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Table 3 Diagnostic methods used in empirical medicine in the Saraguro community

From: Traditional medicine applied by the Saraguro yachakkuna: a preliminary approach to the use of sacred and psychoactive plant species in the southern region of Ecuador

Type of diagnosis

Description of the method

Direct physical examination of the patient

The yachak observes the patient’s face, eyes, or tongue, for example, when diagnosing susto or espanto.

Observation of the urine

The yachak observes the patient’s urine, for example, when diagnosing an intestinal inflammation.

Patient’s pulse

The yachak observes the patient’s pulse; for example, the healer can determine if the patient is worried or has a nervous condition that must be treated.

Limpia (cleaning) with an egg

The yachak passes a chicken egg over the area to be treated. The egg is then deposited in a glass with water. The healer observes the egg and then he/she establishes the diagnosis, for example, when diagnosing vaho de aire.


This method is used to determine whether there is any broken bone or muscle contracture. It is also used by the wachakhampiyachak (midwife) to determine the position of the fetus during pregnancy.

Visionary methods

This method is used by visionary yachak. Under the effect of hallucinogenic species and/or psychoactive preparations, the yachak reaches a state of ecstasy. In this state, the healer can determine the problem that affects a person and how to treat it, for example, when diagnosing shuka or envy.