Our natural world provides us with more sustenance and magic than we could ever truly comprehend in one life time. For thousands of years people living in all different parts of the world depended on plants, for nourishment, for shelter, and for healing. In a society that seems to have forgotten how to harness the true power of medicinal plants, we must be reminded. Plantmed is aiming to do just that. People from completely different worlds are coming together to preserve priceless knowledge. The knowledge of thousands of varieties of plant life in the Amazon that hold unexplored healing potential. The Shipibo people of Peru and the Sápara people of Ecuador have joined forces with scientists and entrepreneurs from the U.S. to build the world’s first centers for the practice, research and preservation of Amazonian plant medicine. I personally am humbled and amazed by this mission, I want to be part of it in a very big way. Many of you know I myself have a chronic illness, and many friends and family members struggle from invisible illness. These plants may have the potential to change the way we look at illness. Many modern medicines are already derived from plants. Bark from a willow tree was used to make aspirin. Novocain comes from the cocoa plant. I could go on for hours because the truth of the matter is, about 40 percent of our prescription medicines come from plant extracts or synthesized plant compounds. Plant-based medicines are everywhere. The ancient practices of utilizing plants in the amazon must be studied. It deserves to be recorded, explored, remembered and pursued. PlantMed is going to make that happen! February 2016 I will be donating 10% of every sale to PlantMed to help with their mission to open a state of the art Healing Center that will dive into the research of Amazonian plants and their potential to cure diseases that modern medicine does not have a cure for!
Hello Sydney! It is so incredible to have you here with us today! First off how are you involved with PlantMed?
Hi Michelle, thanks for your support of Plantmed, we are very excited to be teaming up with the Vibrant Kitchen & Home. I have been working on Plantmed over the past two years, helping our amazing and diverse team plan and carry out the first stages of development of this incredible project. I have probably the most interesting job in the world, getting work side by side with indigenous communities, traditional healers, doctors, business people, and our amazing team of employees and supporters, all within the impressive setting of the Amazon rainforest.
What is your perspective on the power of plant medicine and its ability to heal?
The potential of plants to heal is still completely unknown and unstudied. I think there is a world of potential out there that Western medicine cannot even begin to comprehend. The sheer number of plants that exist in the world’s tropical forests is overwhelming, and less than 5% of those have ever been studied by western science. Just the fact of probability in itself should be enough to motivate the world to begin research ASAP. Through my work I have also had the opportunity to talk with many people who have successfully undergone Amazonian treatments, and so I have seen first-hand that plant medicine can provide effective treatments for certain illnesses.
Have you spent time with either the Shipibo or Sápara people? If so what was the experience like?
Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to spend time with both the Shipibo and Sápara and they are quite different. There are over 300,000 Shipibo still living, working, and healing throughout the Peruvian Amazon, they are well known for their expertise in healing and vast knowledge of medicinal plants. The Shipibo maintain a strong cultural heritage, and their language and customs are still used to this day. On the other hand, there are only just over 500 Sápara left, and they are working to defend their traditional territory and make a livelihood for themselves and their families. Only 5 Sápara elders still speak the Sápara language, and their isolated communities are consistently under threat from cultural and commercial forces. At Naku, the Sápara community has created a place where people can not only be healed, but also come to learn about the culture and the natural wonders of the Amazon rainforest.
Can you describe to us what the research centers would be like? Design, and what would be going on inside?
The two centers will be quite different, and their designs will reflect their different purposes. Rios Nete will be a state of the art research facility, with a medical laboratory, doctor’s office, and 14 patient rooms with all modern amenities. Situated on 25 acres in the Upper Peruvian Amazon, it has an ecological design, as well as medicinal and kitchen gardens and permaculture installations, to provide patients a natural setting and organic food during their treatment. Naku will be more of a rustic setting, given its remoteness and the desire of the Sápara community to maintain the cultural and environmental integrity of their project. At Naku patients will have the opportunity to experience the traditional Sápara way of life, and as part of the healing process they will learn from the Sápara about living in harmony with nature and one another, as well as traditional methods for healing and maintaining well-being.
With rainforests being threatened by environmental destruction, are these plants that harness this incredible power in danger as well? How will Plantmed protect them?
Of course they are in danger, as we continue to allow the destruction of the rainforest we are losing untold numbers of endemic species every year. While the destruction of rainforest is caused by many different factors and exploitative industries, we think that medicine is one of the few ‘disruptive technologies’ that can change these patterns. Because the potential value of new medicines is so high, it represents one of the few forest products that could compete in today’s marketplace.
PlantMed is bridging the gap between alternative and western healing modalities. Can you tell us what each branch will be doing at the center?
Our idea is to create a place where indigenous healers work together with a western doctor and a psychologist to diagnose, treat, and monitor patients over time. The primary healing modality will be Amazonian, while western doctors will be on staff to handle medical emergencies as well as to monitor and evaluate patient’s progress according to the research methodologies of western medicine. The psychologist will work to establish clear communication between the team and patients, as well as understand the psychological underpinnings that can contribute to our physical illnesses.
What is the ultimate goal for PlantMed?
I think each of us has become involved in Plantmed for different reasons, for some it is to revolutionize the way we do medicine, for others it is to find new cures for modern illnesses that have caused suffering for themselves or their loved ones. For me, the ultimate goal is to provide proof of the rainforest’s value in the modern world, and in doing so to stop the destruction of the Amazon and create opportunities for its peoples to preserve and benefit from their ancestral knowledge.
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