Jaime Fandiño Franky

Fundación Centro Colombiano de Epilepsia y Enfermedades Neurológicas - FIRE, Cartagena, Colombia.

Fundación Centro Colombiano de Epilepsia y Enfermedades Neurológicas.

LECTURE: Contribution of Precolumbian and Contemporary Indian Cultures to the Treatment of Epilepsies and Associated Neurological Syndromes.

Epilepsy was a known disease in pre-Columbian era. Aztecs and Incas stand out and attached it to religion and magic. Many empiric botanic remedies were used, most of them without real results according to reports of Spanish chroniclers such as Garcilaso de la Vega. In the deep Amazon jungles of Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil, the indigenes also had many different botanic remedies and aromatic smokes. Aztecs believed that epilepsy was due to a sin, and gave to the patients a bath with herbs.

In Paraguay, Bolivia and “Misiones” (Argentina), the “paye” or Chaman gives “caaré”, a root that produces hallucinations, and also leafs of “ysaú kaa” were given to the patients. “Sonco nanay”, as Incas named the epilepsy, has been described confusedly. The “Sircay” (surgeon) performed decompressive craniectomies for epilepsy. Doubts exist about what the results were. “Momentary Interruption” means the whole seizure. It is nowadays very difficult to know how the native people prepared the mixtures.

Perhaps it was a fiddle or flimflam. But it is true that some alkaloid herbs are still used in Modern Medicine. In contrast, in 1494, 200.000 epileptic women were killed in Europe because they were considered “witches”, which showed the big cultural difference and also ignorance, when compared the two continents.