“Curls your hair, cleans your teeth and makes childbirth a pleasure…”



Visiting the Shaman:  Miracle Drugs from the Heart of the Jungle


“Curls your hair, cleans your teeth and makes childbirth a pleasure…” 


I didn’t discover any jungle drugs that did all that, but I did enjoy learning about the medicinal heritage we have from the Amazon Rain Forest.


Movies have been made and books have been written about the as-yet-undiscovered miracle cures waiting to be found in the Amazon Rain Forest (Sean Connery in Medicine Man is an example). 


For non-fiction, read One River, written by Wade Davis, who tells of the discovery of hidden tribes and hidden cures deep in the jungles of South America, remedies first encountered by North Americans during the 1930’s through the 1950’s.  One River is the fascinating biography of a Harvard ethno-botanist, Richard Evans Shultes.  No fiction in this volume.  Shultes was the real “medicine man.”  But, before him…


“Shamanism is arguably the oldest of spiritual endeavors, born as it was at the dawn of human awareness.”


We spent one of our most interesting afternoons in the Amazon Rain Forest with a shaman (Onorato Matshaka) who introduced us to various vines, herbs, flowers and leaves which have medicinal powers.  For anyone who thinks this approach to medicine is hocus-pocus, I suggest you chew a small portion of Cordoncillo leaf and feel how quickly it numbs your tongue, teeth and lips!  When you are in the middle of a South American jungle, there is no better therapy for a toothache.


Impotence?  The Para Para plant is just what the shaman ordered.  Who knew a shaman has a sense of humor?  At the end of the tour, we “tourists” were given a sample of this potent potion, but not too much.  Apparently, there was no emergency phone number to call if four hours later the men were still having…  Well, you know the drill.


I will leave it to the scientists to decide what medicinal magic is contained in the various concoctions the shaman uses to cure everything from fever to arthritis to cancer.  At the psycho-social-emotional level, he had brews that help with vision for people who are confused and need clarification about some life crisis.  He even offered a love potion (number nine?).


In for a dime, in for a dollar.  Sally and I drank chewed, smelled and drank everything we were offered.  Best I can tell, it did us no harm, and might have done us some good.


Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Health, Humor, Quotations, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on ““Curls your hair, cleans your teeth and makes childbirth a pleasure…”

  1. I tried to click “Like” but the site asks me to sign in and won’t accept my password. So “Like” as a Reply. 🙂

  2. Debra Branson

    Very interesting Marion. Another version of healthcare and medicine – just without the bureaucracy!

  3. Thnaks Marion for this article. I do believe we have much to learn from nature and honestly am becoming more and more comfortable with organic, natural remedies than with all the synthetic drugs that are promoted. I’m envious of your journey, my friend.

  4. Buddy

    Are addictions ever a problem there?

    • I wondered about the addiction issue too. But the short answer is yes. After all, some not so good drugs come from different trees, leaves, flowers and berries.

  5. Suzy Nicholas

    does just anyone get to meet with a shaman?

    • Good question. In our case, the visit with the Shaman was part of our Amazon tour, and included a translator. You can see in the picture of us drinking the potion that there are other people present, so it was not a one on one visit. But, he is available, from what I could gather, to individuals needing his services “who cannot afford medical help” from other doctors and clinics and hospitals. I didn’t have the feeling that he was a guru sitting on top of a mountain dispensing wisdom. I guess there is sometimes not such a clear line between medical and emotional help.

  6. Rose Ann Pistole

    We mostly, in our sophistication and technology, tend to forget that many drugs
    routinely used today started out in kitchen gardens and gatherings from the woods and
    meadow lands. You are on my idea of a trip.
    Rose Ann Pistole

  7. jearl williams

    A good place to establish a dental practice.

  8. ramin

    Great article MArion,
    Undeniable human need to nature, both in terms of nutrition and survival, is evident from the beginning of man. Most plants that are important in human nutrition are considered as part of medicinal plants, such as vegetables and condiments. Due to the importance of medicinal plants especially in the issues related to the general health (prevention and treatment), it has attracted a lot of attention. Historically
    human used and valued some plants as drugs for treating diseases, the evidence of this usage can be found on a grave in Iran, where the pollen grains of 8 medicinal plants were found around 60,000 years ago (Solecki and Shanidar 1975).

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