LIMA – For those who prefer natural remedies as an alternative to those found in pharmacies, Peru’s Amazon jungle has much to offer.
Have back pain? There’s snake grease for that. And forget those heartburn tablets – caterpillar oil will take care of that burning sensation. And the possibility of getting your sex drive into motion may sound appealing, but do you have the guts to try some frog juice?
If so, La Parada Market in eastern Lima is the place to go. Half a dozen juice stands offer the drink at under $1, and it’s just a matter of picking a frog out of a glass aquarium. Once the frog is knocked out and killed, it’s sliced in half, peeled and thrown into boiling bean broth. Other natural ingredients like honey, pollen, and Aloe Vera are mixed with jungle ingredients like noni and camu camu, which are blended as the boiled frog is added. A thick green malt strained and poured into a cup.
“We prepare this to help with anemia, tiredness, and stress,” says Gladis Hinostrosa, 37, a frog juice sales lady in La Parada Market. “It’s not just the frog, we add maca, pollen, and it’s a mix. It’s all vitamins that don’t harm anyone.”
Many like her have found their way into the capital, Lima, to set up shop in the popular fruit market that spreads down Avenida de la Aviación in Lima.
“It’s a recipe I learned from my mother-in-law 11 years ago,” said Hinostrosa.
Another popular remedy is the oil extracted from jungle caterpillars known as Zuri. These plump critters believed to alleviate various stomach conditions and urinary tract infections live in the barks of palm trees and are eaten raw or barbecue style in jungle towns like Iquitos.
“People here in the city might think it’s disgusting. So what we are offering is the extract or oil obtained by extracting the oil from the caterpillars,” says Rosmari Sovero, 32, who sells the product in Lima and swears by its effects.
Snake fat is a third antidote that promises to alleviate sore muscles and joints and is readily available in many popular markets of Peru. Many believe the grease produces a heating effect and some even buy the snakeskin to wrap their broken bones instead of a cast. The product is packaged in plastic jars and costs about $2 in La Parada Market.
Health officials, however, have warned against the use of such ointments and treatments and say people need to be extra careful.
“People need to check that the natural products they purchase have the proper health registration to avoid charlatans (scammers) that deceive people into giving them money for nothing,” said Aldo Álvarez Risco from the Peruvian Health and Drug Administration in Lima (DIGEMID). “These are unscrupulous people that use culture as a lie.”
Andrea Zarate is a freelancer based in Lima, Peru.