Traditional Healer Treats Body and Mind

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Juana Gomez (right) is a traditional Mixteca healer from Mexico. She lives with her daughter, Johanna Gomez (left), in Madera, Calif. and provides health care to many farm workers. (Sasha Khokha/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Some recent immigrants avoid visits to western doctors. Instead, they call on traditional healers who speak their language, use familiar medicinal plants, and share their cultures. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” we hear from Juana Gomez, a Mixteca traditional healer from Oaxaca, Mexico. Gomez now lives in Madera, in California’s Central Valley, where many of her patients are undocumented farm workers. Her daughter, Johanna Gomez, translates her story. Reporter: Sasha Khokha

By Juana Gomez

We have the purple basil and we have the green basil. The basil is a very, very sacred plant from my ancestors.

It’s very important to know the classification of each plant because even though they are plants and they are natural and they have healing powers, they work just as medicine and you have to be really careful with them.

My mom says that the most she sees here are males that work on the fields. She says that it is very common for them to come because it’s a combination of not being able to have a restroom close enough, it’s a combination of the heat, the long hours that they’re sitting, the vibration of the tractors. So, there are many, many factors.

Most of the people that come do have physical illness, but many times they are not sick with the physical illness. They are more sick of a spiritual need because of the sadness of leaving their people behind.  Maybe they left their wife and their kids over in their native countries.

And my mom gets very emotional when she sees that in people that come because she feels just the exact same way. My brother is in Mexico. She left him over there.

She has to detect those signs of depression or, you know, something that comes from that loneliness. She also has to understand their problems. Because sometimes people that’s the only thing that they need. For someone to hear them: To hear their sorrows, and not judge them. And we are able to give them, if you may call it, therapy, within these walls.

Listen to Juana Gomez tell her story:

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