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Piedra de Azufre — Ancient Back Relief Secret of the Charrúa Indians

Posted Feb 17 2009 12:00am
By Wendy Montes de Oca 01/23/2009

sulfur stones After complaining to my husband, Jose, about what felt like an “air pocket” trapped in my back, I asked him to get a Motrin for me.  To my surprise, instead of handing me that little orange tablet we’ve become all too familiar with, he showed me a small, yellow stone that he proceeded to roll around the affected area of my back.  Almost immediately, I felt relief similar to when a chiropractor or massage therapist cracks your back or rubs out a knot.

Jose, who is from Uruguay, told me it’s called piedra de azufre (sulfur stone or brimstone).  Originally used by the Charrúa Indians, piedra de azufre has long been recognized in South America as a topical remedy to help alleviate aches, pains, and gas pockets trapped in the upper and lower back and neck muscles.

I have been fortunate to learn about and experience the healing properties of piedra de azufre solely through my husband and extended family who brought the stones here from Uruguay.

The smooth, tubular shape of the stone is molded for ease of use and comfort you simply place it in the palm of your hand then slowly roll it up and down the painful area of the back or neck.

If the source of pain is due to excess pockets of trapped gas, you’ll hear snaps and crackles in the stone similar to the sound of Rice Krispies in milk.  Eventually, when the stone has absorbed all the gas it can hold, it cracks.  After its use, you can dunk the stone into a clear glass of water and literally see the gas bubbles being released… gasses that were in your back.

According to the Natural Health and Longevity Resource Center,1 sulfur has a unique action on body tissues.  It actually decreases the pressure inside the cell and removes fluids and toxins, thereby lessening pain.  In addition, the Wellness Advocate2 agrees that sulfur has positive attributes in the reduction of pain, inflammation, muscle spasm, and formation of scar tissue around arthritis joints.

For “gringos” or foreigners of South America, obtaining one of these powerful stones could be challenging.  Overseas, they’re mostly available in native grocery stores or pharmacies that sell natural cosmetics and crystals.  Here in the US, you may find them at ethnic specialty stores in communities with a Uruguayan or Argentine population.  The cost in the U.S. is around $2.50 per stone.  In Uruguay, the cost is equivalent to around $0.50 each.

You can try to find piedra de azufre on the web; however, it will likely be on Spanish language websites such as or You can also try targeted search portals like Google Uruguay or Google Argentina.

If like me, you’re lucky enough to experience this non-intrusive, non-chemical, and safe way of relieving minor aches and pains, then you too can go from skeptic to believer and benefit from what the indigenous people of Uruguay have known for thousands of years.

So next time you’re ready to reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever, consider the potent healing properties of piedra de azufre and enjoy a therapeutic stone massage that will help your back… and your spirit.


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