– Albahaca –
– Perfume medicine of the jungle –
Peitoro Ininti or ‘round-leafed perfume’ as it is named by the Shipibo, or Albahaca in castellano, is a master medicine plant that grows wild in the Amazon jungle. It is customarily used in Shipibo shamanism for its physical and energetic cleansing powers, either as a herbal remedy or as a master plant dieta – I describe my own dieta experience with Albahaca later in this article.
Albahaca means ‘basil’ but this medicinal plant is different from the culinary varieties of basil used in our kitchens. It is more pungent, sharper, a little bitter to the taste. Perhaps this difference can be compared to how medicinal oregano differs from culinary oregano. Like culinary basil though, a handful of freshly crushed Albahaca leaves produces a vibrant, refreshing aroma that when inhaled deeply helps to clear the mind and infuse the body with the crisp life-giving energy of the forest.
‘Inin’ is the Shipibo word for perfume or fragrance. For the master Onanya shaman the concept of perfume carries so much more meaning than simply the transfer of physical molecules to our scent receptors. ‘Inin’ also refers to a particular expression of non-physical energies within the inner world of a plant (or a person) – energies which may be ‘seen’ by a maestro in their vision when treating patients during ceremony. In fact, Ayahuasca is sometimes named ‘Inin’ for its magnificent clearing energy. Actually all living beings have an energetic ‘inin’ and this is a central aspect of Shipibo shamanic healing – the focus on clearing, elevating and sweetening the inner energetic ‘inin’ or perfume of a person’s entire being.
Albahaca is so versatile as a cleansing and perfuming plant that it is frequently prescribed in Shipibo plant medicine in many different treatment forms. Such as in flower baths or vapor steams (including yoni steams 😯), where its fresh green crispness contributes to a concoction of other delicious plant aromas to purify and uplift the body’s energy. Or clarifying eye drops to brighten tired, cloudy eyes (note, a less aromatic version of the plant, named Albaquilla is used for this purpose). Albahaca is also sometimes prescribed as a strong purgative/vomitivo where a deeper, more intensive digestive cleanse is sought versus say what a typical azucena lily purgative can deliver. (Having experienced this rather strong cleansing treatment myself, I can attest to how deeply Albahaca opens and clears your emotional and physical blocks, leaving your body feeling well-‘ventilated’ for several days afterwards.)
Albahaca is also one of the most commonly used plants for repairing a small mistake in social dieta, such as for example accidentally eating a restricted food or slipping up with sexual discipline in dreams. By drinking a gentle Albahaca tea infusion throughout the day, the ‘stinky’, unclean ‘saladera’ (as is named the energy of errors or faults during dieta) can be cleared from the dieta. Interestingly I once heard a Shipibo maestro describe the animal physical energy of humans as being ‘fetido’ (foul-smelling) inside the spiritual/energetic world of the plants. Our Maestro Arturo Izquierdo has also shared childhood memories of his elders making duster-like ‘chacapas’ from bunches of fresh Peitoro leaves, singing sacred icaros into the leaf-tips before shaking their blessed perfume throughout the maloka, thus cleansing and uplifting the energy of all in the ceremony.
Like many of the herbal remedies used in Shipibo shamanism, Albahaca is also a master teacher Dieta plant. As a Dieta treatment Albahaca is usually prescribed to clear heavy, stuck, dank energies from the body, heart and mind of the dieter. In particular its fresh life-filled perfume is perhaps the best antidote to the malodorous energy of death. An Albahaca dieta is often prescribed to help clean Shipibo folk who have recently cared for their dying. Also for more transformative healing diets, Albahaca is often combined with other powerful master plants (such as Sharamashu or Pinon Blanco) to contribute its fragrant perfume to the overall healing work of the dieta. This can be especially helpful when the dieter’s body is congested with dense energies.
I have dieted Albahaca a few times, both combined with other apparently more powerful teacher plants, and also on its own, where I was surprised to discover how very intense, and deeply transformative the energetic and emotional cleansing power of Albahaca really is. For me its expression in dieta starts slowly and quietly, unlike the big ‘power’ plants which tend to show up with a sometimes shocking intensity. With Albahaca I experienced no teacher spirit standing in front of me saying “Here I am to guide and mold you,” but the fine delicate seeds of Albahaca’s perfume were there, barely discernible, all around and within me. Then the energies slowly rose altogether, like a vast sheet of green-leafyness; just as Albahaca in reality grows up from the low ground of the jungle, gradually expanding its fragrant reach to embrace broad areas of territory. Little by little, this persistently advancing fresh forest energy slowly seeped it’s revitalizing essence deep into my physical and emotional depths, weaving its fragrant perfume and living mastery within my cells and my mind. Psychologically, the teacher spirit gradually showed up, insisting, and re-insisting, that I examine and reconcile certain painful memories and life-negating patterns that had lived locked inside of me for decades.
The cleansing came in gradually intensifying waves, each one more and more confronting, until at the end of the dieta the ‘processing’ reached an uncomfortable crescendo, as I felt a powerful unearthing of shadowy energy rise up like a blanket of dirty air from within me. Finally, thankfully, at the close of the dieta, all was cleared away, like a giant fan of Albahaca’s crisp fragrant leafy air cleansing and blessing my being, and bringing with it a powerful promise of new beginnings. I have to say it was weirdly excruciating to go through such a slow steady cleanse, but ultimately I found the gradual progression allowed me to examine in finer detail the workings of my psycho-emotional-spiritual makeup, to really consider the mechanisms by which I think and feel. During the integration period of this dieta I experienced such incredible clarity about old unhealthy energies that I could no longer ignore in my field, and I felt naturally empowered to clear them. The end result of the dieta I would say was overall very powerfully clarifying, lightening and refreshing – from such a foundational depth of my being up to the most active parts of my day to day consciousness.
Well, such has been my experience with Albahaca, but my journey is only my own. We are all unique creatures with our own distinctive stories and our own individual vision and approach to come to know and understand the medicine. Suffice to say that for the disciplined and inquiring dieter, there are many beautiful sacred secrets within the world of Albahaca for reweaving the wisdom and perfume of optimism, sweetness and appetite for life back into our souls, bodies, hearts and minds.
May your journey of discovery with this modest master of the jungle be blessed with your own unique appreciation of its potent healing gifts.
© Becky Griffin, July 2023