Teacher Plants

Teacher Plants

There are literally thousands of medicinal plants in the Amazon jungle and every day new species are both being discovered. Many of these plants are powerful healers and have been used to traditionally for thousands of years. Amongst indigenous peoples of this region, the forest has been their pharmacy, supplying remedies for a vast array of illnesses. Amongst these medicinal plants, there are also hundreds of Amazonian trees, shrubs, and vines that have been traditionally regarded as maestras (teacher plants).  Plants such as ayahuasca, chiric sanango, mocura, ajo sacha, and chuchuhuasi are some of the perhaps best known. These plants teach and invigorate the body each in unique ways.  Some are well known for teaching visionary knowledge, others for building power and energy in the body, others yet for cleansing and releasing.  The teachings of the plants are both powerful and subtle at the same time. They instruct you at the most primordial cellular level.  Insights can come in the form of dreams, visions, and increased perception and awareness.   As with Ayahuasca, to work with these teacher plants, one must enrol in a dedicated progam, drinking the medicine of this plant daily and following the strict regimen of the shamanic dieta.

Working with Amazonian Teacher Plants

Amazonian plant medicines work by an underlying principle of detoxification. The belief is that the body possesses the ability to heal itself of what sickens it, but it can only do so when it is unencumbered by toxins and stresses. It is for this reason that many of the traditional plant medicines are powerful detoxifiers on the level of mind, body, and spirit. From a spiritual view point, some medicines can literally erase levels of karma or exorcise bad energies (malaires) that have taken over the body. Traumas can be purged at a deep cellular level. Each plant possesses its own unique spectrum of phyto-chemicals that work holistically on the person. In vegetalismo, this unique healing power is the plant’s persona or intelligence, their genio (genius). Each teacher plant possess their own genio that can literally work at the genetic level, leave their imprint indelibly and altering genetic patterns in the body. For the vegetalista, the plant possesses a spirit all of their own that can be hailed and directed for healing purposes. In ceremony, this is done by the aid of healing songs or icaros. Most will know the dieta with ayahuasca, but there are plant dietas for most teacher plants. A vegetalista must diet with all the plants to gain the knowledge and power of these plants as part of their apprenticeship. This can take many years.

If you come to Santuario Huishtin with an illness, the Maestro will determine what is the best course of treatment for you based on his experience of working for many years with these plants.**  If you come to receive knowledge, the Maestro will also decide what are the most appropriate teacher plants for you to work with.

Santuario healing santuario huistin
The maestro collecting plant medicines in the forest outside Santuario

Teacher Plant Dietas

It is possible to diet with specific teacher plants at Santuario when they are available. In addition to being powerful healers of specific diseases, each plant possesses a psycho-spiritual knowledge that can be learned in the correct circumstances. Popular plant dietas today are with plants such as bobinsana, chiric sanango, pinon blanco, chuchuhuasi, renaquilla, ajo sacha, and mocura. Please inquire if you are interested in specific plant dietas.

** It is important to note that in the context of the treatment of disease, working with these teacher plants must be considered “experimental” as they have not been fully tested by Western science.  Also important that the approach to medicine is different in vegetalismo and requires complete dedication to a healing plan, (which could be a long time commitment) involving a strict dietary regimen and prescribed course of treatment of plant medicines. If you wish to pursue this option for the treatment of disease, please be sure to properly informed. Your health and well being is your responsibility.

Following are only a sampling of some well known teacher plants. Please note this list isn’t exhaustive. Only a few plants have been highlighted with descriptions. Please feel free to contact us for further information. Photographs have been taken in the medicinal gardens or surrounding rainforest around Santuario. 

Trees:

  • Ajoskiro (cordia alliodora)
  • Alcanfor Moena  (Ocotea costulata)
  • Ayahuma (Couroupita guianensis)
  • Bellaco Caspi or Succoba (Himantanthus sucuuba)
  • Camalonga (Thevetia Peruviana)

Chiric sanango (Brunfelsia grandiflora)

Also known as manaca, chuchuhuasha, and kissmequick, chiric sanango is a pretty flowering shrub of the nightshade family, that has been used to treat fever, rheumatism, syphilis, and arthritis in traditional medicine as well as several forms of parasitic infections.  One of its main compounds is scopoletin,  phytochemical that has shown analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antitumor, cancer-preventive, antifungal, and antispasmodic activity in  laboratory experiments. A transformative master plant, the word “chiric” in Quechua means “itchy” or “tickling”, which refers to the sensation of the brew being swallowed.   It has been said to be “heart opening” in its effects from dieting with the plant as well as producing dizziness, disorientation, extreme chills, weakness or fatigue, and releasing of oppressed emotions.

