The Vilcabamba valleyVilcabamba, a small village in the foothills of the Andes of Ecuador, is internationally renowned for iis healthy population. The valley where this village is situated is also called the valley of longevity (Valle de longevidad). The reports that the people would live up to a 140 years old, subsequently proved exaggerated. Although it appears now that the residents of Vilcabamba don’t become significantly older that the people in the West, but they reach their old age in general good health and a good level of fitness. In the course of time there have been given different explanations for this.

The water in the valley of Vilcabamba appears to be particularly rich in minerals in the ideal proportions for the human body. The fruits and vegetables grown in the valley also contain high levels if antioxidants, partly because of the valleys location near the equator. The climate in the valley is best described as an eternal spring, this is also mentioned as one of the reasons for the good health of the elderly. Their active but stress-free lifestyle which they keep up until late in life is also a reason. But one of the main reasons for their good health is their diet.

The meals in Vilcabamba have traditionally been mostly vegetarian. They eat eggs and occasionally fresh cheese, but meat is only eaten at festivals. Their daily diet consists of grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans and eggs. Everything is grown locally and organic. Their daily meals also contain considerably less calories than the standard Western meals.

But as always, things are changing rapidly as people come into contact with the Western world. The new generation is increasingly adopting a Western diet, and so nowadays you will see overweight people in Vilcabamba. But the relaxed feeling in this village still pertains, which you can also feel from the local people. The good mental health of the population is also due to another reason for which the Vilcabamba valley is famous, the San Pedro cactus.

In the valley of Vilcabamba you can still find some healers (curanderos) who are known for their ritual use of the San Pedro cactus, from which they prepare a entheogenic (psychedelic) brew. This drink has been used for thousands of years in Peru as a spiritual medicine. This ancient tradition makes no distinction between the mind and the body, as in common in the Western medical model. This is one of the main reasons why the Western medical world has had such limited success with the treatment of a variety of emotional and psychological disorders. That this medicine can be of good help with these disorders is supported by a growing body of scientific evidence.

San Pedro cactus

Waterfall in Vilcabamba, EcuadorBefore you’re allowed to participate in a ceremony conducted by a curandero, you first have to fast for about 12 hours. The ceremony which lasts all night, is an experience which cannot be described with words. The brew of the San Pedro cactus is indescribably filthy and the slice of lemon you get after you drank the brew is delicious to bite in. We spent the whole night with a bonfire outside in nature with my wife, 2 other people and the curandero. For these drugs to work properly, the location where you are and your mental state is essential. So if you’ll find yourself in this area of Ecuador and you’re intrested in this medication, ask for some good advice by someone you trust and take time to process the experience. Stay for a few more days of relaxing in the valley after the ceremony.
Have a good trip!!