Alternative Medicine in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.
The diversity of plant species in the Amazon Rainforest is the greatest on earth. At least 120 prescription drugs come from rainforest plants. It is hardly surprising then that there is a great deal of knowledge locked away in the brains of the Shaman regarding the plants they use to cure a multitude of illnesses. Knowledge that has been passed down over many generations.
Alternative medicine is used by both forest dwellers and townies in the Amazon. Local shaman make up potions and creams from animal fats and plants. They are preferred by many people to conventional medicines and used for diseases and injuries.
Most locals prefer to go to a shaman then make the arduous, often long, journey to a doctor or hospital.
During a stay at a hotel situated halfway between Manaus and Manacapuru, I saw this reliance and trust in the shaman at work. One of the women staff had slipped over. Her ankle had swollen badly. So she limped off to the forest and returned the next day with the heavily bandaged leg smelling strongly of camphor and other indistinctive scents. She had been to the local shaman who had applied several ointments to the swelling. With the knowledgeable use of natural remedies, the shaman assured her that her ankle would be fine and a week later, she was back to normal. The peoples confidence in the shamans powers, I think, has a lot to do with recovery.
Having been to a shaman I can see why. They have a hands on approach, something conventional doctors seem to have abandoned. They are caring and soothing and will not be rushed. Surrounded by their potions and lotions and balms of uncertain origins, they will make up something special for each individual patient.
I bought several of these balms and used them on bites and bruises. They were made up, I was told, of jaguar and caiman fat and plant extracts. The perfumes emitted were either sweet and pleasant or antiseptic and balmy.
Natural remedies were freely on sale in stalls close to the harbour in Manaus, where row upon row of little bottles were stacked on shelves filled with assorted liquids. Balms and creams were put in small, plastic pots.
The shaman fills empty seed cases with his concoctions, which oddly I prefer. He will slice the top of a hard shell and reattach it with a piece of thin string to make a lid for the little container.
The knowledge of the shaman passed down often through families should, I think, be something to be explored. Sadly, we in the West have lost much of the knowledge we had by pushing the keepers, mostly women, to the fringes of society, or by burning or drowning them centuries ago. And even nowadays alternative medicine is seen by many as taboo unless backed up by science.
See here for information on plants used in the amazon Rainforest for medical purposes.