Ayahuasca Curandero Initiation CoursesAuthentic Study of the Shipibo Healing Tradition

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Treatment08_376sDo you feel that you are destined to be a healer?
The Ayahuasca Foundation recognizes that more and more people are responding to this call, and we have designed an educational program to facilitate their journeys on the healing path. Located in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, the Ayahuasca Curandero Initiation Courses  seek to preserve and spread the wisdom of the indigenous cultures of South America. Plant Spirit Healing is the oldest form of medicine on earth and we as a civilization are blessed that it has been developed and maintained for millenia, but its lineage is now in danger of being lost forever due to the spread of modern culture. This ancient wisdom must not perish. There are individuals like you who are ready to learn the philosophy and healing techniques of the curanderos, and now you have the opportunity to continue the heritage of Plant Medicine. By taking part in a course, you are taking part in the healing of humankind, as well as the healing of the Earth.

What Is Taught On the CoursesPhilosophy, Understanding, Methodology, and Practice


A great deal of attention is devoted to learning the healing songs of the tradition, called icaros.  Students receive an mp3 player with over a dozen icaros and the lyrics and translations.  These icaros are powerful healing teals and form the backbone of the ceremonies and the tradition as a whole, for they are a key method for communicating with the spirits.

All of the icaros are in the Shipibo language, so there is emphasis on the language to understand its basic mechanics.  Knowing phrases related to various aspects of work done with the icaros provides the ability to modify icaros for more specific purposes.

Students learn how to make ayahuasca by observing and taking part in the process.  Beyond understanding the physical process, students can experience how powerful the connection between the curanderos and spirits becomes when one works directly with the plants, most especially when making your own ayahuasca.

Mapacho, the jungle tobacco, is an important tool in the tradition.  Students learn to soplay, a technique that involves blow smoke, for various reasons.  Learning to soplay is a vital aspect of the Shipibo healing tradition.

Another essential tool for curanderos is agua florida, a perfume made from flower essences.  Students learn to soplay with this perfume, which involves spraying the liquid with the mouth.  They also learn a technique called ‘chupando’ which involves sucking through the liquid while it is in the mouth.  These are important techniques.

Plant dietas are what make curanderos.  It is through dietas that curanderos build relationships with plant spirits, strengthening connections and communication.  Ultimately, the plant spirits are the teachers, and the method by which the teachings are enhanced is through plant dietas.  Students do at least two plant dietas during each course.


Ayahuasca ceremonies form the heart of the Shipibo tradition.  Through the ceremonies, curanderos gain access to a more profound form of communication with the spirits, and important healing work is done during these ceremonies.  Students practice icaros and techniques, and discover their own navigation tools and understanding during the ceremonies.  Students lead their own ceremonies as well.

In order to lead an ayahuasca ceremony, a student must understand how to open a ceremony properly.  This process provides access for the curandero and participants to enter the spiritual dimension and for the spirits to enter into the ceremony to do work.  It is an essential part of leading ayahuasca ceremonies.

Another important understanding is how to raise and lower the mareacion, the effects of ayahuasca, in order to achieve the optimal healing environment level for the most effective work to be done.  Bringing on the effects, leveling them off, and lowering the effects are all important tools.

A great deal of healing work is accomplished in ayahuasca ceremonies.  Much of this healing is motivated and directed by the curandero, using connections built by the plant dietas and through communication provided by the icaros.  Understanding this process is obviously very important.

Ceremony participants can have a wide variety of reactions to the healing process, and sometimes, they need help.  Students learn how to help people who are overwhelmed by the experience, who are in pain, who are suffering for various reasons, in order to return them to a state where the most effective healing can be achieved.

Just as opening a ceremony is important, so is closing the ceremony.  The opening to the spiritual dimensions needs to be closed to ensure the protection of ceremony participants once they leave the safety of the ceremony space and curandero’s guidance.  Closing a ceremony is also an essential part of the process.


Plant baths are one of the main principles of the healing tradition.  Students learn how to prepare and administer these baths, and gain the understanding of how they work through direct experience and practice.

An incredible healing technique, vapor baths are another principle component to the healing tradition.  Students learn to prepare and administer vapor baths, and experience first hand the powerful effect of this important treatment method.

Purgatives form an essential part of the healing tradition.  One of the principle components of the tradition, students learn to prepare and administer several purgative treatments, and experience their effects for themselves as well.

Another treatment method is the use of inhalants that are ingested nasally.  This important method is used in various treatments.  Like most treatment methods taught during the course, students learn first hand what the effects are in order to fully understand the treatment process.

The most classic of the treatment methods, a wide variety of plant remedies are used in the healing process.  Students learn to prepare and administer some of the remedies, but there are too many to learn experientially, so the focus is usually on remedies that are needed by students themselves or family members.

A topical treatment used for a variety of conditions, poultices are also an important part of the healing process, when needed.  Students observe and assist in the preparation and administration of poultices.

 INKAN KENA School for Plant Medicine

The Ayahuasca Foundation designed their school, Inkan Kena, specifically for the Curandero Initiation Courses.  Built and owned by don Enrique, the school is the perfect place to study the healing tradition of curanderismo in the Amazon Rainforest.  Getting there from Iquitos takes about two and a half hours, which includes a 45 minute hike deep into the jungle.  The school is surrounded by medicinal plants, which don Enrique continues to plant, so that fewer trips are needed out of the area to acquire medicinal plants to make ayahuasca or prepare plant baths, vapor baths, or medicinal remedies.  The main area of the school was built around a very sacred tree within the shipibo tradition, and students on the Curandero Initiation Course now diet with that plant, a luminescent tree, of which there are two on the property.


   Six Week Curandero Initiation CoursesA Traditional Initiation into Curanderismo

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_01_376VThe Ayahuasca Curandero Initiation Course is intended for people who want to take their study of the Amazon healing arts more seriously. Students will spend 40 days in the jungle with the Shipibo curandero don Enrique and our team of healers at the Ayahuasca Foundation’s remote Curandero School, drinking ayahuasca in ceremony 18 times or more. At the root of the course, students follow true plant diets with one or two sacred and powerful plants. A major focus of the course is the use of icaros, sung during healings and in ceremonies. Therefore, the Shipibo language is also a focus, as the icaros are sung in Shipibo. This course is held at our Curandero School, located in a different part of the rainforest, and which requires a bus ride and a 45 minute hike into the jungle.

Students follow an intense but abbreviated version of a traditional, authentic shipibo initiation. The accommodations at the jungle curandero school have modern amenities like running water, a gas stove, and limited electricity. There is also limited phone service at the school, but no access to internet. The food will be prepared by our experienced staff, adhering to the traditional diet food eaten during an authentic initiation. Students receive initiate’s clothing made by the shipibo, also according to their tradition. The AF team leads this course with total attention to the students and to the teachings of the science of healing so that everyone sees, hears, experiences, and understands plant spirit healing to the most profound level possible in their six weeks in the Amazon Rainforest. The six week initiation is held three times each year, according to the course schedule.

It takes years to become a true maestro, but with the proper foundation in the principles of plant medicine, students can find their way much more easily down a path that can often times be confusing. The courses provide a basic training in these principles: how to prepare the sacred plant medicine ayahuasca, how to lead ceremonies, connect and communicate with spirits, do proper plant dietas, prepare a numerous variety of plant remedies and administer important treatment methods such as plant baths, vapor baths, purgatives, inhalants, massage, and work done with mapachos and agua florida.

Shipibo curanderos with decades of experience teach the courses, assisted by qualified, english speaking student healers, who translate the lectures and workshops led by the maestros, lead their own lectures and workshops, and contribute other complimentary methods, practices, and perspectives to enhance the learning experience. The opportunity to study in this way is rare but important in an age where the wisdom of these healing traditions is so desperately needed to restore balance to the world. It will take many more healers on the planet to achieve that balance, and the Ayahuasca Foundation strives to educate and train the future healers of the world.

