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.