chiric sanango
Chiric Sanango
  • Catahua (Hura crepitans)
  • Chuchuhuasi (Maytenus Krukovil)
  • Chullachaki-caspi (Brysonima christianeae)
  • Cumaceiba (Swartzia polyphylla)
  • Huaira Caspi (Cedrelinga catanaeformis)
  • Iporuru  (Alchornea castaneifolia)
  • Lupuna Blanca (Ceiba?)
  • Motelo Sanango (Abuta Grandifolia)
  • Renaco (multiple species)
  • Shihuahuaco (Dipteryx micrantha)
  • Sangre de Grado (Croton Lechleri)

Oje (Ficus insipida)

The oje (also known as the wild fig) is a large tree with buttress roots (when mature) but begins its life as a parasitic vine that eventually strangles its host. Interestingly, it also produces a distinct white resin that is tapped and drunk to purge the stomach of parasites.  Oje is a very strong medicine and can be toxic. Special attention must be made to food restrictions when using oje. It is sometimes used as a preparatory pre-dieta plant for some cases.

  • oje
    A ladder leans up a beautiful Oje tree, a very common and powerful cleanser

    Uchu Sanango (Tabernaemontana Sananho)

    Uchu Sanango (also known as Abuelo Sanango or Grandfather Sanango) is a well known plant teacher growing in the upper Amazon basin and is taken as a health tonic for the treatment of many ailments.  The locals use it as a febrifuge (fever reducer), emetic, diuretic, and calmative, and it can aid in the healing and realigning of the muscular and skeletal systems. Uchu Sanango has also been known to perform as a memory enhancer.  The alkaloids help reset our neural pathways allowing neurotransmitters to be received, thereby enhancing memory.  It also works at the cellular level, cleansing and restoring as it moves throughout the body.  It is a powerful doctor spirit and can provide immense healing, guidance, and strength during Ayahuasca ceremonies.

uchu sanango
Uchu Sanango produces a very unusual flower.

Leafy plants, shrubs, grasses:

Ajo Sacha (Mansoa Alliacea)

While it is not of the garlic family, the leaves, vine bark, and roots of ajo sacha have the characteristics, resemblance, smell and taste of real garlic.  “Sacha” can be translated to “fake” or “false”, translating to “false garlic.”  A powerful blood cleanser, immune booster, and antiviral, ajo sacha gives power to the body and strengthens the resolve. It is for this reason, it is regarded as a “stalking” plant, a plant used by indigenous hunters to help fortify the will and sharpen the wits. A dieta with ajo sacha will banish negative energies and destroy a run of “saladera” or bad luck. It is also often used as a key ingredient in baños de floricimientos and as an admixture in ayahuasca brews.

ajo sacha
The powerfully supportive, ajo sacha, “opener of the way”

Bobinsana (Calliandra angustifolia)

Bobinsana is a shrubby water loving tree with beautiful feathery flowers while in bloom. While not considered hallucinogenic, it does contain harmala alkaloids and is often used as an admixture in Ayahuasca and is on its own regarded as an important teacher plant.  Bobinsana can induce lucid and colourful dreams and is used by some to enhance empathy, compassion, clarity, and concentration. The Shipibo-Conibo Indians in the Ucayali area of Peru call the tree semein and prepare a bark tincture for rheumatism, arthritis, colds, uterine disorders, and edema (water retention). According to Raintree, it has been used also as a treatment for uterine cancer.

bobinsana
Bobinsana

Chacruna (Psychotria Viridis)

Chacruna (from Quechua-“to mix”) is an Amazonian plant that is usually combined with the ayahuasca vine to produce the psychedelic ayahuasca tea. Chacruna is potent with DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) alkaloids (99%) that produce its visionary effects.

chacruna
The chacruna berries bears striking resemblance to coffee, with which it shares some genetic relation.
  • Coca (Erythroxylum coca)
  • Guyusa (Ilex guayusa)

Mocura (Petiveria Alliacea)

Also known commonly “Anamu,”  Mocura is a herb that possesses strong sulphur compunds and like ajo sacha, is known for its garlicky smell. The plant while possessing  a broad spectrum of actions from anti-inflammatory to antibacterial and antiviral to antidepressant and anti-anxiety medicine, as a teacher plant, mocura can also help one to over come social anxiety and develop a stronger and more integrated sense of self. Curanderos often add mocura as well to baños de floricimientos to purge negative energies before ceremony and to cleanse the stomach. Research is currently ongoing into mocura’s potential anticancer actions.

mocura anamu
The soft outer layer of mocura roots are scraped, steeped in water and then drained to produce a powerful cleansing tonic.
  • Piñon Blanco (Jatropha curcas)
  • Piñon Negro or Piñon Colorado (Jatropha gossypifolia)
  • Sacha Mango (Grias peruviana)
  • Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum)
  • Yahuar Piripiri  (Eleutherine bulbosa)

Toe (Brugmansia suaveolens)

The beautiful drooping trumpet like flowers of toe (formerly known as datura suaveolens) earn its more commonly known name “angel’s trumpet.” Planted widely throughout the globe ornamentally, toe is a powerful hallucinogen, possessing scopalamine,  hyoscyamine, atripine alkaloids.  Effects of ingestion can include muscle paralysis, confusion, racing heart (tachycardia), dry mouth, diarrhea, and death.  Shamanically the plant is perhaps one of the strongest and most dangerous teacher plants and should not be used experimentally.  It is known to be added to the ayahuasca brew to boost its potency (though not at Santuario). Considered a true hallucinogen, the effects of toe can produce visual and auditory hallucinations to the level of realism that a person can not differentiate between the hallucination and reality. The plant, particularly, its seeds and leaves, are fatally toxic.

