‘Whether the plant is to heal the body or the spirit or whether it is part of an apprenticeship, what makes it work is your good intention towards the plant. They are beings, which have their own forms or they can be like human beings with faces and bodies. When the spirit accepts the person, and the person has the will, the spirit grants them energy. The path to knowledge opens, and the healing takes place’
Guillermo Arevalo – Shipibo Maestro
A look at a few of the ‘planta maestras’
The shamans say that plants connect us with nature because they take their nourishment directly from the earth, as well as the sun’s rays, the air, and water. They allow us to know and recognize ourselves. A shaman must know this and must love his people to heal them.
Chiric Sanango Brumfelsia grandiflora; this plant is good for colds and arthritis and has the effect of heating up the body, so much so that the maestros advise a cold shower after each dose! This plant can be used in baths for good luck, and bring success to fishing, hunting etc.
This planta maestra also makes possible for people to open up their heart to feel love for people and animals (warms up a cold heart) and bestows the ability to identify with other people as though they were your brothers and sisters.
The plant grows mainly in the Upper Amazon and only a few ‘restingas’ (high ground which never floods) in the Lower Amazon. The gift of Chiric Sanango is self esteem, and develops a deep connection with your inner self.
On a personal note, I have dieted this plant, and although I thought the terminology of “warming one’s heart” to be a bit “cheesy”, this plant really did have an extraordinary effect on me, I really did feel this inner glow of warmth, and friendship, and to my surprise it is still there! I feel that I returned from my exploration with this plant a changed person.
Guayusa Piper callosum; is good for excessive acidity and other digestive problems in the stomach and bile. Also it is both energizing and relaxing at the same time and develops mental strength.
Guayusa also has the most interesting effect of giving lucid dreams i.e. when you are dreaming you are aware that you are dreaming. The plant is also known as the “night watchman’s plant”, as even when sleeping you seem to have an awareness the outer physical surroundings.
On another personal note, I found the experience with this plant also to be quite incredible. I found that the usual boundary between sleeping and being awake to be more fluid than I had anticipated. Even now, sometime after taking the plant my dreams are more colourful, richer, and lucid than before. When taking this plant, I sometimes wake up not knowing if I have actually ‘woken up’ or I am dreaming that I’ve woken up. For those interested in ‘dreaming’ this is certainly the plant to explore.
Ajo Sacha Pseudocalymma; A very important planta maestra in the initiation of Amazonian shamans. On a physical level it purifies the blood, and is used for people suffering from arthritis and rheumatism. The other benefits are that it brings mental strength, acuity of mind, and it can take you out of saladera (regarded as a run of bad luck, inertia, or a sense of not living to the full). It is also used for ridding spells. The plant is used to enhance hunting skills by covering up human smell with the garlic-like smell of Ajo Sacha.
The Shipibo maestro Guillermo Arevalo also added that this plant opens the shamanic path – if we are prepared to live under the obligations of shamanism, to do this we need the qualities of courage, and no fear of extremes or ‘ugly’ things. We need to understand what role we will play in our community, and have the heart of a warrior. As a personal observation, Guillermo is one of the most highly respected maestros in the Amazonian region and is regarded as the authority on dieting this planta maestra.
On another personal note, I found my senses being altered and enhanced with this plant. I could zoom in and focus on sounds emanating from the rainforest, my sense of smell became sharper, and in some ineffable way I could tune into the breathing or rhythm of the rainforest. The sound of insects and birds was no longer a random phenomenon, these sounds became a rhythmic breath, rising and falling. No wonder that it is used for hunting as one’s sense are heightened in an incredible way.
On reflection dieting plant medicine is totally different than pharmaceutical medication which only affects one whilst it is being taken; these kinds of plant medicines seem to have a permanent effect in some way metaphorical or otherwise altering one’s consciousness or “DNA”.
One of the great revelations that we can experience in working with the plant spirit or consciousness is that we are not separate from the natural world. In our culture we perceive ourselves to be separate beings with our minds firmly embedded within our physical being (typically our head). The plants can show you that this way of being is an illusion and that we are all connected, all of us and everything else is a discrete element in the great universal field of consciousness or spirit.