Curandera is the Spanish word for healer. In Mexico it’s used for traditional healers and, depending on the source, can have some negative connotations like “witch doctor.” But in many Mexican communities the curandera is a vitally important figure and frequently the only person in the immediate community sought out for medical assistance. It is predominantly feminine because most practitioners are female, you can certainly find curanderos as well.
Curanderas perform a variety of duties ranging from the ritual cleansing called “susto” to herbalist to psychological consultant. We’re talking about them in the context of mezcal because curanderas frequently use mezcal for their healing potions. Mezcal is a recommended remedy for many illnesses like indigestion, the common cold, thyroid illnesses, etc but we’ve heard and seen curanderas use mezcal to sip mezcal and spit it onto an ill person, to create a herbal mixture an anoint an ill person, to rub it on bodies that are ill, especially women who are pregnant or just after birth.
There are many connections to other healing practices – spirits are used globally in similar manners whether it be Italia godmothers rubbing grappa on the chest of someone with a pulmonary illness to French monks infusing herbs into spirits to help digestive health.