Mal aire (bad air), mal viento (bad wind), susto and espanto (fright), mal ojo (evil eye) and envidia (envy) are seen as very common illnesses in Andean society. The Western concept of “psychosomatic disorders” comes closest to characterizing these illnesses. Treatment in many cases involves the participation of the patient in a cleansing ceremony. In addition, patients frequently receive herbal amulets for protection against further evil influences and for good luck. A total of 222 plant species belonging to 172 genera and 78 families were documented and identified as herbal remedies used to treat nervous system problems in Northern Peru. Most species used were Asteraceae, followed by Solanaceae and Lamiaceae. The majority of herbal preparations were prepared from the whole plant. In over 60% of the cases fresh plant material was used to prepare remedies, which differs slightly from the average herbal preparation mode in Northern Peru. Interestingly, only about 36% of the remedies were applied orally, while the majority was applied topically. Over 79% of all remedies were prepared as mixtures with multiple ingredients by boiling plant material either in water or in sugarcane spirit. Little scientific evidence exists to date to prove the efficacy of the species employed as nervous system remedies in Northern Peru. Only 24% of the plants found or related species in the same genus have been studied at all. The information gained on frequently used traditional remedies against nervous system disorders might give some leads for future targets for further analysis in order to develop new drugs addressing nervous system disorders.
Key words: Medicinal plants, ethnobotany, mental health, neurologic disorders, psychopharmacology, etheogens.
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