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Honestly I was on my way to the supermarket but I saw the chance to pass on some interesting Cotacachi health information – the Aloe Vera drink seller had caught my eye.

Juan and his aloe vera drink

Turns out that Juan has been here in Cotacachi for 3 years married to a local lady but originally he is from the city of Cajamarca in Peru. There he learnt from his grandfather how to prepare what I call the Aloe Vera drink concoction – otherwise known as sabila here in Cotacachi.

His previous customer urges me “drink it, drink it, it’s really good for you”. How could I say no?When in Cotacachi do as the Cotacacheños do.

cotacachi health information - juan prepares the aloe vera drink

Here in Cotacachi he gets up earlier than I care to contemplate to be on the road and selling to early risers at 5am. By midday he’s all done.

Juan buys the aloe vera in Cotacachi but it’s shipped up from the sub-tropical Intag valley just 40 miles away. He buys local honey from the market in Otavalo.

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Here’s how he starts, he separates the aloe vera from the green plant using a knife and a rapid scraping action. After he has a fair amount in the bottom of a jug he adds some water. Honey too.

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Add to that crushed linseeds too. It’s a pretty viscous solution by now but Juan has a practiced technique – pour it from one jar to another to somehow make it less gooey.

aloe vera being prepared

  Just for good measure the stone-breaker plant is added. While Juan is at it he also adds Boldo, a Chilean plant.

All the plants and herbs reputedly promote good intestinal, liver, gall bladder and kidney well-being. Here is what Wikipedia says about the stone-breaker plant called chanca piedra in Spanish.

“The plant has long been used as an herbal remedy for urinary calculi, and has been shown in modern medical research studies to reduce the risks of stones in individuals prone to the condition. Research on the plant continues to determine if it has any other beneficial effects. It may have antiviral activity.”

And about Boldo .. “..In Latin America and Spain, boldo is also used as a form of herbal medicine, particularly to support the gallbladder, but also to calm upset stomachs. In Chile, it is frequently mixed with yerba mate or other teas to moderate its flavor. In Brazil, many families keep a boldo plant at home for this purpose, although boldo teabags are readily available in nearly all supermarkets.”

Then to serve this concoction in a more palliative form Juan heats it using a liitle gas fired burner hidden away inside his ‘seen-better-days’ mobile serving trolley.

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And in the interests of promoting the local’s Cotacachi health information here is what Juan claims for his aloe vera drink!! …..

Cotacachi health information from Juan
Cures the liver, kidneys, cholesterol, urinary tract and ulcers

And here’s what I say!! It’s surprisingly not bad! The taste is ok and it kind of slimes down your throat quickly enough that I didn’t feel any ill affects.

Steve enjoys Juan's aloe vera drink

This is cheap preventative medicine at 50 cents a glass and if it’s effective then who can dispute the value? I’m not sure I want to drink it every day but plenty of folks do and who in the end would argue against the wisdom of the ages handed down from Andean grandfathers for the benefit of all who live in Cotacachi.

Living in or visiting other cultures is always intriguing – see you down here for more shared adventures!

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