Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

Lessons with Lucy: Guaje Cirial con Jerez, an Asthma Treatment

March 28th, 2013 | Posted by Brianna in Mexico | Oh

Our hosts, Lucy and Sergio, are incredibly sweet and sincere. Sergio’s family has lived on the property for more than 100 years, and Lucy, though originally from Mexico City, makes their house a home. They have made every effort to ensure that we have everything that we could possibly need, greeting us with warmth and kind conversation when we see them but fully respecting our time and privacy otherwise. Throughout the month, I have had the privilege of spending a few evenings with Lucy, learning small lessons from her amidst laughter and conversation in our cozy yellow kitchen.

Taking My TreatmentFor the last six years, I’ve had breathing issues. Sometimes I think I know what the problem is and other times I don’t. Doctors have called it asthma and reactive airways and taken chest x-rays and blood samples. They’ve given me daily inhalers and rescue inhalers and steroids and pills and dietary changes. Results vary. Fortunately, I don’t have big attacks, but I take deep breaths every few minutes on bad days, every few hours on good days, and haven’t felt fully in control of my airways since it started in 2007. Some people notice it, most often those I work with, and it is not out of the ordinary for it to come up in conversation (usually signalling that one of my terrible avoidance lines is coming: “Are you okay?” “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I just don’t breathe very well…”).

In one of the more fun reactions I’ve ever gotten from this awkward situation, Lucy responded by telling me that her mom is a “natural doctor” and she has a treatment for me that involves a shot each morning and evening of some beverage made from ingredients that I couldn’t understand. This concoction, she said, is used to cure coughs and bronchitis, but has been known to work on asthma as well. I don’t cough or weeze, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to drink up some natural healing.

Lucy called her mom to get all of the details, and then we set off to the Juarez Market in Oaxaca for some shopping. The Juarez Market is huge and packed with an enormous variety of products from hanging slabs of raw meat to rows of dresses and stacked cages of pets to stalls full of handmade leather goods. The walkways are narrow and despite that, women from the local villages sit along them to sell food and fried grasshoppers, and small children run and ride tricycles through the crowd. Lucy and I were in search of an herbalist with a supply of guaje cirial (pronounced gwa-hay see-ree-al), which I have since learned is a gourd, possibly referred to as a calabash in English. The first few booths we went to were fresh out, but each vendor sent us on to their nearest neighbor and eventually we found one that Lucy deemed worthy and a good enough price at 35 pesos ($2.80 USD). She handed me the sphere of soon-to-be medicine, showing me that if I shook it, the core inside bounced around against the hard shell. We then proceeded to a corner store with a wall full of liquor, where Lucy asked for jerez (pronounced hair-ez) and was handed a bottle whose label read “Vino Generoso – Tipo Jerez – Tres Coronas – Oro Dulce.” Translated, that’s “Fortified Wine – Jerez Type – Three Crowns – Sweet Gold.” At 47.5 pesos ($3.80 USD) and with a descriptor like “sweet gold”, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a quality bottle of alcohol.

A couple of nights later, Lucy came over to prepare and prescribe my treatment. She broke open the shell of the guaje cirial, breaking off pieces until she could remove the ball inside. This core, which we would cut into pieces and drop into the jerez for its wonderful healing properties, resembled a clump of mold or ash or a piece of trash or maybe a bit of unidentifiable road kill. No turning back now though. After letting the mixture sit for a few days, I began my treatment with a shot each morning and one each evening. The drink is syrupy and sherry-like. It doesn’t feel bad, but the smell and taste are less than appetizing. As for the effectiveness, I’ve yet to decide. Our bodies are complex machines responding to hundreds of different external variables every day. If I’m feeling good, I’m hesitant to attribute it wholey to the jerez as opposed to a dairy-free diet or consistent inhaler use. That said, if my liaison to the natural doctor recommended a second round of “treatment”, I can’t say I’d turn it down.

Guaje Cirial

Guaje Cirial

Tres Coronas

Adding guaje cirial to my jerez.

A pour of treatment.

Straining before drinking.

My asthma treatment.

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8 Responses

  • Jo says:

    Oooooooh….. How’s that working out? Are you maybe sometimes a bit braver than one might consider safe. :) Very interesting.

  • Tim says:

    Hi Brianna: I’ve read your article with great interest because I have been diagnosed with kidney stones in both kidneys. They are large enough my dr wants to blast them out in the hospital. Of course, the cost is unbelievable, over $14,000 for each kidney. I can’t afford that so my wife, who is Mexican blood, mentioned a concoction that some of her relatives use, involving this same particular wine, the Tipo Jerez Tres Coronas and a certain kind of fish egg, mashed up and put in the bottle. I’m having a hard time finding this particular wine and lord knows where I’ll be able to get these fish eggs. She doesn’t know what kind of fish eggs, only her distant cousin in Texas knows and he doesn’t seem to want to share. Any ideas? Have you ever heard of this? Thanks in advance for any info you can provide. Gracias!!!

    • Brianna says:

      Hola Tim! Thank you for reaching out and so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I have not heard about this fish egg concoction, but I’m not all that surprised to. We learned about a number of uses like that for ingredients we’d never even heard of before while chatting with Lucy! However, I found very little information online about these remedies. As for tracking down the Jerez, I would maybe suggest looking in your area for a small Mexican grocery store. Even if they don’t have what you are looking for, they may be able to direct you to a place that does. Best of luck to you!

    • Ross says:

      Hola lei tú comentario busca porfavor el rábano negro originario de Veracruz méxico se toma un pedacitoma en infusión un pedazo como de una nuez grande en un litro de agua y toma una taza en ayunas y el resto durante el día por un mes. No te desesperes incluso hay investigaciones serias de este tubérculo en la universidad de Veracruz. Y resulta que tie e muy buenos resultados. Saludos. Ross no

    • Bri says:

      I know this was forever ago, but did you by any chance figure out which fish eggs to use and also how to make this concoction? My uncle has kidney stones and I’m looking for a good remedy. Strangely I stumbled upon this post because I was looking for a different gourd curcubita perennis which is good for stones, and then my grandma remembered guaje cirial and then I saw your comment! Hopefully you still can receive these comments. Thank you!

  • edgar says:

    For how many days i should drink this beverage?



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