Cost of the Six Week Initiation Course: US$4250The $4250 price includes:

• Pre-program counseling session with
Gain insights into preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally

• Accommodations for three nights at a hotel in Iquitos
For the first night and last two nights of the course – the hotel has wi-fi

• Accommodations for 38 nights at the Inkan Kena School
Rustic accommodations with running water and limited electricity

• Transportation to and from the School
Comfortable buses take students to the trail to hike in

• At least two meals a day, always following the ‘dieta’ in the jungle
Fresh fruit, juice, eggs, steamed vegetables, rice, lentils, quinoa, grilled fish, potatoes, etc.

• Up to 19 traditional ayahuasca ceremonies
There may only be 17 or 18 ceremonies depending on the flow of the course

• An mp3 player with don Enrique’s icaros to learn
Listening to the icaros is a huge help for learning them

• Translation of all lectures, presentations, workshops, and discussions
Course assistants will also add their own experiences, teachings, and explanations

• Hand made ceremonial tunic
All made by the shipibo tribe in the traditional style

• Medical treatment for any conditions
Don Enrique will attend to all the students’ afflictions

• Healing tools like mapachos and agua florida
Essential for the study of curanderismo

• USB of photos taken and ceremony recordings from the course
Ceremonies will be recorded and photos will be taken during the course

• Many more gifts and educational items that you’ll pick up along the way 
You’ll receive other gifts and healing tools as well

• Post-program counseling session with
Discuss your experiences and the process of integration when you get home

An Example Itinerary for the Course:A Daily Schedule of Workshops, Lectures, and Activities

The content of each course is guided by the plant spirits and catered to the specific group of students participating in that course. Therefore, it is difficult to provide an accurate timeline or schedule. Below is an example of what took place during a previous course and can demonstrate the amount and variety of content covered.

SUNDAY: Arrive and stay in a hotel for one night. Meet the other students and curandero.
MONDAY: Go to curandero school and settle in. Ceremony discussion.  CEREMONY #1
TUESDAY: Take a powerful purgative called Sangre de Grado. Dieta discussion.
WEDNESDAY: Begin the first plant dieta with a two day fast. Vapour baths begin. Talk on consciousness. CEREMONY #2
THURSDAY: Tobacco and soplaying/Ceremony preparation workshop with mapacho.
FRIDAY: Have hands painted to signify the diet. Vapor baths begin.  CEREMONY #3
SATURDAY: Continue vapor baths. Workshop on healing songs called Icaros. Introduction to mindfulness meditation.

SUNDAY: Continue vapor baths.  Icaros workshop. Talk on history of ceremonial tobacco and perfume. CEREMONY #4
MONDAY: Continue vapor baths with students administering them to each other.
TUESDAY: Take second purgative called Pinon Blanco. Workshop on communicating with your diet. CEREMONY #5
WEDNESDAY: Cold water baths preparation and administration.  Practice Icaros.
THURSDAY: Plant baths continue. Talk on visions and spirit contact.  CEREMONY #6
FRIDAY: Baths continue. Workshop on shipibo language and culture.  Icaros workshop.
SATURDAY: Baths continue. Workshop on opening/running a ceremony. CEREMONY #7

SUNDAY: Baths, workshop on ceremony procedure continues.  Practice icaros.
MONDAY: Baths. Ceremonial techniques: soplando and chupando.  CEREMONY #8
TUESDAY: Workshop on cooking ayahuasca.  Students prepare the medicine.
WEDNESDAY: Ayahuasca preparation continues. Practice Icaros.  CEREMONY #9
THURSDAY: Finish ayahuasca preparation. Rest and relax.
FRIDAY: First inhalant, preparation and administration. Icaros workshop. CEREMONY #10
SATURDAY: Half way point in course.  Review with curandero/assistant healers.

SUNDAY: Begin second diet (optional), starting with a two day fast.  CEREMONY #11
MONDAY: The 2nd half of the course features curandero-guided student-led ceremonies. Take third purgative.
TUESDAY: Walk around the camp/jungle learning about plants. CEREMONY #12
WEDNESDAY: Plant remedy workshop: remedies for a variety of conditions. Workshop on the Doctrine of Signatures.
THURSDAY: Students prepare and take second series of cold baths. Practice Icaros. CEREMONY #13
FRIDAY: Another plant walk to learn about plants and their properties and uses. Workshop on plant communication.
SATURDAY: Students prepare another bath.  Practice Icaros. Loving/kindness meditation introduced.   CEREMONY #14

SUNDAY: Another plant remedy workshop.  Plant baths.  Icaros, techniques.
MONDAY: Talk on herbalism/household plant rememdies.  CEREMONY #15
TUESDAY: Take another powerful purgative and complete the cleansing process.
WEDNESDAY: Workshop for therapeutic massage.  Icaros. CEREMONY #16
THURSDAY: Talk about plants contained in all baths, amazonian and international alternatives given.
FRIDAY: Course begins to wind down.  Practice and review. CEREMONY #17
SATURDAY: Final questions about the future as healers in their home countries.

SUNDAY: Relax and work on personal areas that need work.  CEREMONY #18
MONDAY: Practice the dieta ending dances and icaros.  Relax.
TUESDAY: Final ceremony led by curandero. Receive Arcanas. CEREMONY #19
WEDNESDAY: Diet ends with a sacred ceremony. Enjoy delicious food and relax.
THURSDAY: Head back to town and spend the night in Iquitos. Internet, laundry, etc.
FRIDAY: Shopping for needed items like palo santo, sangre de grado, or gifts.
SATURDAY: Receive course certificates and DVDs. Say your goodbyes…

Each course is different and the itinerary is subject to change according to the flow of the course.  Daily routines that include meditation, yoga, or other disciplines will be offered.  The plants used in the dietas, baths,  vapor baths, and remedies are all subject to change for each course.   Material may be added or changed, and the order of workshops and discussions may also change for any particular course.  We continue to improve the course each time, so the changes may not yet be reflected on the website.

Six and Ten Week Initiation Course Schedule:Upcoming courses at the Inkan Kena School

Dates Available Spots Name Register
January 10 - February 20, 2016 0 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250
March 27 - May 7, 2016 9 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250
June 12 - August 20, 2016 3 10 Week Advanced Course – $6450
October 9 - November 19, 2016 9 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250

   Ten Week Advanced Initiation CoursesA Deep Immersion into Shipibo Curanderismo

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_02_376sThis course is similar to the six week Ayahuasca Initiation Course, but goes much more in depth. It provides students with the greatest opportunity to learn the healing tradition of curanderismo. It is truly an amazing experience to diet with the plants and receive teachings from genuine authentic shipibo curanderos as well as from long time students of the tradition, who are great examples of what new students are striving to achieve. The course provides a very unique opportunity to diet with one of the most powerful plants in the Amazon Rainforest. This luminescent tree is vary rare, and we are lucky to have two of them near the Curandero School, which was built in its location because of its proximity to these trees. The Curandero School is located in a different part of the Amazon Rainforest than our healing retreat center, and requires a 90 minute bus ride and a 45 minute hike to get there.

More than just an extended version of the Initiation Course, students in the Advanced Course will have a much more complete teaching, with the chance to lead two ceremonies each on their own, as well as perform much more of the healing treatments than provided in the six week course. The Advanced Initiation Course is the equivalent of what would normally take a year or more of study in the jungle. This is definitely not a vacation. It is an intense immersion into the world of curanderismo and the plant spirit healing traditions of the Shipibo. It is intended for people who have had experience with ayahuasca or shamanic practices and want to go much deeper in the work. It is for people who truly wish to be curanderos. The six week course is a fantastic introduction, but if you are definitely sure that this is the path for you, the Advanced Intiation Course is the best option available.

Cost of the Ten Week Advanced Initiation: US$6450The $6450 price includes:

• Pre-program counseling session with
Gain insights into preparing mentally, physically, and emotionally

• Accommodations for two nights at a hotel in Iquitos
The first night, during the break, and the last two nights – the hotel has wi-fi

• Accommodations for sixty-six nights at the  Jungle Camp
Rustic accommodations in beautiful jungle settings

• Transportation to and from the Camp
Comfortable buses take students to the trail to hike in

• At least two meals a day, always following the ‘dieta’  in the jungle
Fresh fruit, juice, eggs, steamed vegetables, rice, lentils, quinoa, grilled fish, potatoes, etc.

