Introduction to Spirit Plant Medicine
As I mentioned in my last article about Kambo poison frog medicine, I am currently visiting Peru for the primary purpose of improving my health. If you haven't already heard, in recent years there have been increasing numbers of Americans traveling here in search of plant medicines that can't be found in the US. Much of Peru is covered by the Amazon rainforest, regarded by many as the plant pharmacy of the world. Some Americans come here as a last option when they face a serious condition that western medicine is unable to treat. A couple nights ago I watched the documentary Sacred Science which shows the results of bringing eight westerners with various diseases to the rainforest in search of relief from their suffering. While some of the people did have life threatening diseases, I don't think this is a requirement for coming to the rainforest seeking better health. In one way or another even the best among us have some sickness, it is nearly impossible not to in this society, and there is always room for improvement. In my case, my intention was to eliminate some challenging food allergies that had been bothering me recently. In addition, I wanted to work on some trauma that I accumulated during my military years.
More than Ayahuasca
If you have heard about Americans visiting the Amazon in search of plant medicine then you probably know about Ayahuasca, a powerful psychoactive brew that is attributed to improving a long list of physical, emotional and spiritual problems. What some people may not realize is that there is much more to the Amazon experience than the Ayahuasca alone. For example, people are often put on a strict diet prior to drinking the psychoactive beverage. While the rules and necessity of the diet are sometimes debated, one thing seems clear, initiating the diet provides immediate relief to the body from an American diet loaded with factory meat, sugar, artificial ingredients, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals. Another lesser known piece of the Amazon experience is that many other plants are consumed when people seek treatment here. Since these other medicinal plants are rarely psychoactive they receive less attention than the consciousness altering Ayahuasca brew. The plant medicines consumed varies depending on the condition being treated, and the shaman or healer will choose what they think is best for you. Finally, I think the renewed connection to nature is very helpful to many people. In the lush rainforest people are able to take a break from the noise, computers, traffic, pollution, and stress of big city living.
San Pedro = Huachuma
Many people have heard of Ayahuasca, but fewer seem to know there is actually another very powerful psychoactive plant found in Peru used by many to treat a broad list of health concerns, the San Pedro cactus. As you can imagine San Pedro, or Huachuma as it is traditionally called, does not grow in the rainforest. Instead the cactus can be found growing at high altitudes in the drier Andes mountains. While Ayahuasca is known for purging the body of harmful toxins, traumas and behaviors, the Huachuma is thought to work on a different level. Purging on Huachuma is less common, instead many refer to the plant as a heart opener that creates a great sense of connection with your surroundings. As somebody who spends too much time in my head and doesn't make enough decisions from the heart I was strongly attracted to the potential healing this plant offered. While it will take many more weeks to integrate the experiences I had here, I can at least say the Huachuma helped me make great progress in balancing my head and heart. I'm also happy to report an improvement in my allergic reactions.
I must admit this is only a fraction of the plant medicine story, and of my personal experience, but lucky for us there is an abundance of information available online including sites such as retreat.me and retreat.guru, films such as Aya Awakenings and Neurons to Nirvana, and research organizations like Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies and Hefter Research Institute. If you are considering this path then definitely review the medical guidelines to determine if this medicine is safe for you. Also, only attend ceremonies at reputable retreats under the guidance of a trusted facilitator. While plants such as Ayahuasca and Huachuma have been used traditionally for centuries, consuming them is illegal in the US despite evidence of their effectiveness in treating modern lifestyle diseases. Fortunately the Peruvian government, and others in South America, have legally protected these sacred plants for indigenous peoples, and all others who seek natural remedies. Thanks to the internet the paradigm is indeed shifting and as we've seen with recreational Cannabis legalization in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, and DC, everyday more and more people are deciding they don't want the government telling them which plants they can and cannot consume.