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Keywords:

  • anthropology;
  • cross-cultural studies;
  • headache;
  • migraine;
  • Native American;
  • plants

Objective.—To describe the ritual and ethnobotanical treatments about migraine performed by shamans from several native cultures.

Methods.—Anthropological field study conducted with Tzeltal Maya (Mexico), Kamayurá (Brazil), and Uru-Chipaya (Bolivia) American Indians.

Results.—Migraine is called yaxti-wanjol chawaj by Tzeltal shamans. They wash the head of the patient with an herbal solution to treat headache. The boiled leaves of a shrub called payté wamal (Tagetes nelsonii) are used to relieve migraine. Migraine is called monkey's disease by Kamayurá natives. The disease is originated by the revenge of the killed monkey's spirit, striking to Kamayurá hunter on his head. It is treated with an herbal infusion applied in the eyes of the patient. Migraine is called eskeclamix by Chipaya people, and is treated by drinking the cañahua plant (Chenopodium palludicale) boiled with water. The patient's head may also be washed with shaman's fermented urine.

Conclusions.—Cultural equivalents of migraine exist in the healing system of isolated American cultures.