• Up to 32 traditional ayahuasca ceremonies
There may only be 30 or 31 ceremonies depending on the flow of the course

• An mp3 player with the curanderos’ icaros to be learned
Being able to repeatedly listen to the 18 icaros is a huge help for learning them

• Translation of all lectures, presentations, workshops, and discussions
Course assistants will also add their own experiences, teachings, and explanations

• Medical treatment any illnesses and conditions
The curanderos will attend to all the students’ afflictions

• Healing tools like mapachos, agua florida, and massage pomades
Essential for the study of curanderismo

• DVDs of photos taken and ceremony recordings from the course
Ceremonies will be recorded and pictures will be taken during the course

• Many more gifts and educational items that you’ll pick up along the way 
You’ll receive other gifts and healing tools as well

• Post-program counseling session with
Discuss your experiences and the process of integration when you get home

An Example Itinerary for the Course:A Daily Schedule of Lectures, Workshops and Activities

The content of each course is guided by the plant spirits and catered to the specific group of students participating in that course. Therefore, it is difficult to provide an accurate timeline or schedule. Below is an example of what took place during a previous course and can demonstrate the amount and variety of content covered.

SUNDAY: Arrive and stay in a hotel for one night. Meet the other students and curandero.
MONDAY: Go to the school and settle in. Ceremony discussion.  CEREMONY #1
TUESDAY: Take a powerful purgative called Sangre de Grado to clean out the stomach.
WEDNESDAY: Begin the first plant dieta with a two day fast.  CEREMONY #2
THURSDAY: Tobacco and soplaying/ceremony preparation workshop with mapacho.
FRIDAY: Have hands painted to signify the diet.  Plant baths begin.  CEREMONY #3
SATURDAY: Continue plant baths with students administering them to each other.

SUNDAY: Continue plant baths with other plant preparation.  CEREMONY #4
MONDAY: Continue plant baths.  Healing song (icaro) group workshop.
TUESDAY: Vapor bath preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #5
WEDNESDAY: Continue with vapor baths with students giving the baths.
THURSDAY: Vapor baths continue.  Agua Florida workshop.  CEREMONY #6
FRIDAY: Pinon blanco cleanse.  Meditation. Vision navigation discussion.
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #7

SUNDAY: Jungle walk to learn about plant identification and medicinal properties.
MONDAY: Another medicinal plant preparation workshop.  CEREMONY #8
TUESDAY: Rest and relax for a day. Practice soplaying and singing the icaros.
WEDNESDAY: Medicinal plant discussion, connecting with the spirits.  CEREMONY #9
THURSDAY: Take part in the preparation of the sacred brew ayahuasca.
FRIDAY: Continue ayahuasca preparation.  Cushma charging. CEREMONY #10
SATURDAY: Finish ayahuasca preparation.  First plant dieta ends.

SUNDAY: Go into town for a three day break.  Recharge and Relax.
MONDAY: Have fun, eat some good food, communicate with friends and family.
TUESDAY: Last day of break. Have dinner together with the group.
WEDNESDAY: Return to the camp. Prepare for ceremonies. CEREMONY #11
THURSDAY: Second plant dieta begins with a two day fast…
FRIDAY: Student-led ceremonies begin… CEREMONY #12
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.

SUNDAY: Bone and joint alignment and therapeutic massage workshop. More icaros. CEREMONY #13
MONDAY: Walk in the jungle to learn more about the plants and the medicinal properties.
TUESDAY: Student led ceremonies continue. Vision discussion. CEREMONY #14
WEDNESDAY: Experience back to back ceremonies… CEREMONY #15
THURSDAY: Continue to practice, going over any questions with the curandero & guides.
FRIDAY: Study the icaros and practice soplaying, chupando. CEREMONY #16
SATURDAY: Workshops on diagnosing illnesses, finding plant remedies…

SUNDAY: Discussions on shipibo translations of icaros.  CEREMONY #17
MONDAY: Review of soplaying, chupando, opening the ceremony properly.
TUESDAY: Learning a new icaro.  Group singing workshop.  CEREMONY #18
WEDNESDAY: Meditation continues with new technique.  Journey work…
THURSDAY: Review of Agua florida workshop. Perfumes…  CEREMONY #19
FRIDAY: Vision discussions. Meditations continue. Practice the icaros.
SATURDAY: Medicinal plant remedy preparation and administration.  CEREMONY #20

SUNDAY: Jungle walk to learn about plant identification and medicinal properties.
MONDAY: Another medicinal plant preparation workshop.  CEREMONY #21
TUESDAY: Rest and relax for a day. Practice soplaying and singing the icaros.
WEDNESDAY: Connecting with the spirits workshop and discussion.  CEREMONY #22
THURSDAY: Deeper discussion of connecting to God during the icaros.
FRIDAY: Continue the icaros.  Sacha mango sinus cleanse. CEREMONY #23
SATURDAY: Take part in the preparation of the sacred brew ayahuasca.

SUNDAY: Continue with ayahuasca preparation again.  CEREMONY #24
MONDAY: Meditation. Practice icaros.  Diet goes deeper. Diet discussion.
TUESDAY: Mucura sinus cleanse again.  More plant baths.  CEREMONY #25
WEDNESDAY: Plant baths continue.  Student preparation and administration.
THURSDAY: More icaros.  Group discussion.  Singing workshop. CEREMONY #26
FRIDAY: Practice the icaros. Continue meditations. The student led ceremonies continue…
SATURDAY: Preparation for intensive week of diet.  Meditation.  CEREMONY #27

SUNDAY: Five days of silence begins.  Practice icaros, prayers, soplaying, chupando, etc.
MONDAY: Meditation.  Walking in jungle.  Silence continues.  CEREMONY #28
TUESDAY: Silence continues.  Diet goes much deeper.  Connecting with plants.
WEDNESDAY: Silence goes deeper and deeper.  Further connection. CEREMONY #29
THURSDAY: Final day of silence. Continue to practice, meditate…
FRIDAY: Integration workshop.  Final student led ceremony. CEREMONY #30
SATURDAY: Discussion about the students’ future as healers. Practice dance.

SUNDAY: Discussion on arcanas.  Arcana ceremony.  CEREMONY #31
MONDAY: Final discussion about healing. Questions and answers. Practice dance.
TUESDAY: Final ceremony led by curandero. Receive Arcanas. CEREMONY #32
WEDNESDAY: Diet ends with a sacred ceremony. Enjoy delicious food and relax.
THURSDAY: Final day in the jungle. Say goodbyes.  Head back to Iquitos.
FRIDAY: Internet, laundry, etc.  Visit the butterfly farm outside of Iquitos.  relax.
SATURDAY: Receive course certificates and get gifts or medicines. Say your goodbyes…

Six and Ten Week Initiation Course Schedule:Upcoming courses at the Inkan Kena School

Dates Available Spots Name Register
January 10 - February 20, 2016 0 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250
March 27 - May 7, 2016 9 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250
June 12 - August 20, 2016 3 10 Week Advanced Course – $6450
October 9 - November 19, 2016 9 6 Week Initiation Course – $4250

The Traditional Plant DietaDeveloping Relationships with Plant Spirits

Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Fish_376HWhereas ayahuasca forms the foundation of the indigenous plant medicine traditions of the Western Amazon, the dieta plays a crucial role in building upon that foundation.  It could be considered the support beams of the tradition, upon which the rest of the structure is built.  So what is a dieta?   In simple terms, a dieta is a contract made between a curandero, or student of curanderismo, and a particular plant spirit.  The terms of the contract are decided and agreed upon prior to the dieta taking place, and often times the motivation to do a dieta comes at the request or suggestion of the plant spirit, but can also be decided by the person.  For instance, in an ayahuasca ceremony or perhaps a dream, a plant spirit may present itself to someone and suggest that he/she do a dieta with it.  Another common practice is that a student or curandero feels a connection to a particular plant and decides to do a dieta with it, or a student’s teacher suggests that the student do a dieta.

