Farmacia Reina del Cisne, Vilcabamba

Reina del Cisne – Pharmacy with a heart in Vilcabamba Ecuador

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Do pharmacies have a heart? Or are they just pill pushers? Most modern pharmacies appear to be in the business of selling as many drugs as they can per unit of time.

Not so at Reina del Cisne in Vilcabamba. This is family business since 4 generations and its current owner, Guicela Riofrio, is definitely a lady with a heart who runs her business with a gentle hand.

Where indeed, more than in a pharmacy, does one need good friendly and discrete attention?  You go there with your boo-boos, your ailments, your intimate problems. Are you expected to spit it all out to some hurried employee dressed in white overall in the middle of a crowd?

At the pharmacy Reina del Cisne you will be attended by the owner herself. She has plenty of experience, plenty of patience and will do her best to make you feel that you are in good hands. As per my usual way of collecting information for a write-up, I gave her a live interview with the camera and invited her to tell me about her story and her day to day professional life.

Farmacia Reina del Cisne, VilcabambaGuicela Riofrio

Guicela is Nelly Toledo’s daughter, the person we see on the right side of the photo below. Mrs. Toledo has dedicated her life to pharmacy as well and so had her own mother. Today, Nelly’s daughter has taken that role with the help of her own eldest daughter who we see on the left. Her youngest, also on the photo, albeit still too young to participate is no doubt watching, listening and learning.

Farmacia Reina del Cisne, Vilcabamba
Three generations working together to provide the best service

I spent a few hours in the pharmacy watching people coming in and out. It was entertaining I must say.  I was amused to watch one of two young guys who were sitting drinking beer on the pavement opposite to the pharmacy stand up, walk to the pharmacy and ask for “two pills for the liver”. One lady popped out of a car to buy two “pills for the flu” (whatever that might be)… There is a pill for everything. Then an old lady, “Luchita” was her name, needed new rubber gloves for her kitchen but had trouble remembering her size. So Guicela spent about 15 minutes assessing whether a number 7 or a number 8 was best putting the lady’s hand on top of the shrink wrapped gloves.

Paciencia y cortesia
Trying out the rubber gloves

Privacy is important, she told me. “Many times, people only want to talk to me. We move a little to a corner so that no one can hear. Some times they want to show me a pimp, a lesion, some rash and that is not something people want to do in public of course”.

Watching these people I mentioned above buying “liver pills” or “flu pills” didn’t sound too good to my natural medicine oriented ears and made me want to ask Guicela about the status of health in general around Vilcabamba. She told me that it was not very good. Constipation, fatty liver, parasites in children, psychological problems as well, there is a whole range of ailments in this small paradise of Vilcabamba.

Natural medicine and pharmaceuticals, are they compatible ?

I asked here whether in her opinion there was a contradiction between natural medicine and the use of pharmaceuticals. She said no, they go hand in hand.

“Normally, people here go for natural remedies first and when it does not work  they go to see the doctor”.

“In the case of fatty liver for example, if they don’t eat less fatty food and fried stuff they won’t get better fast. They can take silimarin and B complex tablets and it will help but it is a slow process…”

I wish to make a small parenthesis here. I am not Ecuadorian, I am from Belgium and I liaise with expats in Vilcabamba and Loja, some of whom are knowledgeable in the field of natural health. These people would absolutely not agree that natural medicine and pharmaceuticals go hand in hand. On one hand, strictly speaking and in an absolute world I don’t agree either. We know that tablets interfere with the body and make natural medicine less effective.

On the other hand we don’t live in an absolute world. Now that I have observed Guicela’s world, I understand it better. It is a relative world made of real people and made out of compromises. She knows that it would be better to tell people to stop smoking, stop drinking, eat less bad fatty acids and fried stuff, eat less white rice and white bread, turn the cellphone off, go for a walk, just to give a few examples. Less pills would be necessary. She knows that and certainly does advise people about these things day in day out. It is hard though to change people’s habits. In this context of relativity, what she says about natural medicine and drugs being complementary makes sense.

“Many people come to me because they know that I try to give them other options, not just drugs”.

Medicina natural en la farmacia Reina del Cisne
A few natural products available at the pharmacy Reina del Cisne

To me this pragmatic, realistic attitude that takes into account people’s bad habits, while at the same time advising them of the other options they might have, is really what is needed in a place like Vilcabamba. That is the attitude that I witnessed. Sometime you have to give people the pill that they’re asking.

What? Anxiety and depression in Vilcabamba?

“There are many people with depression here… Family problems … Economical problems … the husband drinks … no help is available … children don’t do well at school …. “.

“Normally I try to give people something natural like valerian passionflower and chamomile… Mind altering drugs no! I almost don’t work with these.”

She surprised me when she said:

“… it is not so much the locals but more the foreigners that seem to suffer of anxiety and depression … It saddens me to watch some people getting worse over the years… There is a problem with alcohol as well”.

One in the morning and one at night
One in the morning and one at night

I asked her about her English. She laughed and told that she does understand most of what people say and can speak enough to explain a posology for example: “one tablet in the morning with breakfast and one at night”.


Enemas – Colon cleanse kit

A product that the pharmacy has sold a lot albeit almost exclusively to foreigners is the enema kit.

Kit de limpieza colonica
Colon cleanse or Enema Kit

With this kit, one can do a coffee enema. This is an ancient therapy that can be dated as far back as the Egyptian Pharaohs. Enemas are not a new fad or something that’s only performed by those obsessed with their health. It wasn’t that long ago that enemas were routinely prescribed by doctors as part of a normal cure for illness.

The enema can safely be done at home. It bears no risk whatsoever and in many cases can be very effective almost immediately. Suzy Cohen, also known as “America’s Pharmacist,” declares that coffee enemas are safe when performed by holistic physicians and even at home in her Ask The Pharmacist column. Cohen goes on to say that coffee enemas can be used as therapeutic treatment for a number of conditions, like constipation, fatigue, liver detoxification, and even cancer. Research has confirmed the effectiveness of administering therapeutic agents through the colon instead of the mouth.

If you haven’t tried before and are interested to give it a try, please contact us or contact Guicela who will contact us.


Farmacia Reina del Cisne, Vilcabamba
Guicela Riofrio – Reina del Cisne – Pharmacy with a heart in Vilcabamba Ecuador

At pharmacy Reina del Cisne, you will find something special that has become rare in our modern world: quality service and professionalism delivered by a real human being with a heart who can listen to you and give you sensible advice.

Atendiendo a "Mama Silivia"
“Mama Silivia” at Reina del Cisne Pharmacy


Guicela Riofrio
Cell: 09 80700666

Calle Bolivar Vilcabamba (near the police)

Farmacia Reina del Cisne, Vilcabamba


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