Scientists Put Shamanic Medicine Under The Microscope

But the potential medicinal resources of the Amazon — especially the 80,000 plants native to the region, and the shamanic knowledge that often exists only in oral form among the disappearing tribes — remains largely untapped. Despite the fact that 25 percent of modern pharmaceuticals are derived from rain forest plants, currently less than 1 percent of tropical plants have been analyzed for medical purposes.

Even the plant medicines that are commonly used by shamans, as the indigenous medicine men and women are called, are poorly understood by Western doctors. So far, there has been little research aimed at evaluating indigenous plant medicine and shamanic treatment protocols.

But that’s beginning to change. Now, a large-scale new research project is creating the opportunity for a meeting of the minds between traditional and modern medicine, between shamans and scientists.

In Ecuador and Peru, the Runa Foundation — a nonprofit that does conservation work in the Amazon and provides opportunities for economic advancement to indigenous peoples — is working with a new initiative, PlantMed, to build medical clinics for the research of plant medicine, facilities that will be the first of their kind.

“What we’re doing is trying to put together a multidisciplinary team that involves Western-trained physicians and psychologists as well as the shamans that are indigenous to these areas,” Dr. Mauro Zappaterra, a Harvard-trained physician who is on the advisory board of the forthcoming clinics, told The Huffington Post. “It’s bringing together the best minds from Western medicine and from Amazonian, or shamanic, medicine… to create an even better medicine that incorporates all of it.”  “


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