One of the key terms of the dieta agreement is the length of the dieta, meaning for how long the dieta will be kept.  Sometimes this is as short as eight days, although more common would be months and even years.  The general agreement in a dieta is that the curandero or student will sacrifice the pleasures of physical stimulation by refraining from sex, alcohol, and sweet, spicy, salty, or rich foods.  In return for this sacrifice, the plant spirits agree to teach, guide, protect, strengthen, or endow special abilities to the person doing the dieta.  Usually, the dieta is done in near isolation in order to avoid any temptations that might come from interactions with people who are not doing or do not understand the dieta.  In some indigenous groups, like the Shipibo, people doing dietas have their faces, hands, and feet painted with a dye made from a fruit called huito so that anyone with whom they may come in contact knows to treat them appropriately, and to announce the dieta to the plant spirits.

An interesting feature of the dieta is that the terms are negotiable, meaning that while a plant spirit may initially want a dieta to be of a certain length, like one year, for example, the curandero can counter with an offer of a shorter duration, until the actual terms are agreed upon.  The other terms of the dieta, like how strict the dieta will be, can also be negotiated, although it is most likely done much less, as they are well established within the tradition.  A common example of the specifics of a dieta would be to refrain from all sexual stimulation and alcohol, and to eat just fish and green plantains for the entirety of the dieta.  Usually, only a few types of small toothless fish are eaten, perhaps due to their low fat content.


Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Enrique_376HOnce the terms of the dieta are established, the curandero or student will then open the dieta, or have the dieta opened for them, as is the case with most students.  This is an ‘official’ announcement, made in an ayahuasca ceremony through the use of healing songs, called icaros, that the dieta has begun, or will begin the following day.  An announcement can also be made by speaking it outloud or in one’s mind to the physical plant in person, which would be done either the day of the ceremony or the following day, to help demonstrate the determination of the curandero or student and thus strengthen the connection to the plant.

After the dieta has been opened on the spiritual plane, the physical aspects of the dieta begin.  After again declaring the intentions for the dieta, the dieter ingests some form of extraction of the plant, which can be a preparation made from boiling the leaves, the bark, or the roots of the plant, or by soaking them in alcohol, or even by smoking a pipe made from the wood of the plant.  An extraction of tobacco is added to the preparation, as well, or in the case of smoking the pipe, tobacco would be used as the smoking material.  A particular type of tobacco is used in the Amazon traditions, called mapacho, known scientifically as nicotiana rustica.  The addition of tobacco plays an important role, as it creates a direct link to the plant, so that smoking mapacho during the dieta connects the dieter to the plant spirit being dieted.  Therefore, dieters are encouraged to smoke mapacho, with intention, and if possible using a pipe made from the plant being dieted, to enhance the effect of the dieta.

The preparation of the dieta plant and mapacho is ingested and the dieter then fasts for at least two days.  Water is often limited during this time, as well.  The same preparation is ingested the following day, and possibly on consecutive days as well or again after a period of time.  Once the fast is complete, the dieter then begins eating according to the terms worked out.  In the case of students, their teacher may negotiate a less restrictive dieta that includes rice, beans, some vegetables, and even bananas, however the student may also decide on his/her own to keep a more strict dieta to further emphasize his/her determination.  Ultimately, it is the dieter who must keep the dieta, but if the terms were established by the teacher, the teacher will also take responsibility for the student keeping the dieta.


Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Tree_376HWhile the outward expression of the dieta is often talked about in terms of food restrictions and sexual abstinence, the dieta goes much deeper than the physical aspects.  Thoughts have a very important role in the dieta.  When the dieta is considered as a demonstration of determination, it is easy to see how the physical act of abstinence and eating is just touching the surface.  Being unhappy or complaining about the dieta, fantasizing about sex or favorite foods like hot fudge sundaes is also a demonstration of determination, or the lack thereof.  Preventing oneself from getting angry, from doubting or losing faith in the process, or thinking negatively about the dieta are also important restrictions.  The dieta does not just take place at the dinner table.  It happens 24 hours a day, even during sleep.

During waking hours, time is often spent in contemplation of the plant spirit, learning and singing icaros for the plant spirit, spending time with the actual plant, and communicating with the plant through the use of mapacho.  By smoking mapacho with the intention of connecting with the plant spirit, dieters further their connection and enhance their communication.  Dialogues can be formed, and interactions can take place in trance like states produced by smoking or in dreams.  The spirit of the plant can be felt on subtle levels and dieters can become more aware of those sensations by directing their attention to them.  The purpose of the dieta is to build a relationship with the plant spirit, and just like with building relationships with other people, the more sincere, honest, and well-intentioned attention a dieter gives to the plant spirit, the better the relationship will be.  More energy given results in more energy received.

As the dieta progresses, the sensations and communications get stronger.  The relationship becomes closer and deeper, eventually forming a special bond, a friendship between the dieter and the plant spirit.  It is through this friendship that the curandero or student receives benefit from the relationship, the fruits of the dieta.  This new friend provides information, guidance, and energy to assist in the healing process.  Sometimes, it takes time for a friendship to develop, especially if the dieters determination is not completely solid, and there is no guarantee as to what will result from a dieta, but if it is done right, with the right intentions, thoughts, actions, and energy, it should produce a beneficial connection that will continue to develop after the dieta has been completed or closed.


Ayahuasca_Foundation_Ayahuasca_Initiation_Course_Dieta_Leaf_376HWhen the length and terms of a dieta have been fulfilled, then the dieta is closed.  Like with the opening of the dieta, this is typically done with an ayahuasca ceremony, where the dieta is declared ‘officially’ complete, and tremendous gratitude is expressed to the plant spirit in the form of icaros and prayers.  Statements are made regarding future plans to cultivate the relationship and use it for the betterment of humankind.  The following morning, within some traditions, another ceremony takes place where the dieter does a particular dance accompanied by song to again express gratitude and to give thanks, and the dieter then ingests a particular food, like hot peppers with salt, or fermented corn or yucca, before easing back into a ‘normal’ diet again.

There is also a post-dieta dieta, which may seem confusing, but is also important.  The basic idea is that during the dieta a strong relationship is formed, and a great deal of attention and energy is shared, so even though the contractual agreement of the dieta has been fulfilled, a dieter should continue to give energy, thought, and feelings to the plant spirit, which would also be expressed in actions.  Therefore, it is important to maintain the same reverence for the plant spirit, even during the ingestion of salt, sugar, oil, etc. so as not to disrespect the relationship or devalue the willingness to make sacrifices.  A dieter shouldn’t want to run out and do all the things that were sacrificed for the dieta, even though he/she is, technically, free to do so.   Perhaps it could be understood through this example: If a man enters a relationship with a woman as her boyfriend (which could also be considered as a type of contract with negotiable terms like exclusive physical intimacy) and then after a period of time, the two decide to mutually end that relationship, but remain friends, it would be disrespectful for the man (or woman) to have sex with someone else the next day or soon after, as their friendship would most likely suffer as a result.


Considering the dieta as a contract, especially a relationship contract, which is a familiar concept in nearly every society, can be helpful when trying to understand the dieta within the tradition of curanderismo.  As is the case with relationships between boyfriends and girlfriends, or husbands and wives, breaking the terms of the contract results in consequences.  In the case of actual, legally binding contracts like pre-nuptial agreements, the terms of those consequences may also be agreed upon, and most divorce courts recognize a general form of consequences as well.  Within the traditions of curanderismo, it is believed that breaking plant spirit relationship contracts, or dietas, also has consequences, and that those consequences are proportionate to three factors.

The first factor would certainly be the form of the breach in contract.  Sex or sexual stimulation is considered the worst breach of a dieta and would thus result in the most severe consequences.  The degree of disrespect to the terms would play a factor in the consequences, especially regarding other breaches, like naked fondling compared to kissing, or eating a hot fudge sundae compared to putting salt on a grilled fish, or screaming at someone in anger compared to getting frustrated with the lack of connection felt, or fantasizing about sex compared to reminiscing about the sweetness of mangoes.  The consequence is proportionate to the act.

The second factor would be the experience level of the dieter.  A student doing a dieta for the first time would not face the same consequences as a curandero with many years of experience doing his/her 40th dieta.  How well the dieta and its importance is understood and accepted by the dieter would be a factor in the severity of the consequences for a breach.  The depth of a relationship with a plant spirit would usually be much deeper for an experienced curandero and therefore he/she should simply know better than a student not to break a dieta.

