• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!



Page history last edited by Kelly Hazejager 14 years ago

Inca Medicine


Inca medicine is a complicated mix of many practices and beliefs. They believe that sicknesses were the work of supernatural forces. Also if an Inca broke a law, sinned against any god or lied, it was enough reason to become sick. Their religion and healthcare were very closely intertwined, as Inca priests were also doctors, and the cures they used were often more magic than medicine since they used charms, chants and spells. Still, to cure someone, they used herbs and minerals with prayers and magic spells. Yet the Inca doctor’s were more advanced than the Europeans at the time.


The Inca civilization had an extent supply of knowledge about how to treat many sicknesses. They knew how to cure, among others, urinary track and respiratory disorders, such as the cough and bronchitis, and how to treat sickness in the immune system by increasing the amount of white blood cells or leukocytes. Also they were able to alleviate dysentery, ulcers, eye problems, lice and toothaches.


To cure all these diseases the Inca had many remedies, anesthetics and anti-biotic. Many of these were medicinal plants since the Inca knew the medicinal properties. For example, some painkillers were chewing coca leaves, also to lessen hunger as the Chasqui messengers did, yet, according to research, the Inca were not addicted to coca leaves, using wild tobacco, drinking chicha, hypnosis and drinking maize beer. There were also natural antiseptics such as balsam and saponins; they were plants that had soap-like characteristics. The Inca’s also managed to accomplish blood transfusion. The success rate was quite high since many of the Inca were from the same blood group.


There were many methods that the Inca used to treat wounds. They would use boiled bark from a pepper tree while it was still warm, and then place it on the wound. Also, they would burn the wounds to prevent any infection. To just close a wound they would use the jaws from large ants as a clasp to seal the wound. A major accomplishment of the Inca was performing surgery. The Inca surgeons managed to often and successfully take away small pieces of the patient’s hand to treat a head injury. They could remove crushed or diseased limbs, and perform brain surgery. The operation on the brain is called trepanation and has been carried out since AD 1000. Today there is even a similar procedure that relieves pressure in the skull. Over the years, remains have shown researchers that the oldest skulls had no healing bone, so the operation was probably fatal. Yet over the years the surgery was standardized and perfected, and in the 1400’s, the survival rate was around 90% and there were low infection levels. The surgeons were quite skilled, as they knew detailed information about cranial anatomy, not to cut parts of the skull where brain injury, bleeding or infections were more likely. They had different methods of operating on the skull and they varied over time. Yet the chosen method was to scrape the skull since that didn’t cause wider injury. Many people underwent this ordeal, some even undergoing it more than once. There was even an individual who had the surgery 7 times. The patients were mostly adult men to treat injuries during combat, but also to cure epilepsy or chronic bone infection.


There were many different people involved in the Inca healthcare. There were different types of doctors, and one of them was the Watukk. Their job was to find out the origin of the sickness, to diagnose the patient and to examine the person’s life. Then there was also the Hanpeq, who had applied their knowledge about disease and then cure the patient using herbs and minerals. They were like a shaman, being very religious, mystical and using natural medicine. The Paqo was in charge of the treatment of the soul, the Inca believed the soul was in the heart, and to make sure the spirit was healthy. Villages had their own Sancoyoc or surgeon priest who would take care of broken limbs, open absusses, and pull out teeth. There were also suppliers of medicine. A Hampi Camayoc was a keeper of authorized remedies and a state chemist. A Collahuaya would supply medicinal plants, amulets and lucky charms.


Becoming a doctor was not an easy journey. First of all it was passed from father to son. Then that son was off to the Inca School of Medicine of Cuzco where he would learn about herbs and mineral properties, how to recognize known sicknesses and how to treat them. It would take an Inca many years of practice before he was considered a doctor. The most skillful of surgeons traveled with the army or treated nobles from large cities. These doctors were always looking for new remedies and improving old cures, which resulted in great medical development.




·      Andrushko, Valerie. Inca Skull Surgery. N.d. National Geographic. N.p., n.d.

     Web. 21 Jan. 2010. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/bigphotos/


·      Inca Doctors. N.d. Peru Travel Confidential. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2010.


·      "Inca Empire-Medicine." Global Oneness. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2010.


·      "Inca Medicine." Peru Travel Confidential. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2010.


·      Norris, Scott. "Inca Skull Surgeons Were 'Highly Skilled' Study Finds."

     National Geographic Daily News. National Geographic Society, 12 May

     2008. Web. 13 Jan. 2010. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/


  • Wood, Tim. "Doctors." See through History-The Incas. New York: Viking, 1996. 35.



Crossword Puzzle Answers


2. The Inca were more advanced than the EUROPEANS at the time.

3. A doctor who would find out the origin of the sickness and diagnose the patient. WATUKK

4. To become a doctor, the son must go to the Inca School of Medicine of CUZCO.

5. Keeper of authorized remedies and a state chemist. HAMPI CAMAYOC

7. A doctor who would treat the patient's soul. PACO

9. A doctor who was like a shaman and would treat the patient. HANPEQ

10. Balsam and Saponins were used as ANTISEPTICS.

11. Brain surgery. TREPANATION

13. Chewing coca leaves, wild tobacco, maize beer are used as a PAINKILLER.

14. Inca priests were also DOCTORS.

15. In the 1400's, 90% SURVIVE the brain surgery.

(There was a typo on 15 down, the word survive was not supposed to be included in the clue)



1. Burning the woudns would prevent INFECTION.

4. A supplier of medicinal plants, amulets and lucky charms. COLLAHUAYA

6. The chosen method to penetrate the skull was SCRAPING.

8. Becoming a doctor was passed from FATHER to son.

10. Skillful surgeons traveled with the ARMY or treated nobles from large cities.

12. Boiled bark from a PEPPER tree was used to place on a wound.

16. The village's surgeon priest. SANCOYOC

17. The inca managed to have a high success rate of BLOOD transfusion.

18. Sicknesses were the work of SUPERNATURAL forces.






Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.