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Curanderismo and Central and South American Healing Practices

2.0 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe curanderismo and the healing practices of Central and South America as a way of supporting the important cultural and spiritual elements of those who use this medicine system.
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With a long and complex history, curanderismo, or indigenous medicine, is the broad healing tradition found in Mexico and Mexican American communities throughout the United States. For many Hispanics, conventional medicine has not been effective or well received. As a result, folk medicine and curanderismo have experienced a revival during the past several decades as a legitimate part of an interdisciplinary and multicultural approach to health and healing. Comprehensive cultural competency must include knowledge and awareness of culturally based healing and wellness practices.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe the historical roots of curanderismo.
  • Identify reasons for the resurgence of this form of traditional healing.
  • Discuss the basic elements, healing practices, and common diagnoses used in curanderismo.
  • Explain the role of peyote in traditional Central and South American healing practices.

Curanderismo, or indigenous medicine, is the broad healing tradition found in Mexico and Mexican American communities throughout the United States. It has many historical roots in common with traditional healing practices in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Latin American communities. It has a history and a set of traditional healing practices that are unique to Mexican culture and to the experience of Mexican Americans in the United States (National Center for Farmworker Health [NCFH], 2011; Trotter & Micozzi, 2015). For example, the Mayas of Central America and Southern and Central Mexico (2000 BCE to 250 AD) had a very holistic view of illness and healing. Health was viewed as a balance between one’s physical condition, nature, the cosmos, etc., and various practices (such as medicinal plants, spiritual ceremonies, and spiritual guides) were used to improve health (NCFH, 2011).

Curanderismo uses many of these ancient techniques today including prayer, herbal medicine, manipulation of body parts, healing rituals, spiritualism, massage, and psychic healing (NCFH, 2011).

The term curanderismo and the term curandero (a male healer) or curandera (a female healer) come from the Spanish verb curar, which means “to heal” (Trotter & Micozzi, 2015; Trotter & Chavira, 1997). Individual healers can be either male or female and can vary widely in their knowledge of the practices and the overall system of curanderismo. This healing system is complex since it maintains cultural links to the past as well as accommodates the future of healing (Graham, 2010; Trotter & Micozzi, 2015).

Curanderismo combines aspects of both Catholicism and the traditional folk medicine of the natives of Latin America (Salazar & Levin, 2013). Spirituality and maintaining a balance and harmony with nature are at the core of curanderismo today (Tafur, Crowe, & Torres, 2009).

Historically, curanderos/as are important members of Mexican society and are held to the same standards as modern-day healthcare professionals. Many become healers after long apprenticeships but a great emphasis is placed on the person’s innate talent for healing which is typically referred to as a spiritual calling, or el don, a gift (Tafur, Crowe, & Torres, 2009; Torres & Sawyer, 2005; Trotter & Micozzi, 2015; Valdez, 2014).

Many curandero/as do not pursue their profession for profit because they believe it is a gift from a higher power. Healers refer to this concept as “developed abilities” (Trotter & Micozzi, 2015). Commonly, they use religious paraphernalia (such as pictures of saints, holy water, crosses, and altars) when healing. Most live humble lives at a subsistence level, refusing payments for their services but at times accepting small gifts or offerings (Tafur, Crowe, & Torres, 2009; Torres & Sawyer, 2005).

Curandero/as have specialties of practice (Graham, 2010; Tafur, Crowe, & Torres, 2009):

  • Yerberos/as are herbalists specializing in botanical remedies
  • Parteras are midwives
  • Sobadoros/as specialize in massage
  • Espiritualistos/as are psychic mediums
  • Senores/as read tarot cards

Many curandero/as have multiple specialties and work on many levels, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual realms in order to diagnose and cure illnesses (Tafur, Crowe, & Torres, 2009)

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Domain of OT

Course Expires:

February 05, 2021

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.