The third factor would be the particular personality of the plant spirit.  Some plant spirits are known to be very strict and unforgiving while others are more easy going and willing to let things slide a bit.  The consequences for the same breach in two different dietas with different plants might vary significantly due to the nature or personality of the plant spirit.  This factor is also involved when negotiating the terms of a dieta, and is usually indicative at that time of how consequences will most likely be handled, although within the tradition the personalities of particular plant spirits is often well known historically.  Extra caution is sometimes advised by a teacher or elder curandero when one of these plants is going to be dieted, accompanied by remarkable stories recounting previous experiences of severe punishments.

So what are the consequences?  Within the tradition, and depending on the factors just mentioned, the consequences range from lessening a connection to the plant spirit all the way to becoming seriously ill or dying.  The most common consequence would likely be blocking the dieter from having visions during ceremonies, although nearly every curandero has stories about incredibly severe consequences like losing the ability to walk or talk, or having bad things happen continuously until the breach is rectified.  Consequences tend to be permanent unless the situation is resolved.  Traditionally, this is done by redoing the diet, but for twice as long as the original.

Many people outside of the cultural tradition of curanderismo have trouble understanding the concept of consequences, feeling that plant spirits are like enlightened beings, and therefore would never punish someone, but I think in the context of a contractual agreement, consequences might make more sense.  Even with the perception that plant spirits are loving and benevolent, and understanding of consequences is quite logical.  Parents teach the concept of consequences to their children to prepare them to be adults.  They teach their children about consequences because they love their children, and want to instill in them the ability to make appropriate decisions.  I think plant spirits are doing the same thing.  Of course, everyone is free to think whatever they like.  What I have presented is merely my interpretation of what I have been taught by my teachers and by what I have experienced myself by doing dietas.  It took a decade of study for me to reach this understanding, and I am sure I will continue to develop my perspective and ideas in the future.

NOTE: Recently, since foreigners have begun drinking ayahuasca and a tourist industry has formed around ayahuasca ceremonies and treatments with curanderos, a new diet has emerged that most people refer to as the ayahuasca diet.  This diet was designed to keep people safe during the ceremonies.  Ayahuasca can have dangerous effects when mixed with certain substances, namely pharmaceutical medication and most specifically anti-depressant medication or SSRIs.  Other negative effects are possible when mixing ayahuasca with some foods as well, like dairy products, but this diet is different from the dieta described above.  While the ayahuasca diet can be used to demonstrate one’s determination and is a good idea, it should not be confused with the traditional dieta that forms such an integral part of the science of plant medicine in the Amazon Rainforest.


Plants Are ProvidersWe Are Made of Plants

How blessed we are to have such an amazing variety of plants sharing our planet with us.  We are connected to them in so many ways and rely on them to create the energy that we take in each day for our survival.  Humans and animals are literally made of plants.  The lives of plants make our lives possible.  To think that humans are superior to plants would be naive, as we do not know how to process the energy of the sun as they can.  Plants are millions of years older than humans and thus have wisdom that dates back to the creation of life itself on earth.  We have so much to learn from plants.  Really, we have so much to remember, for not long ago our ancestors knew a lot more about the power of plants than we do know.  It is time for us to reconnect with the plants and return ourselves to a harmonious relationship with our environment.  Our ancestors understood that all living beings are spirits, conscious and intelligent beings inhabiting physical forms.  The spirits of plants are incredibly wise, and are happy to help us, as are the spirits of animals, and all of nature.  We are all part of one body, and every part of this body strives for balance and health.  Plants are the key to regaining harmony within our society, our communities, our families, and within ourselves.  Plants can provide the answers to all our problems. Their wisdom humbles us all.

    Medicinal Plant Directory

Plant medicine is older than history, older than humankind itself, for undoubtedly animals were using plants to heal before humans emerged on earth. We, as living beings, are all made of the same planetary material and we use this material, our own and of others, to live together, making up the body of Mother Earth. We share the air we breath with the plants, in a beautiful example of how interconnected we are. Where would we be without plants?

This directory is our way of helping to preserve the wisdom of plant medicine. It will forever be in development, as we continue to learn and discover more information regarding the medicinal properties, chemistry, and preparation of a growing number of plants.

Achiote – bixa orellana

AchioteT1Achiote is a small tree or big bush that reaches a height of 3 to 5 meters. The leaves are alternated heart-shaped, generally 10 to 20 cm in length and 5 to 10 cm in width. They are green on both sides with discreet purple coloration on the back of the ribbings.  Sometimes known as Annato, Achiote is known for its fruit, a bright red spiky seed capsule that contains seeds covvered with a soft red matreial that is used as a pigment for indigenous adornment. Typically, achiote is used as a food coloring and spice in cooking, but it is also a very useful medicinal herb for the treatment of many illnesses.

Achiote is an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic used primarily for urinary tract infections and reproductive organs.  It is also used to treat burns, diabetes, bronchitis, and to reduce fevers and swollen eyes.  It is a treatment for hemorrhoids, hepatitis, prostate problems, and skin infections.  Typically the leaves are used medicinally.

Ajo Sacha – mansoa alliacea

AjoSachaT1Ajo sacha is an evergreen tropical shrubby vine with leaves that have a strong garlic smell and flavor when crushed. Ajo sacha produces bright green leaves up to 15 cm long and beautiful deep lavender flowers with a white throat that fade to a pale lavender, then to almost white. All three flower colors can be found on the plant simultaneously. While it is used in cooking as a flavorful herb, it most often used medicinally.

Ajo sacha is well used and respected by most of the indigenous Indian tribes of the Amazon and almost all parts of the plant are used; the leaves, vine bark, and root. Most consider the plant to be magical and capable of driving away dark spirits. Sometimes, it is used as an ingredient in the making of ayahuasca. It is most often used in baths, however, to cleanse the spirit from negative energy and to boost the immune system and the body’s ability to resist colds and illnesses.

It can be used to treat inflammations, rheumatism, arthritis, colds, uterine disorders, and epilepsy. The root is prepared in a cane alcohol tincture as an overall regenerative tonic. Dieting with this plant can often produce a heightened sense of brain activity and the ability to focus and concentrate, which is very helpful when drinking ayahuasca, and in life in general.

Albahaca – Ocimum basilicum

AlbahacaT1Albahaca, in english basil, is a medicinal herb that grows to a height of around one meter.  It has oval or lanceolate leaves around 5 cm in length that are very aromatic. The flowers are grouped in spiral patterns formed by 6 flowers. This aromatic plant is typically know for its culinary uses, being a popular herb to spice food, but its medicinal properties are also well known in the Amazon.

It is often used for digestive problems, to prevent gastric spasms, and is very useful in the cases of the gastritis, hiatal hernia, and flatulence.  The aroma of the plant stimulates the appetite, reduces nausea, and can also stimulate the production of milk in nursing mothers. It strengthens the nervous system, treats mouth ulcers and bad breath, and can even be used in abdominal massages.  A seed of albahaca placed in the eye will remove unwanted material from the eye, like mucus.

Albahaca is often used in conjunction with other plants.  One popular remedy is to combine five leaves of albahaca, three leaves of malva, and one large leaf of salvia and brew a tea.  This will calm the symptoms of indigestion, gastritis, and even reduce an inflamed prostate.  It is often used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Anis – pimpinela anisum

AniseT1The anise is a perennial medicinal plant that grows up to 50 cm in height. This medicinal plant has small white flowers around 3 mm in diameter with five petals, joined in flower clusters having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis. The fruits of Anise are between 3-5 mm in length with excellent medicinal properties. Throughout the world, anise is used to treat a variety of health problems.

Anise is used to treat digestive and stomach problems like gastritis, stomach aches, heartburn, and flatulence.  It is also used as a remedy for asthma, respiratory diseases, bad breath, and to increase one’s appetite.  For this reason, it is also used in treatment for eating disorders like anorexia.  Anise can also ease nervous anxiety, help colds and coughs, bronchitis, and aid with tonsillitis.

Ayahuasca - Banisteriopsis Caapi

AyahuascaT1The brew made from this jungle vine has been used for centuries and perhaps millenia by the shamans of the Amazon Rainforest. The mashed vine is usually cooked together with the leaves of the Chacruna plant (psychotria viridis) or other plants similar in chemical composition. The brew is drunk in healing ceremonies lead by ‘curanderos’, or spiritual healers… shamans.

