Susto- Latin America

Susto is a cultural illness found in Latin America and in the United States among Latino communities. Most people categorize Susto as a fright illness resulting from a traumatic experience or situation. The more serious the disturbance the greater chance in complete soul loss of the person. Some of the causes of this sickness are an encounter with an animal especially aggressive ones or contact with an evil spirit. Another cause is being involved in a bad situation maybe making a bad mistake or causing a car accident. Latin America children and infants are more likely to experience Susto due to scary dreams and nightmares. In older people learning about the death of a close friend or family member can cause this illness. It is believed that these bad spirits travel in the wind and air. Breathing of cold air or not properly cooling down after sweating can be a cause of general illness.

The use of “magical” plants of local herbs is important to the people of the highlands in Ecuador because they have a large amount of these plants at their disposal. The highlands of Latin America are filled with indigenous and mestizo people and they find the use of plants and prayers are a great source of healing. They are a very poor people and even treatment from a curandero can be very expensive for them.

In the article I read it discussed the use of traditional practitioners in Ecuador named curanderos and limpiadores the “cleaners” to treat these folk and cultural illnesses. The use of herbs and plants are the main source of treatment in the Latin American countries. I found through more research that a bouquet of basil, sage, and rosemary are swept over the body while prayers are said. I also read that marijuana tea with citrus blossoms is used to remove the spirits causing the fright illness. The use of what we in america consider aromatherapy are also used, eucalyptus being the main plant.

The use of magical plants by curanderos in the Ecuador highlands
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2009, 5:3 doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-3
Anthony P Cavender (
Manuel Alban (

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