Facts: Hallucinogenic Healing

Video highlights from The Witch Doctor Will See You Now

From the Witch Doctor Will See You Now: Hallucinogenic Healing

  • Peru is home to 13% of the vast Amazon jungle.

  • Peru has over 65 million hectares (161 million acres) of Amazon tropical forest – 9 million hectares (22 million acres) of which are covered by Indigenous tribes in various regions throughout the Amazon.

  • The Amazon is home to as many as 80,000 plant species, and drugs like quinine, muscle relaxants, steroids and cancer drugs have been found in the Amazon.

  • Over 100 pharmaceutical companies, and even the US government, are currently funding projects studying the indigenous plant knowledge, and the specific plants used by native shamans and healers.

  • Worldwide, over 120 pharmaceutical products that are commercially used have been derived from plants, and about 75% were discovered by examining the use of these plants in traditional medicine.

  • Amazingly, only around 5-10% of plants in the Amazon have been studied properly.

  • 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from plants.

  • Around 70% of anti-cancer drugs currently used, are derived in one way or another from natural sources – including plants, marine organisms and micro-organisms.

  • The Shipibo people have had 300 years of contact with Europeans and Peruvians, yet they still maintain a strong tribal identity and retain many of their prehistoric shamanic traditions and beliefs.

  • Ayahuasca, the Shipibo hallucinogenic brew used for diagnosis, has been used by native South American Indians and Shamans for at least a thousand years for spiritual and healing purposes. Today, large religious organisations such as Santo Daime in Brazil use Ayahuasca legally as a holy drink at their spiritual ceremonies.

  • The Shipibo use the fat of the caiman for asthma and lung problems. Interestingly, a study in China on mice and rats, found that alligator meat has significant effects on relieving cough, dispelling phlegm, as well as having anti-inflammation and immunological regulation.

  • The leaves from the plant Chacruna, used in the Shipibo Ayahuasca brew, contain the psychoactive drug Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) that has a structural resemblance with Serotonin, a chemical transmitter substance naturally found in the brain. When DMT binds to the nerve receptors in the brain, a change in the state of consciousness takes place.

  • The Ishanga nettles, used by the Shipibo for stomach problems, have been found to have chemical compounds and nutrients, which become injected in the skin when beaten against the patient’s stomach. These compounds and nutrients are believed to stimulate the production of mast cells, which might in turn result in anti-inflammatory activity away from the sting.

  • The plant Cat’s Claw is used by the Shipibo to treat a variety of health problems. It has been through clinical studies, and found to help relax the muscles, dilate blood vessels, and act as a diuretic. It also has antioxidant properties, and preliminary studies show it may have antitumor and anticancer effects. In Peru it is officially recognised by the government as a medicinal plant, and is protected for export.

  • Quinine, found in the bark of the South American Cinchona tree was, until the 1930s, the only effective agent for the treatment of malaria. Although it’s no longer used on its own, many of the anti-malaria drugs are derivates of this compound.

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay