Shoshana Berenzon*, Nayelhi Saavedra*
The objective of this paper is to examine the use of herbal medicine as a tool for treating emotional problems. The narration of folk healers from Mexico City is the main source of information. Viesca (1993) indicates that herbalmedicine can be studied from two different approaches. One of them is to study the properties and pharmacological characteristics of the plants. The second approach is to study medicinal plants within their cultural surroundings, that is, to explore what people think about medicinal plants, why they use them and how they justify its use. This last approach was chosen to carry out this research.Introduction. In ancient Mexico, disease was conceived as the result of the action of the gods and entities from the infraworld; these characters caused an imbalance that lead to diverse diseases (Lozoya, 1998). According to the latter, pre hispanic medicine helped the patient restore balance in two different ways. First, through magical-religious practices and prayers; second, through the therapeuticproperties of plants and other natural products. As a general rule, both therapeutic procedures were applied simultaneously (Somolinos, 1976). The main testimonies about the use of plants in traditional medicine are modest and were written by the first missioners. The most important documents are "The General History of the things of New Spain" by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún; "The Badiano Codex"; "Thenatural history of the New Spain" and "The second letter of relation" (Somolinos 1976; Viesca 1976) . Pre Hispanic healers had a considerable knowledge about the curative effects of diverse plants, but they believed that each plant also had a mystical component. For this reason, before cropping, curing and preparing the plant a special ritual was necessary (Lozoya, 1998). The use of the plantschanged upon the Spaniards’ arrival. The cultural, magic and religious components were suppressed. Nevertheless, some healers continued using medicinal plants during the Colony as a core resource to treat any disease (Aguirre, 1963).
During the XIX Century pharmacology was born along with the industrial production of pills, tonics, etc. This development marked subsequent study of medicinalplants; the main concern was to identify the active components. At the present time, the Mexican herbal medicine, as the empirical use of the plants for the treatment of diverse diseases, has a historical dimension. Currently Mexican herbal medicine has fused with pre hispanic knowledge, Spanish medicine and current urban medicine. During the past years, other elements such as medical practices fromChina and India have also been incorporated (Hersch, 1999). On the other hand, there has been a fast development of phytopharmaceutics (medicines extracted from plants). Such products, as well as Mexican medicinal flora, are rigorously studied from different perspectives and disciplines (Lozoya, 1998). Methods. The narration of 13 folk healers from Mexico City is the main source of information. Aqualitative approach was used in this study. The first step consisted on selecting the health-disease and healing techniques issues to be studied. Subsequently, data collection sources and techniques (interview and observation guides) were selected. Theoretical sampling (Glasser and Strauss, 1967) was the strategy used to select informants. In this case, the number of people interviewed is not asimportant as the information they provide to study and interpret the subjects of interest. The process finishes when interviews with additional informants do not produce new information for understanding the phenomenon; this process is known as saturation. Interviews were recorded and later transcribed. The interview guide included several topics, however, this paper only presents information...