For more about Panama, check our blog


panama medicine

By Juan Carlos Martinez

Now Panama has a new non-traditional export; nothing is more non-traditional than healing plants. Healing plants you may ask? Yes Panama due to its diversity has in its tropical forests a vast array of plants whose uses are unknown.

tree bark for salve
You can grind the bark and mix with mud to reduce inflamation

Today the medical industry has turned to medicines that are artificially produced, however in earlier times many maladies were cured with teas, infusions, herbal wraps and tinctures. In Panama while there is access to modern medications traditional healing methods are still widely used. With a simple trip to Calidonia you will find many stands on the sidewalk with their shopkeepers willing to help you identify which plant or herb will aid you in the healing process. Some of the most common are herbs to keep sugar levels down, there are other plants to reduce inflammation, other plants to detox and cleanse the body and others still for stomach ailments. Since this is a very primitive industry most of what you will find is the plants itself for you to grind them at home or make tea or an infusion.

In Panama the health authorities are conscious that many people resort to natural medicine when the medicines prescribed are not available or are too expensive however nothing much has been done on the official front to regulate that activity. In other countries such as Bolivia where there is a high volume of activity in this industry in 2006 the Vice-Ministry of Traditional Medicine and Intercultural Affairs was created, in Mexico public health authorities have launched initiatives to validate practices, evaluate the properties of these medicinal plants and foster this ancestral practice of medicine. Even the World Health Organization has endorsed this type of initiative and has various programs to promote investigation and the use of traditional medicine.

Chives can help with stomach ailments

There is however interest in studying the rich plant biodiversity in Panama and for this the University of Panama's School of Pharmacy created the Center for Pharmacognostics Research on Panamanian Flora (CIFLORPAN). It is a center specifically created within this faculty to study traditional medicinal plants and their active properties to see which can actually be used to be synthesized as medication in the future. Some of the studies being conducted are for active components in the cure for cancer and AIDS as well as tropical diseases.

While it is recognized that traditional plant based medicine does have a factual basis and is currently under investigation and research for development of active compounds to be used in mainstream medicine there is still an aura of mysticism and disbelief attached to it. Panama not only has the medicinal plants it also has the healer. Mr. Diomedes Ureña is purported to be able to cure cancer and Aids with the use of medicinal plants. He opened his first office in Chiriquí, now has an office in Costa Rica and is looking to expand to Venezuela. His products can be ordered on-line and shipped. He ships to countries such as US, Spain and Russia. His experience comes from having healed himself from cancer through the use of a potion made of 12 natural compounds found in the tropical forests of Chiriquí.

Whether you believe or not in natural or traditional medicine it does provide hope to millions of people which mainstream medicine has not been able to help as well as being the only option for people who cannot afford mainstream medication and do not possess any type of health insurance.

For more Quick Takes

medical ad



Copyright© 2011, Pan Am Publishing S.A., Republic of Panama