Doña Porcela is a respected traditional healer here and the bottles are filled with her secret medicinal potions.
Her patient today is a teenage girl asleep on a piece of cardboard, serving as a mattress on the dirt floor.
“Grisi Siknis turns people into witches and they go crazy,” she said.
Last year there were 65 cases of Grisi Siknis, which translates from the local Miskito language as ‘crazy sickness’.
… It behaves like a virus, sending teenager after teenager into a frenzied state followed by long periods of coma-like unconsciousness.
While Western doctors are at a loss as to how to treat this mysterious illness, Doña Porcela says she can cure people with her concoction.
“It can be drunk or bathed in,” she said. “Within three or four days, they are normal again.”
Using her herbs and candles, she performs a cleansing ceremony on sufferers and, often, on their houses too – akin to an exorcism. …
On the outskirts of Puerto Cabezas, at Uraccan University, Professor Pablo McDavis has been researching Grisi Siknis for the last few years, in the Indigenous Diseases Department.
“We have taken samples of blood from patients while suffering an attack and, in a lab, we can’t detect anything,” explains a puzzled McDavis.
“Drugs or injections tend to only increase a patient’s aggressiveness. Clinically we can’t detect anything.
“It is like an outbreak. If an attack is not contained quickly, it can spread throughout an entire community.”
So far this year there have been 46 cases of Grisi Siknis, and, as it continues to confound Western medical classification, business for Doña Porcela remains brisk.