Occupation: Student/Library Worker
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
The informant is an 18-year-old biomedical engineering student at the University of Southern California. She is currently a freshman and grew up in Shafter, California. Shafter is about 2 hours away from Los Angeles by car. She is not particularly religious but described herself as spiritual. She was born in America, but some of the older members of her family were not.
I asked the informant if she had any remedies for aches or pains. She immediately told me of a remedy that her grandmother uses. Her grandmother is Mexican. The informant says that her grandmother uses a liquid called chuchupate to cure everything “like Windex in the My Big Fat Greek Wedding movie.” She gave several examples of when her grandmother would use chuchupate, including bruises and sprained ankles. Her father had broken his arm when he was younger and applying chuchupate apparently sped up the healing process. Unlike Windex in the movie, chuchupate is made to cure things and does not have another primary use, at least in the eyes of her family. The informant did not seem entirely convinced that the chuchupate actually did anything, but she did not think it did any harm and was subject to her grandmother applying it several times throughout her life. I inquired as to where the chuchupate was acquired and she said that her grandmother goes to Mexico to have the chuchupate liquid made for her at a medicine shop. I asked if she could get it in the United States but just chose to go to Mexico to get it, but my informant says that the compound is not available in the United States.
A quick Google search after I talked to the informant revealed that chuchupate has several other common names, including osha and bear root. In addition to the treatment of injuries as listed by the informant, the root is apparently used for curing viral and bacterial issues like sore throats and bronchitis, though not by Western doctors. I believe some of the healing power of chuchupate is in the belief that it will help. I found it interesting that my informant only listed chuchupate as beneficial to injuries, while the first few search results focused almost entirely on its use for various types of infections. Additionally, chuchupate grows readily in the United States so theoretically it is available in the US, but perhaps just not in a suitable form made in a medicine shop.