for me, I’ve had burst blood vessels before and they always clear up, so I intended just to wait and see. But the combination of Blanca’s worry and my aching eye made me start to worry as well.
Blanca convinced me that she had a cure. She kept talking about her “preciosas animalitos,” some kind of aquatic creature she said would suck up the excess blood.
I thought she had some leeches, which may have worked, but I didn’t relish the idea of a leech sucking on my eyeball. No leeches, no, no, no.
By now I was contemplating wearing an eye patch to avoid the stares of employees and strangers on the streets. So I went to Ibarra to an ophthalmologist and for $20 he checked my eye with his machines and flashlight.
He said that although the burst vessel had caused lots of blood to leak into my eye, it wasn’t anything to worry about. I didn’t need any treatment. The eye would clear up within two weeks by itself. He said it could have been the result of high blood pressure, a small stroke (thanks a lot) or eye strain.
Blanca kept offering to help and I decided to take her up on it rather than face two more weeks of stares and people crossing themselves when I walked by. She made me understand that her preciosas animalitos were not leeches. They were things with a tail and legs and she sent two of her sons out to find some.
After 3 hours searching through rivers and streams, they found what they wanted in a pond and brought 7 or 8 of the animalitos back to our apartment in a jar filled with muddy water.
They looked just like very large tadpoles with back legs but when I mimicked a frog’s ribbet, Blanca said they weren’t frogs. She said that their tails would suck up the blood in my eye.
I felt some last minute jitters, but Gary thought I should give it a try, so I did. After all, what could a soft little tadpole tail do to hurt me, other than give me some kind of disease from the stagnant pond water it was living in. Oh well, I somewhat reluctantly decided to open my eye for a treatment. I held my eyelids back and Blanca fished out a tadpole.
She took one at a time and rubbed its tail over my bloody eyeball, all the while commenting upon which tadpole was lazy and which one was industrious and committed to getting the job done. Every now and then, she would tap the tadpole on the head to make sure it was awake and working.
She showed me each tail when it had finished its job. Sure enough, each tail had a new area of red on it and she said the treatment was working.
If you have the stomach for it, watch the tadpole tail video. See what healthy living in Ecuador is all about.
I didn’t see enough red to feel that much excess blood was removed from my eye, but by the third day my eye was back to normal, completely white around the pupil and iris. The medical info Gary found on the internet said the condition would normally last for two or three weeks.
Did the animalitos do the job or not? Who knows. All I know is that the bloody eye was good as new in pretty short order. I continued to have an ache behind my eye for a few more days and laid off the computer a bit to give my eyes a rest.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this indigenous healing treatment to anyone else, it was an interesting experience, especially watching Blanca’s concern for her little animalitos.
She put the jar in my kitchen and we fed them crackers and breakfast cereal for a week.
Then one day a transformation had taken place. One of the tadpoles had turned bright green and sprouted two more legs. He stood out sharply in contrast to his more boring beige younger siblings.
In a few more days four of them had turned into adorable little green frogs with four legs and a shorter tail. I released them into my patio garden and hope to see them there, happily eating bugs and enjoying life.
Sadly the rest of the tadpoles died. I feel like an ungrateful wretch for not taking them back to their pond.
Never in a million years would I have believed I’d be persuaded to stick an amphibious tail in my eye, not one but 7 or 8. Just goes to show that healthy living in Ecuador, especially if it involves indigenous natural healing practices, can take you down some pretty strange and varied pathways.