Toe datura
Toe: A Powerful but Dangerous Visionary Medicine

Vines:

Uña de Gato (Cat’s Claw) (Uncaria Tormentoso)

Uña de Gato, “cat’s claw”, can be recognized at once from the its curly thorns that bears an resemblance to a cat’s claw. It is reputed to be a powerful immune system booster and is effective in treating a wide array of maladies including  systemic candidiasis, and herpes. Sacred to the Inca (and likely before), the inner bark of this vine has been used for thousands of years to treat colds, viral infections,  wounds, and skin disorders, arthritis, and lower blood pressure.  It can also cleanse the entire digestive track and can be used to treat gastric ulcers. Finally, uña de gato can reputedly restore damaged DNA and recent studies have shown its remarkable affect to repair damaged cells after chemotherapy as well as a potential treatment for some cancers.  From a shamanic perspective, uña de gato infuses the whole body and mind with the “strength of a jaguar,” healing imbalances of spirit and physical body.

Teacher plants
The recognizable clawlike thorn of una de gato gives the plant its name.

Renaquilla (Clausea Rosea Jack)

Along with the blood circulation system, Renaquilla also assists with any situations relating to the reproductive and genital system and is often prescribed for women as a strengthener.  A parasitic vine, it is referred to the plant that cures problems in relationships as it grows by intimately ensnaring a host tree until they are inseparable. Preparations are made from the bark.  It also reportedly heals fractures, contusions, prolapses, hernias, and is considered an anti-inflammatory.
Teacher Plants
Maestro Enrrique contemplates the enormous Renaquilla vine that ensnares its host tree like a clinging lover.
  • Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis Caapi)

    Also known as soga de alma, huasca, yagé, daime, “la purga,”  Ayahuasca is a powerful and ancient psychedelic brew and considered the greatest of the teacher plants, used for thousands of years for knowledge and healing amongst Amazonian indigenous peoples. 

    Lovingly slow brewed in the ancient technique, the Ayahuasca tea at Santuario is composed of only two plants: chacruna (psychotria viridis) and ayahuasca (banisteriopsis caapi). Many species of ayahuasca may be used in the brew but the most common at Santuario is yellow (cielo) ayahuasca–ayahuasca amarilla.  The ayahuasca vine is rich in harmala alkaloids (MAIO inhibitors) that inhibit the digestion of the DMT (N-dimethyltryptamine) bearing chacruna plant. This synergistic tea allows for potentially spectacular psychosomatic effects: aural, tactile, and strong visionary experiences that expand consciousness in various ways: revealing hidden realms and possibly past lives, connecting one with spirits and past relatives, and catalyzing deep healings in multiple levels of body and soul. Purging is an integral part of ayahuasca healing as the body, mind, and spirit cleanse itself of harmful energies and illness. The way ayahuasca works on the mind is highly complex (too complicated to go into here) but many believe it can permanently shape the neurological field of your brain, allowing for those suffering from addictions, depression, anxiety, and other conditions to get a foothold in recovery.

    The ayahuasca vine is first cut into short lengths, macerated, and layered with chacruna leaves and then simmered over hours in an especially designated cooking pot until the water has evaporated, producing a thick bitter brown tea with an unforgettable taste. Preparation of the ayahuasca must be performed by an experienced ayahuasquero who is also observing the dieta– as the subtle brew can be affected by the energies that surround it in its preparation.

teacher plants ayahuasca
Maestro Santiago Enrrique with his beloved ayahuasca vine on the Santuario grounds.
teacher plants
Simmering ayahuasca brew at Santuario

 

References

Beyer,  Stephan V. Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon UNM Press, 2010.

Duke, James A. Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of Latin America. CRC Press, 2008.

Erowid Vault https://erowid.org/

Hofmann, A., Ratsch, C., Schultes, R., Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1992.

Raintree Tropical Plant Database  http://www.rain-tree.com

Ratsch, Christian., The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications. Rochester: Park Street Press, 1998.

Voogelbreinder, Snu, Garden of Eden: The Shamanic Use of Psychoactive Flora and Fauna, and the Study of Consciousness. Snu Voogelbreinder, 2009.

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