There are several different types of Ayahuasca vines, each with different chemical compositions. The most popular variety to use in the healing brew is ‘Cielo Ayahuasca’ because it is considered to be the smoothest and easiest on the head. Some of the other varieties are ‘Boa,’ ‘Rayo,’ and ‘Negra.’

The vine has brown bark, usually covered by moss, that twists in a spiral as it grows, with green offshoots and ovate-lanaceolate leaves up to 8 inches long and 3 inches wide. The vine rarely produces flowers or seeds, going several years without blooming. The flowers are pink, with five delicate, fringed edged petals, and bright yellow, bizarre pistols, that seem to resemble some sort of alien cat. The seeds come individually inside a winged shell that ‘flies’ away.

Ayahuma – Couroupita guianensis

AyahumaT1Ayahuma is a type of evergreen tree that grows up to 100 feet high.  Its flowers are orange, scarlet and pink in color, and form large bunches measuring up to 10 feet in length. They produce large spherical and woody fruits ranging from 15 to 24 cm in diameter, which is why the english name for this plant is the cannonball tree.  Each of these fruits, or cannonballs, contains up to 200 or 300 seeds apiece.  This tree is considered a maestro plant, as its spirit enjoys teaching and the plant itself has incredible medicinal properties. The spirit is typically male and works well with other power plants like ayahuasca.

The flowers, leaves, bark and fruit flesh are used medicinally. Ayahuma possesses antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The bark is used to cure colds and stomach aches. The juice made from the leaves is used to cure skin diseases and for treating malaria. The inside of the fruit can disinfect wounds and young leaves ease toothache.  It is common for curanderos to diet with this powerful tree in order to strengthen their spirits and protect them from dark or negative entities.

Bobinsana – Calliandra angustifolia

BobinsanaT1Bobinsana is a small, shrubby tree that grows to a maximum height of around 4 meters. Most commonly found alongside rivers and streams, Bobinsana is known especially for its beautiful pink flowers, made of long strings of bright pink that puff out from white central stalks.  It is often kept in gardens as an ornamental flower.

Bobinsana is used for several reasons, most commonly as a stimulant and to treat arthritis and colds.  The roots are often used in plant diets to give strength and energy and the bark is sometimes added to plant baths to boost the immune system and to increase resistance to sickness.

Considered a plant teacher in the tradition of curanderismo, bobinsana is occasionally added to ayahuasca preparations but it is more commonly dieted on its own in order to learn more about its healing properties and to gain power through connecting with its spirit.  It has been used to treat a number of illnesses due to its immune system boosting properties.

Capirona – Calycophyllum spruceanum

CapironaT1Capirona is a canopy tree in the Amazon that grows tall and straight up to a height of about 30 meters. For this reason, it has been used as a source of good, high density lumber. It produces an abundance of small, white, aromatic flowers which are followed by elongated seed pods with 3-5 seeds inside. It can often be found near water as it can survive common periodic flooding in the region.It is noted for its ability to completely shed and regenerate its bark on a yearly basis, making harvesting the bark a totally renewable and sustainable enterprise. The bark is smooth (as if polished) and changes colors throughout the year as it matures – going from a green tone to a brownish tone.

Capirona bark is used as an admixture to ayahuasca, but it is more often used as a poultice made from the bark to treat cuts, wounds and burns.  It is believed to have antifungal and wound-healing qualities. A tea made from the bark is used as a lotion after bathing. This forms a thin film covering their bodies believed to help fight the effects of aging, parasites and fungal infections. A bark decoction is also used to treat diabetes. 1kg of the bark is boiled in 10 liters of water until 4 liters remain. It is believed that if this decoction is drunk every day (about 5 ounces daily) for three consecutive months that it is a “cure” for diabetes. Peruvian tribes also apply the powdered bark to fungal infections of the skin. They also prepare a bark decoction to treat skin parasites – especially “sarna negra” – a nasty little bug that lives under the skin which is commonly found in the Amazon basin area.

A bark decoction is used topically for eye infections and infected wounds as well as for skin spots, skin depigmentation, wrinkles and scars. It also stops bleeding quickly and is often applied to bleeding cuts and to soothe insect bites and reduce bruising and swelling. The resin is used for abscesses, and skin tumors.

Catahua – Hura crepitans

CatahuaT1Catahua is a tree that can reach a height of 40 meters.  It is most known for its recognizable trunk which is covered with conical spines.  The leaves are thin and heart shaped and its flowers are red.  The tree is poisonous, with toxins released by its thorns that are used in poison dart preparations.  For this reason, it is considered to be a powerful protection plant.

Most commonly used in vapor baths, the bark of the Catahua plant provides protection from negative spirits by producing a suit of armor similar to its bark in the spiritual dimensions.  The thorns are carefully cut off the bark prior to using it, however, to prevent any toxins from being inhaled during the vapor baths.  It is also a powerful teacher plant and is often dieted along with ayahuma or by itself, using a decoction made from boiling the bark.

Chacruna – psychotria viridis

ChacrunaT1The leaves of this jungle bush have been used for ages in the brew ‘ayahuasca,’ prepared by the shamans of the Amazon Rainforest to diagnose and heal countless afflictions. The leaves of the Chacruna plant are usually cooked together with mascerated segments of the ayahuasca vine.

Because of its chemical composition, the mixture of plants allows the shaman to enter a spiritual dimension where most of shamanic work takes place. The brew is drunk in healing ceremonies lead by ‘curanderos’, or shamans that heal.

There are several different varieties referred to as Chacruna by the shamans of the Amazon, but psychotria viridis is the most common of them all.

The shiny leaves of this evergreen bush are long and narrow and vary from bright to dark green. The small white flowers grow on long stalks that produce several red berries, about 1cm in length. These berries contain multiple long, oval seeds.

Chanca Piedra – phyllanthus niruri

ChancaPiedraT1Chanca piedra is a small herb that grows up to 30 cm in height. The plant’s name means “stone breaker” in spanish. It was named for its effectiveness in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones. Used in a tea preparation or as an extract, the plant has tremendous medicinal properties.  It is used in treatments for a plethora of other illnesses, including cancer and AIDS due to its ability to strengthen and protect cells.  It is also a great aid to digestion and the removal of gases in the system.

Chanca piedra is also used to treat hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other viral infections, as well as for liver conditions and venereal diseases.  The entire plant, including its roots, is used when making the preparation.  It is one of the most famous medicinal plants in the Amazon for its incredible ability to remove stones, but also for its positive effect on general health, digestion, and cellular activity.

Chiric Sanango – brunfelsia grandiflora

ChiricSanangoT1Chiric Sanango has a long history of indigenous use in the healing traditions of curanderismo. It is a sacred and spiritual plant sometimes used by Curanderos in ayahuasca preparations, in protective baths, plant diets, as well as remedies. In the Amazon, the root is infused with alcohol for treatment of rheumatism as well as a decoction of leaves used externally. Sometime referred to as the Fever Plant, preparation of the roots are used for chills, fever, yellow fever, colds and flu, and even venereal diseases to clean the blood while using a poultice of the leaves as a topical analgesic.

The root of Chiric Sanango is said to stimulate the lymphatic system, and it has also been used for the treatment of syphilis. It is powerful teacher plant as well and is commonly dieted to increase energy, healing awareness, and to boost the immune system.  It is very common for it to be found near the homes of curanderos as well as throughout the gardens of people everywhere, as it is always in bloom and its purple flowers are beautiful.

Chuchuhuasi – maytenus macrocarpa

ChuchuhuasiT1Chuchuhuasi is a very large tree that grows to a height of over 30 meters.  It is known for its powerful medicinal bark, as well as its large leaves and small, white flowers.  Perhaps most commonly known as an aphrodisiac and sold throughout Peru as an alcoholic beverage, it has long been employed in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.  A decoction of the bark is typically taken three times a day in small quantities before meals.

The medicinal bark decoction is often used as a general tonic to help indigenous older people on long walks or when working in their farms or chakras.  The reddish bark is soaked in sugar can rum and can be kept for long periods of time without losing its medicinal properties.

