The Shipibo, AshĂˇninka and other indigenous tribes in Peru have relied on a prickly vine to remedy ills for some 2,000 years. Named for its hook-like thorns that resemble feline claws, uĂ±a de gatoâ€”or cat's clawâ€”is drunk in tea or taken in capsule form to stimulate the immune system, cleanse the bowels, lower cholesterol and even kill cancer cells. One of the most common medicinal plants, uĂ±a de gato is found with other natural remedies on grocery store shelves in several forms.
Travelers in Iquitos can buy it direct from makers and vendors in the BelĂ©n street market's Pasaje Paquito. Pasaje Paquito is a small alleyway in the middle of the chaotic market dedicated to all things medicinal. Snake heads pickled in cane liquor, big tubs of dried bark, homemade tinctures and fresh-cut herbs piled several feet high fill the narrow passage, lined on either side with booths. Natural medicine is an integral part of life in isolated communities and many traditional medicines have a laundry list of uses, from pain reliever to aphrodisiac.
Vendors in Pasaje Paquito are happy to share what the bottles, powders, plants and other objects do, and our connection to them as part of the earth. Plants, herbs and barks are labeled with large paper signs. The chuchuhuasi tree grows tall in the rainforest canopy. Its reddish-brown bark is sold in finger-length slices and is believed to reduce arthritis pain and treat a number of conditions, such as bronchitis, rheumatism and stomach aches. Bark from the huacapurana tree is boiled in water to make a drink to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism symptoms, relieve diarrhea and other conditions. Women buy abuta bark for menstrual pain, but it also has several other uses, including reducing high blood pressure.
In the middle of the BelĂ©n market. Walk south along MalecĂłn Maldonado, which turns into MalecĂłn TarapacĂˇ. It leads you to BelĂ©n, around 9 de Diciembre or Urgate.
Open Hours from:early morning
Open Hours to:dusk
Days Closed:closed everyday from early afternoon to around 3 p.m.