"SHAMANS ARE KEEPERS OF THE FOREST AND HEALERS OF THE PEOPLE."
"AMAZON SHAMANS ARE EXPERTS AT THE USES OF THE MANY MEDICINAL PLANTS AND TREES THAT GROW IN THE AMAZON RAINFOREST."
The Amazon has more than 40,000 species of plants, and more than 16,000 species of trees. Some of them are contain important medicinal compounds…a rainforest pharmacy.
As one of the most biodiverse areas of the world, the Amazon Rainforest has great potential as a source for medicinal plants. Only a small percentage of the plants in the Amazon have been tested for active compounds that could be used medicinally in modern medicine. It is important to preserve the plants themselves and the knowledge about how they are used medicinally.
Heliconia Lodge — on the banks of the Amazon River outside of Iquitos, Peru — is host to the Medicinal Plant Trail, where the medicinal plants grow wild in the forest. Our Living Amazon Project works with the local shaman to identify and label these medicinal plants, so that tourists and other interested groups learn for themselves in an expert naturalist guided tour along Heliconia’s Medicinal Plant Trail.
Amazonian Medicinal Plants Database:
Published by the Instituto de Investigación de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), a well-respected science and technological research institution specializing in thesustainable use of biological diversity in the Amazon region.
As a pharmacist I am aware that some 25% of modern prescription drugs contain at least one compound derived or patterned after compounds derived from plants. What medicinal chemists are desperately seeking to cure modern maladies, Mother Nature often already has in stock. Mother Nature is still the cheapest and the best chemist.
Tropical rainforests, such as in the Amazon, are called the ‘world’s largest pharmacy’. Indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest have used various plants since antiquity as remedies and cures for their health and survival. Scientists are now discovering that many of these botanicals are potentially valuable sources for new drugs to treat cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Anticancer drugs, quinine for malaria, curare as a muscle relaxant, are only a few of the helpful drugs have already been discovered from Amazon botanicals. We owe our relief from diseases and maladies to many of the Amazon medicinal plants that have become modern medicines.
Not only are medicinal plants of the Amazon facing extinction, but so is the knowledge of where to find and how to use these medicinal plants. Such plant wisdom is kept alive by generations of shamans and traditional healers. With the disappearance of the Amazon indigenous cultures, and along with that the disappearance of village shamans, comes the disappearance of the traditions and knowledge of medicinally useful plants from the Amazon. We still have a chance to document them.
Time is running out. Our forests and plant lore are dying out. Every time a forest in the Amazon is felled, it is as if a corner pharmacy has closed its doors. Every time a native healer or shaman dies, the keepers of the plant lore, a virtual library of knowledge dies with them.
The people of the jungle, usually the shamans, are the keepers of the medicinal plant lore. Plants are their medicine. Shamans are medicinal plant experts, as well as the village doctors. Without the plant knowledge handed down through the generations of these shamans, the indigenous people of the deep jungles — and many of us in the modern world — would not be as healthy today.
Connie Grauds, RPh, MNPA
Living Amazon Project Director
Author of Amazon Speaks…stories for the spirit now available on Amazon.com . Click here for the book.