Copaiba – Copaifera officinalis

CopaibaT1Copaiba is a tree that grows to a height of around 30 meters.  This tree is quite famous in the Amazon region for producing a resin in its trunk, which is tapped and collected in a similar fashion as the harvest of maple syrup.  Dozens of liters of resin can be collected each year without damaging the tree.  It is this resin that is used medicinally.  The tree produces long clusters of small, white flowers.

Copaiba resin is used topically to treat cuts and wounds and to stop bleeding.  It is also used in the treatment of skin sores and skin conditions like psoriasis.  It can be taken internally in very small doses for the treatment of respiratory problems like bronchitis and to treat kidney and bladder infections.  It is sometimes used to help with ulcers and incontinence.  It is primarily used topically for treating skin problems, even being employed to help with insect bites.

Guanabana – Annona Muricata

ChirimoyaT1Guanabana is an fruit edible fresh or in ice creams or drinks. It grows on a small tree that reaches a height of no more than 8 meters.  Nearly every part of this plant is used medicinally.  The fruit is used to treat worms and parasites.  The leaves are used to cleanse the liver.  The bark and roots are used to treat diabetes and heart conditions. Guanabana is also used for chills, colds, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, flu, gallbladder attacks, hypertension, insomnia, kidneys, nervousness, palpitations, pediculosis, ringworm, sores, internal ulcers. It has been found to be very beneficial in the treatment of cancer as well.

Hierba Luisa – cymbopogon citratus

HierbaLuisaT1Better known as lemon grass, Hierba Luisa is a small bush made of long grass.  The leaves can grow as long as 70 cm, but just 1 to 2 cm wide.  It rarely produces flowers.  Typically, a tea is made from the leaves which is drunk as a delicious beverage but also to provide relief from stomach pain, menstrual cramps, and to help with aches and pains associated with arthritis.

It is sometimes used as a purgative, where a weak tea is drunk in very large quantity to induce vomit at the end of a plant diet or to help with digestion.  It has a very nice flavor and smell and helps with maintaining general health when used regularly.

Huacapurana – campsiandra angustifolia

HuacapuranaT1Huacapurana is a medium-sized tree that grows alongside rivers and streams.  It produces small pinkish flowers with red stamens. Commonly used as a remedy for malarial fever, it is also used to treat arthritis and diarrhea.  The bark is boiled in its common preparation and very small amounts are ingested two or three times a day.  The most common use is for treatment of malaria, but the indigenous consider it to be a very powerful plant in the spiritual realm as well.

A decoction made of the bark taken from the corona of the tree is used in small doses as a severe purgative and treatment for cancer and blood born illnesses.  This treatment produces profound vomiting and diarrhea but is often used by curanderos to increase their spiritual strength and connection to the spirit world.  After drinking, the following ayahuasca ceremonies are often much easier to navigate with much stronger visions.

Ishanga – urtica dioica

IshangaT1Ishanga, or Stinging Nettle, is a perennial plant growing in temperate and tropical wasteland areas around the world. It grows 2 to 4 meters high and produces pointed leaves and white to yellowish flowers. Ishanga, also called Ortega, has a well-known reputation for giving a savage sting when the skin touches the hairs and bristles on the leaves and stems.

Ishanga is used against a variety of complaints such as muscular and arthritis pain, eczema, ulcers, asthma, diabetes, intestinal inflammation, nosebleeds and rheumatism. Externally it is used for inflammations, sciatica, wounds and head lice.
The stinging sensation of the leaf hairs is caused by several plant chemicals including formic acid, histamine, serotonin, and choline. Several of Ishanga’s lectin chemicals have demonstrated marked antiviral actions (against HIV and several common upper respiratory viruses). Other chemicals (flavonoids in the leaves and a lectin in the root) might be useful in the treatment of systemic lupus.

Maca – lepidum meyenii

MacaT1Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated high in the Andes Mountains, at altitudes from 8,000 to 14,500 feet. It has one of the highest frost tolerances among native cultivated species. Maca has a low-growing, mat-like stem system, which can go unnoticed in a farmer’s field. Its scalloped leaves lie close to the ground and it produces small, self-fertile, off-white flowers typical of the mustard family to which it belongs. The part used is the tuberous root, which looks likes a large radish (up to 8 cm in diameter) which is usually off-white to yellow in color.
Rich in nutritional content (potassium, and higher levels of calcium than in milk), maca is a natural hormonal balancer which provides great health benefits for both, men and women. Due to its high nutritional value, maca is not only popular as a sexual libido enhancer and menopause symptoms savior, but also greatly affects energy, stamina, depression, and memory.

In Peruvian herbal medicine today, maca is reported to be used as an immunostimulant; for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility (and other reproductive and sexual disorders), to enhance memory, to increase energy, stamina, and endurance, to promote mental clarity, and to help with menstrual irregularities, female hormonal imbalances, menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Malva – malachra ruderalis

MalvaT1The roots of mallow are rich in beneficial mucilage. The leaves, dark-green and coarse, are a powerhouse of minerals and vitamins (calcium, iron, vitamin C, copper traces and more) and an abundant, free source of organic nutrition. Curanderos prepare mallow leaves by rubbing the leaves together in cool water to treat a cough or for a cold or flu patient, or just to maintain health. They make a drink of water and mallow mucilage which is a diuretic and soothing to the digestive system, especially the urinary tract. Congestion and chest pain can obtain relief from this drink too.

As a poultice, mallow leaves will draw out boils and pus from old infections. Rashes and burns can be successfully treated with mallow leaves, crushed or blended. Mallow mucilage is also used to treat acne. The morning after an ayahuasca ceremony, It was normal and encouraged to drink the cold water mucilage drink in order to cleanse the digestive system from any toxins left over from the previous night’s purge.

Mapacho – nicotiana rustica

MapachoT1Mapacho is considered very sacred by Amazonian shamans and is employed alone (by tabaqueros) or in combination with other plants in shamanic practices. Some shamans drink the juice of tobacco leaves alone as a source of visions. Mapacho is used extensively in healing practices and is considered a medicine, not a health hazard, when used properly.

The principal active biochemicals are nicotine, nornicotine and anabasine. The proportion of each varies greatly among the species and varieties. As many as eight other pyridine alkaloids occur in lower concentrations.

A perenial shrub characterized by large fleshy leaves and numerous sticky hairs, Tobacco is smoked on rare occasions, except in ceremonies and curative rituals of the medicine men who blow smoke over the patient or inhale the smoke, all with appropriate incantations and ritual. Recreational smoking amongst the Indians of the northwest Amazon is not common, and cigarettes are rarely smoked except in areas where tribal customs are breaking down due to acculturation and the availability of commercial cigarettes.

The mestizo ayahuasqueros of Perú use mapacho as an admixture to the sacred brew and usually smoke large cigarettes during ayahuasca ceremonies, both inhaling the smoke and also blowing the smoke over patients, a process called ‘soplaying.’

Ojé – ficus insipida

OjeT1Dr. Ojé is one of the many medicinal trees of the Amazon. Locals take the latex from the base of the tree as vermifuge, to remove intestinal worms and parasites, drinking one cup fresh mixed with orange juice and sugar. Those who take this purge must avoid greasy and salty foods for a week; they can not receive direct sun, and must avoid being seen by strangers to the family. (Those not following this diet may become “overo” with white skin pigmentation.)
The latex is also used to rub onto rheumatic inflammations.

Paico – chenopodium ambrosioides

PaiccoT1Paico is an annual herb that grows to about 1 m in height. It has multi-branched, reddish stems covered with small, sharply toothed leaves. Also known as Epazote, it bears numerous small yellow flowers in clusters along its stems. Following the flowers, it produces thousands of tiny black seeds in small fruit clusters. The whole plant gives off a strong and distinctive odor.

Indigenous people in the Amazon use it to expel intestinal worms and as a mild laxative. (usually by taking one cup of a leaf concoction each morning before eating for three consecutive days). The plant concoction is also used for stomach upsets and internal hemorrhages caused by falls, to expel intestinal gas, as an insecticide, and as a natural remedy for cramps, gout, hemorrhoids, and nervous disorders. Some indigenous tribes bathe in a concoction of Paico to treat childhood trauma or to reduce fever and will also throw a couple of freshly uprooted green plants onto their fires to drive mosquitoes and flies away.

