This is Sepillin. One of five dogs who live at the ranch where Felipe works. No, those are not shrunken skulls around his neck, they’re shrunken limes.

A few days ago Sepillin came down with a bone wrecking cough. It was so violent we worried he wouldn’t live through the next bout. Since farm dogs are of little value to their owners, Felipe knew it was unlikely he could convince his boss to treat Sepillin. When he asked for medicine, the man barked dismissively, “Ahhh, just put some limes on him.”

A coworker of Felipe’s who practices brujeria, confirmed this as the appropriate treatment. I rolled my eyes, mumbling, “cheapskate”, and other #%$& things and fled the scene. Felipe made Sepillin a lime collar.

When I returned the next day…Sepillin’s cough was gone! This is truly the most remarkable folk remedy I’ve been witness to. The dog was so ill I don’t think it’s possible that anything other than the limes could have affected his speedy recovery. Three days later he’s still fine, Felipe will remove the collar tomorrow.  This remedy definitely qualifies as very simple, very easy and VERY GOOD. He’s such a goodboy.


This is a taclate tree. It looks benign, no thorns, it’s not statuesque, but it is the perpetrator of an itchy, painful rash for those who are allergic to it. Like Felipe.

Felipe is of the same, avoid the doctor at all cost mindset as I am, and he loves to try folk remedies , so as usual he went to his mother for advice about this malady.

First, she said, make a paste of wood ashes and water, cake this on your rash and then peel it off and make tamales from the paste.

Keep in mind that lye is made of wood ash, so the paste burned and blistered Felipe’s already irritated skin. But he endured the ordeal to test the remedy, the hope of relief and to avoid a doctor visit.

Then, she told him, throw the tamales at the tree, try to make them stick, and swear at it! “Hijo de tu puta madre, dejame en paz desgracaido.”

Coincidently, he had an opportunity to try another folk remedy within an hour of the tamale throw. Stung by a huge pissed off scorpion, he did as suggested to him by his friend the Brujo— tourniquet the limb and down generous amounts coffee and mezcal.

Within the hour we were on the way to the medico, the poison racing into his respiratory system, his fingers turning blue.

When asked about the rash, the doctor said it was a common ailment, but that Felipe couldn’t be treated for a couple of days because of the scorpion sting. He looked forward to some improvement from the folk remedy.

I’m afraid not. Except for the areas that were burned to numbness by the lye(maybe that was the cure?)  he continued to itch, and so spent the next two days recovering from the sting with the rash as a side dish of misery.

Perhaps our recent mishaps with self-healing will inspire a bit more modern thinking in us with our next health concern.

I don’t know though, I am pretty anxious to try the remedy for sties: hold a bowl over your eye and have someone throw pebbles at it while swearing at the sty and the mal aire (bad juju) that brought it to you.

I’m fascinated by the concept of profanity and mock violence as cure, and have yet to unravel the significance of ashes and tamales.  Any ideas?

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer