– Plant Medicine Therapies at Caya Shobo –
The Amazon Rainforest makes up over half of the remaining forest on Earth. It is home to an estimated 80,000 plant species, many of which are yet to be classified and many that have powerful medicinal properties. Much of the knowledge that exists in the West today regarding the medicinal power of Amazonian plants has been learnt from tribal peoples.
As we describe in The Shipibo People & Tradition, the Shipibo-Conibo-Xetebo are an especially notable indigenous tribe in the western Amazonian basin, renowned amongst other Amazonian peoples and also now recognized by Westerners for their advanced knowledge of treating disease with Amazonian plant medicines. And in particular for their understandings of the spiritual consciousness of nature and man within it.
Living in the jungle's embrace for thousands of years, in constant interaction with the Master Teacher Plants and uninterrupted by the West's mad drive to dominate nature, the Shipibo people found a profound appreciation of how to live in harmony with their environment. Including all the practical challenges of day to day family and community life, and also the more personal or mystical considerations of one's spiritual journey and existence.
At Caya Shobo, the plant medicine therapies we administer are direct offerings from the Shipibo medicine tradition, and are provided in the context of our immense respect for these people and their appreciation of the ancient wisdom at the heart of the earth's richest rainforest. We recognize these noble understandings within nature as humanity's birth right, to recall the roots of where we all came from; a critical key in aiding an important return to wellness within individuals and societies today.
For many Westerners having grown within profoundly disconnected cultures and often traumatized family environments, the road may seem long and perhaps even impossible to be able to truly recover an embodied sense of wellness in life. However, as we have observed at Caya Shobo, each appropriately administered treatment with Shipibo medicine can be a small but significant step towards restoring genuine harmony to a person's life, both within and without – with all their connections and explorations in life.
We welcome you to come and experience the power and wisdom of these incredible natural medicines for yourself.
Shipibo Plant Medicine Tradition
The Shipibo medicine tradition is founded on an holistic perspective of healing the whole human being, and typically involves the administration of medicinal plant treatments. Whereas Western medication aims to quickly restore or defend the body's basic functions without addressing underlying root causes of disease, Shipibo healing with plants is a slower, more integral and more complete approach that works at discovering root causes and cleansing, restoring and rejuvenating the three essential dimensions of health:
- the biology and chemistry of the body and brain;
- the thoughts and patterns of the mind; and,
- the realm of the spirit, or spiritual consciousness.
For the Shipibo, health or wellness is achieved by restoring harmony or balance, both deeply within a person to the roots of their physical, emotional and psychological being, and also extending outward to one's relationships with others, with family, community and so on.
Just as plants take time to grow and flourish, healing with plant medicine can be slow to realize results. Patience and care of application is required. This is appropriate, as it allows the patient the opportunity to slow down and listen, to deeply reflect and consider their state, their patterns of being, memories and perspectives, and the changes desired and needed to improve their lives.
A slower healing allows for a more complete and sustained transformation within the cellular and energetic foundations of the being.
It is also evident that while the plants and the maestros can assist with clearing illness and shifting energies to support our betterment, the ultimate responsibility and power to transform our lives resides within ourselves.
The Shipibo medicine tradition embodies an understanding of these essential wisdoms of life.
85% of traditional (natural) medicine uses plant extracts.
40% of Western medicines contain chemicals originally isolated from plants.
Humans have long used vines for food, medicine, hallucinogens, poisons and construction. Vines have been prescribed for… headaches, oral inflammation, constipation, urinary tract infection, intestinal worms, malaria, injuries, feverish conditions, eye inflammations, cardiac problems, skin ailments, cough, impotence, cancer and dental problems.
(Bloomfield, Yavitt, 2011)
Master Dieta Plant
(Jatropha Curcas L)
The Shipibo Master Plant Dieta
At Caya Shobo our principle aim is to introduce guests to the sustained benefits of the Shipibo medicine tradition through the Master Plant Dieta (or Sama) healing process (during our 12-day Ayahuasca & Plant Dieta Retreats).
Shipibo herbal healers (Raomi) understand the medicinal actions of hundreds of Amazonian plants and use them to treat a vast array of physical ailments. However it is the experienced Shamanic healers (the Onanya), who are held in especial esteem amongst the Shipibo medicine families, not only for their skill in working with plants to heal the body, but also for their incredible understanding of how to access the psychological, emotional and spiritual healing powers of the Master Teacher Plants of the Amazon.
The ancient healing treatment of Shipibo Dieta typically involves the dieter ingesting a particular plant extract or infusion, which has been specifically chosen by the Shaman for the plant's power to treat the particular medical or other issues the patient needs help with. The diagnosis of these issues is revealed to the Shaman through visions during Ayahuasca Ceremony, as well as information shared by the patient.
(Note: Interpretation of Ayahuasca visions is a complex field of study within Shipibo shamanism, involving many years of reflection & guidance from elders throughout an apprentice's learning.)
Through songs (Icaros) sung during Ayahausca Ceremony, the Onanya Maestro 'opens' a connection between the dieter and the plant spirit, and then continues throughout the Dieta to sing sacred songs to deepen and enrich this connection. Effectively the Teacher Plant spirits are invited to enter more and more into the dieter's body, mind, heart and soul, unearthing the roots of disease and confusion, disentangling and clearing away contorted energies, and restoring alignment and wellness in the dieter's entire being.
The process of Dieta can be challenging. Much buried 'stuff' is brought up from deep within the cellular and neural structure of the body and brain. Old traumas, stuck emotions and old patterns of thinking and behaving are revealed, sometimes in stark relief before they are cleared away. But little by little, with good discipline and focus, a genuine reorganization of the dieters energy and awareness can begin to flourish, in a way that is incomparable to any other healing modality that we are aware of.
Other treatments can be very supportive, such as therapeutic counselling, gentle massage and yoga, meditation, flower baths, etc. But for us here at Caya Shobo, Shipibo Plant Dieta is the most effective way to achieve genuinely transformative healing. It is a delicate science, a complex field of learning and practice, which demands great respect in order to access its arguably miraculous benefits.
We invite you to come and experience Shipibo Plant Dieta in the ancient way of the Shipibo Onanya, and experience our facilitators' years of experience and commitment to this powerful healing therapy.
DIETA RESTRICTIONS: In order to obtain the maximum possible benefit of this integral treatment, it is necessary to follow certain food and activity restrictions during the time you are participating in Ayahuasca Ceremony and while taking prescribed plants. This includes certain restrictions regarding social behaviour and private relationships.
Read here for more information about Preparing to Receive Treatment at Caya Shobo.
Supplementary Plant Treatments
In addition or in place of Master Plant Dieta, at Caya Shobo you may be prescribed an 'Agua de Tiempo' tea infusion of one or more medicinal plants to drink slowly throughout the day. Usually such herbal infusions are prescribed to treat nervous tension, anxiety, sleeplessness or other similar issues.
Guests who have chronic or acute minor medical issues that they would like to try an Amazonian herbal plant treatment for (such as warts, small wounds, minor sprains, etc) can talk to our resident plant 'pharmacist' who will be happy to prepare a traditional plant remedy for. Sometimes these treatments can be surprisingly effective at addressing minor problems that are otherwise stubbornly resistant to modern medicines.
Throughout your stay as part of your healing program, you will also have the option to receive the following supplementary Amazonian plant treatments to help cleanse and uplift your energy and mental clarity :
Flower &/or Steam Baths
Flower baths made from minced leaves and flowers of a variety of medicinal plants, are a very effective treatment for cleansing negative energies and tension from the body and mind. Flower baths may be used to invoke a deep state of relaxation and serve as an important component of many healing programs for treating a wide spectrum of conditions.
Repote sinus flush
Repote sinus flush is made with Mapacho tobacco and Mucura, Ajo Sacha or other pungent invigorating plants. A small amount of the juice of these plants (mashed in water) is inhaled through the nostrils. Repote treatment is administered in the mornings and brings an alertness and clarity to the mind as well as gives strength and energy for the day.
Eye drops made from freshly squeezed Albaquilla leaves (medicinal basil) are applied directly to the eyes. This treatment is administered in the mornings to relieve tiredness of the eyes, especially after a night of Ayahausca ceremony. Albaquilla eye drops also help to clarify the eyesight for the day and can assists in opening the visions in ceremony.
Made with Azucena, Albaquilla or Pinon Blanco, purgatives are sometimes prescribed as an initial extra cleanse early in the dieta to clear toxins from the stomach, intestines, blood, saliva, brain, etc. They are often prescribed in cases of congestion from toxic substances and can assist in removing energetic "blocks" and preparing the body for Ayahuasca ceremony and other healing treatments.
Massage and Yoga
Massage is a beneficial complement to plant treatments that helps to free the body from tensions and opens the energy channels of the body and mind. It can also be helpful in treating internal problems such as digestive disorders or menstrual problems.
Treatments from experienced practitioners of massage and other styles of body-work are available at Caya Shobo.
From time-to-time Yoga classes are offered by Facilitators on a donations basis.
Some of the Amazonian Medicine Plants Used at Caya Shobo
At Caya Shobo many of the most powerful and commonly utilized Amazonian plant medicines and Master Teacher Dieta plants are cultivated, including Ayahuasca, Ajo Sacha, Oje, Bobinsana, Pinon Blanco, Pinon Colorado, and others. Below is a list of some of the plants we commonly use in medicine treatments at Caya Shobo, and this list is by no means exhaustive.
Every guest's unique healing needs are carefully assessed by the attending maestros and maestras. They draw on their extensive knowledge of Amazonian medicine plants, their own plant dieta 'knowledge-body' and also their visions in Ayahuasca ceremony and dreams to prescribe a unique healing treatment program for every individual.
Please note that many Amazonian medicinal plants are toxic at certain levels of ingestion and should not be consumed without expert supervision.
Aire sacha (Hoja del Aire, Flor del Aire): A general herbal medicine plant, the macerated leaves are used to make a tea to treat headache, vomiting, and colic gases. A poultice of the leaves can also be applied externally to reduce swelling. It is also used in flower baths to elevate general energies.
We have seen the maestros prescribe Aire Sacha to successfully heal inexplicable hearing loss problems (ie hearing loss not attributed to physiological causes and likely trauma induced).
Ajo Sacha: A powerful Master plant with a long history of traditional use for learning and also for protection and invigoration of the body and to deflect negative energies. It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiarrythmic properties and the leaves, stems and roots are used extensively (both internally and externally) as a herbal medicine to treat a variety of physical and psychological ailments. It strengthens the will, self-esteem and decision making ability.
Albaquilla (Hyptis mutabilis): A medicinal variety of basil, the leaves of Albaquilla are used as a herbal medicine tea to treat stomach pain and digestive disorders, or may be drank with substantial quantities of water as a cleansing purgative or “vomitivo". The juice of the leaves are used externally to treat tiredness of the eyes, cloudy vision, and to open the visions for Ceremony.
As a Master Plant Dieta Albaquilla is prescribed for the energetic cleansing power of its perfume (Inin), and especially for cleaning the energy of death or dead spirits. Albaquilla is also good for slowly but surely unearthing and clearing away darkness in the body, and bringing abundance to the dieter.
Ayapana (Ayapana triplinervis, Water Hemp): A herbal medicine with astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorous properties. The leaves and stem are made into a tea to treat colic and stomach pain, and into a poultice to stop bleeding or hemorrhage. Also used in Plant Dieta to attract the medicine spirits, and to help heal the mind. Also used in flower baths.
Azucena (Lilium Candidum): An infusion of the bulb and flowers is used as a purgative and to cleanse toxins from the stomach before Ceremony or Plant Dieta. It is anti-bacterial, astringent, highly demulcent, expectorant and can also be used to regulate menstruation. It stimulates and dilates the arteries and helps to open the visions in Ceremony.
Boahuasca (Gouania lupuloides): Used principally for physical healing purposes, this strong vine is helpful in the treatment of a range of known illnesses, including to help combat cancer of the stomach, intestines and ovaries, to improve liver function, to purify the blood, and treat anaemia.
There is a beautiful legend in the Shipibo tradition which teaches of Boahuasca's miraculous power to heal itself by re-binding wherever it has been cut. Interestingly it is known amongst the Shipibo shaman as a treatment to strengthen connective tissue in the body.