Sacha Culantro – eryngium foetidum

SachaCulantroT1Sacha Culantro is a common weed found in throughout the Amazon Rainforest. The upper leaves are arranged in a star-like formation and clusters of tiny flowers grow from the center of these rosettes. If any part of the plant is crushed it produces a distinctive pungent odor.

While commonly used as a condiment with a distinctive flavor, the leaves are also used in a tea to treat indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, or dispel flatulence. Often used in conjunction with sage and/or mallow as well to maintain healthy digestion and immune system function.

Salvia – salvia officinalis

SalviaT1Sage is one of the oldest medicinal herbs ever used. There is no part of this plant that can not be used. The leaves, flowers and stems all have healing attributes. Sage is used to alleviate respiratory infection, nasal congestion, coughs, tonsillitis and sore throats. It helps with indigestion and with the liver. It is used for insomnia, by sleeping with a small pillow filled with dried sage leaves.  Usually, sage is prepared as a tea. (Pouring boiling water over sage leaves and letting mixture steep for ten minutes) One to two cups are drunk each day to relieve symptoms of coughs, and respiratory infections.

Sangre de Grado – Croton Lechleri

SangreDeGradoT1Sangre de Grado is used to heal wounds, cuts, external injuries, and for vaginal baths before childbirth. It is also recommended for throat, mouth, intestinal and stomach ulcers. It is an excellent instant bandage for children and adults, good for leucorrhea, piles, cuts, etc. The alkaloid taspine hydrochloride has been found to be the main cicatrizant, wound healing principle, anticancer agent.

Sangre de Grado has been known and used as: anti-tumor, cicatrizant/anti-cancer, anti-diarrheal, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, wound healing. It demonstrated potent antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, genital herpes lesions, excellent healing agent for wounds, blisters, and burns.

Tangarana – triplaris surinamensis

TangaranaT1Tangarana is a long slender tree growing 10-20 meters tall. A member of the buckwheat family, it often houses a specific species of ants in its hollow trunk.
A bark infusion is used throughout the Amazon as a ‘cure all’ and to treat intenstinal infections and diarrhea. The juice of the bark is used to treat toothache. Also used as vermifuge and for the treatment of herpes. The thin, papery bark is delicately sliced off with a machete and boiled, taken twice daily for several months.

Toé – brugmansia suaveolens

ToeT1The leaves, seeds and flowers of Toé are most often used but in some cultures the root is also used. Preparations include leaves rolled up into cigarettes, mixing seeds with Cannabis and/or tobacco for smoking, mixing ground seeds with wine or beer, teas made with the leaves and flowers, cold water extracts of the root, enemas prepared with an infusion made from the leaves, and suppositories made from rolled up leaves.

Its confirmed medicinal qualities are spasmolytic, anti-asthmatic, anticholinergic, narcotic and anesthetic. The leaves are smoked to relieve asthma. A steambath is prepared from the leaves for bad coughs and bronchitis. The juice is boiled and mixed with lard as an external application for burns, scalds, inflammations and hemorrhoids. Poultices made of the leaves are applied to arthritic or rheumatic pains, swellings and badly healing wounds . It is used as an antispasmodic to control Parkinson’s disease.

In the Amazon, Brugmansia is used in magical practices for visionary journeys, shape-shifting, divination, clairvoyance, love magic, aphrodisiac, amulets, and incense. Scopolamine is responsible for the visionary effects and is the alkaloid occurring in highest concentration. Curanderos respect it as very powerful plant and use it cautiously and sparingly. On the other hand, Brujos, individuals engaged in the practice of black magic, may use Toé frequently with little discrimination or integrity in its applications.

Uña de Gato – uncaria tormentosa

UnaDeGatoT1Uña de Gato, or Cat’s Claw, is the one of the most sacred herbs among the Amazonian tribes. According to indigenous curanderos, Uña de Gato serves as a bridge and balancer between the two worlds “physical and spiritual”; because they believe that firstly soul becomes ill then the body- the sacred balance/unity is broken, therefore Uña de Gato helps to unify the two.

Cat’s Claw is used to treat cancer, HIV, AIDS, urinary track infection & inflammations, arthritis, rheumatism, sciatic nerve spasm, ulcers, and tumors. It is a very potent immune system booster and studies indicate that cat’s claw has the ability to protect cancer cells from maturing.


This section will continue to develop as time goes on. It will include numerous remedies for particular ailments as well as for maintaining general health and boosting the immune system. For now, we will provide information about a very unique and special group of plants called adaptogens.

The ability to adapt is said to be an essential element of our ability to survive. The way one reorients to ever-changing surroundings and circumstances surely can be seen to be a major factor influencing the success with which a being interacts with life. Plants show a profound ability to adapt to their surroundings, evidenced among other things by photosynthesis and the production of oxygen thus creating a breathable atmosphere for a host of other living. These very effective ways of adapting to the resources they had available, namely the elements, indicates their proficiency with adaptation.

However there are a specific category of plants that have made this their speciality. These are called  ‘adaptogens.’ These are plants that, when consumed, directly alleviate the ill effects of stress on the body, shorten the stress response and increase the speed and efficacy with which the body recovers from it. Stress is implicated in the cause of most illnesses and affects everything from short-term memory to long term brain function, the operating of major organs, chronic pain to the fluid use of joints and the skeletal system. So adaptogens can, indirectly, have far reaching benefits in the treatment and prevention of many diseases.

The plants that have been categorized as primary adaptogens allegedly developed a new compound inside of themselves every time they encountered a new environmental threat. These compounds are unique to that particular plant species. Thus they also teach their story of successful adaptation to the human genome upon consumption and can, allegedly, repair and evolve genes over time. Through their effects on stress they are also implicated in longevity; if taken over a long period of time consistently they are said to increase ones life expectancy significantly.

These plants also have some other unique characteristics among herbal medicines. Namely that a true adaptogen cannot be abused, there is no dosage that is dangerous to exceed, because the plant adapts to the changing needs of your body. Also they typically have few to no contraindications with other plants and pharmaceutical medication.  Therefore they are considered safe to be used in conjunction with other treatments, and can increase the efficacy of said treatments.  Adaptogenic plants have the power to act in opposing ways. One of the earlier definitions of an adaptogen was a plant that could modulate both an overactive and an underactive response to stress, meaning it could, when needed, perform two opposing effects within the body.

Listed below are just a few plants that have fulfilled the necessary criteria to be labeled as ‘primary adaptogens’. However, there are many other plants that have adaptogenic properties to many differing degrees. Some of these plants have yet to undergo the studies needed to properly label them as such. The Amazon Rainforest is most likely teeming with them and determining which Amazonian plants fit those criteria will play a part in the research we will be conducting at the Riosbo Research Center.

Arctic Root - Rhodiola Rosea

RhodiolaT1Also known as Golden Root, Rose Root, and King’s Crown, Rhodiola Rosea is a perennial flowering plant that grows in cold regions of the world, including much of the Arctic and the mountains of Asia, North America, and Europe. It has been used traditionally for enhancing physical performance, alleviating mental fatigue, reducing stress, and preventing altitude sickness.

Ashwagandha - Withania Somnifera

AshwagandhaT1Also known as Winter Cherry, Withania Somnifera is a plant in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. It is a short, tender perennial shrub with small green flowers and orange or red fruit. It is found in India, Nepal, and China, where it has a long history of medicinal use in Ayurveda, for various symptoms and conditions.

Siberian Ginseng - Eletherococcus Senticosus

SiberianGinsengT1E. senticosus has been marketed in the United States as Siberian Ginseng because it is believed to have similar herbal properties to those of Panax ginseng. It belongs, however, to a different genus in the family Araliaceae, since the term “ginseng” is reserved for the Panax species. The herb grows in mixed and coniferous mountain forests in East Asia, China, Japan, and Russia. Eleutherococcus senticosus is promoted for having a wide range of health benefits, including boosting mental performance, increasing endurance, boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and making chemotherapy more effective.

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