Shamans Journey to Hidden Worlds
By Chitra Gunderson
My frustration taking herbal supplements has grown over the years…they just weren’t having a fast enough effect. When I am not feeling well, I want quick results…a magic pill. After all, life keeps me very busy — I don’t have time to get sick.
I was about ready to give up and revert to allopathic medicine when I came into contact with herbs from the Amazon Rainforest. I began to feel a difference in my health right away — there was potency in the rainforest’s wild plants that seemed almost magical.
Sensing that the Amazonian herbs were much more than “wild plants growing in virgin soil,” I felt they held a deeper connectedness to the earth, an ancient tradition and innate knowingness that offered a healing power unlike anything I had ever experienced. Thus, began my journey to discover the Peruvian shaman’s or curandero’s (medicine men and women) medicine tradition using plant gifts from Mother Earth, Panchamama.
Respecting Mother Earth as an important source of energy and power, indigenous healers of Peru, curanderos, use the rainforest’s plants to treat their patient’s ailments of physical, emotional, mental, love sickness, bad luck or problems of the soul.
“Every tree, every plant has a spirit,” says Alberto, third-generation Peruvian curandero. “Plants are live beings with their own character. A plant may not talk but there is energy in it that is conscious…that sees everything. It is the spirit of the plant, its essence, which makes it alive.”
In traditions passed down over generations, a person is trained from childhood to become a curandero, learning the intricate healing potency of the rainforest’s medicinal plants. The magic of the story is how the spirit-sensitive curanderos receive knowledge from the plants about their healing properties and direct them on their quest to become accomplished healers.
“The most important role for a curandero,” explains Alberto “is to travel between different states of consciousness and to see clearly through our visions.”
Ritualistic ceremonies using a sacred plant drink and/or sound vibration induce a meditative trance, which aids the curandero’s entry into an altered state of consciousness, allowing him or her to journey to hidden worlds and communicate with plant spirits or teachers and learn their specific healing properties. In altered consciousness, the curandero sees visions of design messages from the plant spirits in the form of geometric patterns of energy, which emerge via the curandero into a song or chant (icaro). The sound vibration of the icaros are then transferred into patterns which are painted or embroidered on faces, clothing, and pottery to protect the community and use in their healing practices.
Because their tradition respects that all things have life, a spirit force, an important step before cutting any plant is to ask permission to cut their branches, fruits, or leaves and release their healing energies. Prayerfully, icaros are sung in communication with the plant teachers for blessings and to bring good fortune. Cutting the plant without requesting permission may cause distress to the plant spirit, as Alberto explains…
“A group of Shipibo men cut an old ayahuasca branch late one evening. After cutting the branch, the men suddenly saw a 70-year-old man appear in front of them looking for his grandfather. He moved toward the cut branch and vanished before their eyes…they understood that it was the spirit of the branch looking for its roots.” Alberto continues, “This story reminds us that you must respect the plants and take the right action. You must believe plants are special with unique healing energy.”
Using not only their visions of design messages from plant spirits, curanderos also look at the shape and qualities of a plant to learn its medicinal use, more commonly referred to as the Doctrine of Signatures.
“Doctrine of Signatures is the concept formulated by early herbalists that the shape and qualities of a plant tell us of its medicinal use,” writes Jane Cicchetti, RSHom (NA), CCH in her article “The Rainforest Herbalist” published in Naturopathic Physician, N.M.D, May/June 2002.
For instance, Sangre de Drago (“Dragon’s Blood” in Spanish) is a fast-growing tree in the South American Amazon. When the tree is cut, it bleeds a dark red sap looking like blood. Amazingly, when the tree sap is applied to wounds, it stops bleeding, reduces inflammation and speeds healing.
In “Herbal Secrets of the Rainforest,” Leslie Taylor writes, “For centuries, sap has been painted on wounds to staunch bleeding, to accelerate healing, and to seal and protect injuries from infection. The sap dries quickly and forms a barrier, much like a “second skin.” It is used externally by indigenous tribes and local people in Peru for wounds, fractures, and hemorrhoids, internally for intestinal and stomach ulcers, and as a douche for vaginal discharge. Other indigenous uses include treating intestinal fevers and inflamed or infected gums, in vaginal baths before and after childbirth, for hemorrhaging after childbirth, and skin disorders.”
Heartshaped leaves are another indication that Sangre de Drago may also be effective for improving heart health. Searching further I discovered science has confirmed what Mother Nature already knew; Sangre de Drago contains one of the most powerful antioxidants known to help support cardiovascular health. In fact, the dried Sangre de Drago sap is almost 90% pure antioxidant, proanthocynanidin or pycnogenol.
Experiencing the effects of Sangre de Drago firsthand, Bonnie Butwin shares, “In April I was diagnosed with periodontal disease by just one tooth (same location as diagnosed years ago). The hygienist said I would need gum surgery. I started flossing three times a day followed by brushing with Sangre de Drago. Only 34 days later I returned to my dentist and the gum tissue had improved so much that I no longer needed surgery. I continue to brush with Sangre de Drago every day.”
Peruvian medicine men and women have kept their communities thriving over hundreds or thousands of years using ancestral healing methods. Defying western medicine and science, spirit-sensitive curanderos directly communicate with the rainforest’s wild plants to learn their healing powers. Using rainforest plants, they sustain the health of their communities, avoiding the common disease challenges of developed countries.
Indigenous healing traditions have proven that Mother Nature has provided everything we need for our health and well-being — we only have to tap into her resources with respect and trust that “Mother Earth knows best.”
For more information about Sangre de Drago, call (888) 310-2570,email
Chitra@RainforestCanopy.com or visit the website:
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