Bobinsana (Calliandra SP, Mimosaceas): A very beautiful and hardy bush that grows on the river banks in the Amazon, the flower, leaves and bark of Bobinsana are all used as herbal medicine to regulate and purify the blood, treat postpartum anomalies such as prolapse or water retention, and alleviate rheumatism and arthritis. A tea prepared from the flower is used to soothe stress.
Bobinsana is also renowned as a powerful Master Teaching Dieta plant used to open a connection with the spiritual world, clean childhood memories, enhance dreaming and visions, and to help foster a learning relationship with the plants. There is a Shipibo legend about a golden eagle which nests inside the Bobinsana bush who is sometimes seen in visions or dreams by dieters.
Hierba Luisa (Cymbopogon Citratus, Lemon Grass): A herbal medicine plant, the leaves of Hierba Luisa are used to relieve stomach ache, colic, gases, intestinal infection, vomiting and menstrual cramps. Also given as a tea to calm the mind and nervous system.
For dieters of other master plants, Hierba Luisa can be a supportive plant to consume as a gentle calming tea without risking significant disruption to the principle Dieta plants.
Pinon Blanco (Jatropha Curcas L.): The leaves, resins and bark of this plant are medicinal and contain many chemical compounds that can be used to treat a wide range of ailments and diseases including wounds, burns, abscess, fever, headache, coughs, bronchitis, internal hemmorhage, tumors, rheumatism, arthritis and others. It can be prescribed as a particularly intense purgative in cases of strong substance congestion in the blood, liver and digestive system.
Pinon Blanco is a powerful and intense Master Dieta plant that can open (for the disciplined dieter) a strong connection with the cosmic universe and light, teach about the energies of the plants, and provide clarity in the medicine. It is also prescribed to help clear neuroses of the mind and all kinds of addictions and addictive tendencies.
Marosa (water world): This Master Teacher Plant is principally prescribed as a plant dieta to open and heal the heart and spirit. It brings light and clarity into the consciousness and teaches a deeper understanding of the world of the plants, and of love. The root has medicinal properties and is used to treat tumors, abscesses and colic.
Suelda con suelda (Anredera vesicaria L.): Also known as 'bone heal' this popular medicinal vine is often prescribed as an externally applied poultice to treat muscle or tendon sprains, bone breaks or general weakness in the musculo-skeletal system.
As a Master Plant Dieta Suelda con Suelda (ingested in the form of a concentrated extract of the leaves) can help calm the emotional heart-space and encourage an openness to love. Reflected in the way that it grows as a twining vine, Suelda carries an energy that promotes gentle re-connectivity with self and others. It is toxic when ingested in significant quantities.
Oje Blanco (Ficus Insipida, White Latex): Used to clean impurities from the blood, intestines and uterus, and to treat all types of intestinal parasites. Also useful in the treatment of all kinds of addictions, including to chemical medicines such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Warning: Latex is toxic, and Oje must be used with care. It is not taken with Ayahuasca.
Rosa Sisa (Tagetes Erecta, Flor de Muerto, Mexican Marigold): A herbal medicine plant, the flowers and leaves are used to purify the stomach and treat cramps, colic, gases, poor appetite, gastritis, vomiting and diarrhea.
Also prescribed as a gently nurturing and strengthening plant dieta which can be very beneficial in cleaning and protecting the dieter from negative energies. Shipibo parents will often prescribe this plant as a dieta for their own children.
Verbena (Verbena Litoralis): A herbal medicine plant high in Vitamins A, B and C, used to treat fever, typhoid, malaria, bronchitis, dermatitis, ulcers, wounds and diabetes. It is also an effective expectorant, laxative, cough suppressant and anti-parasitic. It is used to relax the mind and alleviate stomach pain, colic and intestinal infection.
Yahuar Piri Piri (Eleutherine Bulbosa, Tears of the Virgin): An astringent herbal medicine plant – the crushed bulbs are used to stem bleeding (especially in women), heal open wounds and help form scar tissue. Also used to treat dysentery (bloody diarrhea) and infection of the eyes.
Guests are welcome to wander through the gardens at Caya Shobo where many of the medicine plants are identified. In addition, the Ayahuasca Retreats at Caya Shobo often include special educational classes regarding the various healing and learning properties of the plants and there is a lot of in-depth sharing from facilitators regarding their and others' experiences dieting different master plants.