Posted 12 August 2011, by John Christopher Fine, The Epoch Times, theepochtimes.com
When I asked the shaman about their healing methods they told me, “ask the plants,” explains Enrique Barbano Quijano. Henri, as he is called by his friends, is an herbalist and traditional healer. A former Seventh-Day Adventist minister and evangelist that preached with the likes of Billy Graham, he spends most of his time now in the jungles of the Amazon researching medicinal plants with traditional healers.
“I stayed almost two months with one tribe in Peru. They live like they lived 300 years ago. I saw how they gathered plants and made medicine,” Henri related from Palm Beach, Fla., where he spends time when not doing field research in the Amazon and Mexico.
Born in 1957 in La Plata, Argentina, Henri’s father was an engineer that worked on the Pan-American Highway. His mother was a medical doctor. After high school in La Plata, Henri attended the University of Denver where he was a theology major and archaeology minor. Henri’s quests in archaeology led him into the jungles where he met and made friends with indigenous peoples. He began to bring them clothing and medicines during his field work.
In 1999, Henri began a project to discover ancient writings of the Inca people of Peru. It was then that he developed an interest in healing plants. He was able to witness the work of shamans—not as an outsider, but as a trusted associate.
It was then that Henri began making notes for a book he is preparing about medicinal plants. “My best teacher was ayahuasca. I studied that plant for years,” he recalled. It is pronounced aye-ahh-was-ka. The vine grows wild in the Amazon jungles of Peru and Ecuador. It is harvested by shamans, cut, then boiled with a leaf called chacruna.
“It has been used for thousands of years. When a child is born, indigenous people give it a drop of ayahuasca,” explained Henri. It is said to cleanse the physical and spiritual body.
Henri received formulas for ayahuasca and studied them at Universidad Particular de Iquitos in Peru. There are many varieties of the vine and leaf remedy that differ in strength. One of the varieties Henri describes is called Heaven: “The ayahuasca vine is cut, peeled, then boiled in three liters of water with chacruna. This is used in the Pucallpa region of Peru. It is cooked for eight hours. The fluid is brown and sticky.”
In traditional medicine, the patient is prepared in a ceremony for three to seven days of cleansing. A diet of special plantains and fresh-water fish from lakes or rivers is maintained. The shaman prepares the patient by smoking the person with tobacco. The ceremony is not unlike Native American traditional smoke ceremonies.
“When the body is cleansed, the patient drinks ayahuasca. They go to sleep and dream,” Henri said. The ceremony is accompanied by Ikaros. “The traditional Ikaros are flute songs. The flutist guides you in your dreams. The shaman attends you if you are crying. They apply a lotion called Agua de Florida. People dream. They see problems that arose when they were young.”
Videos of traditional ayahuasca ceremonies and taped interviews with an American that went through the process indicate that the reaction to the medicinal plant can be extreme. Visions may include things that are suppressed from the conscious memory. The patient often vomits from the effects of the sticky, bad-tasting fluid. One man described his lack of control after taking the remedy and of throwing up several times. Upon release the subject said he felt peace.
Henri asserted that the therapy is used to cure heroin and cocaine addiction. “When you cleanse your body you cleanse the liver, blood, kidneys. Inhalations cleanse the respiratory areas,” he said.
Besides ayahuasca, Henri described how diet is an important part of the traditional medicine he has studied. “The body needs vitamins and minerals. The body craves foods. Healthy foods like salads, fruits, fresh things. No fast food.” Henri continued, “In traditional medicine, headaches are cured by eating strawberries. Cholesterol is helped with pineapple juice, eggplant, and cat’s claw. The origin of these medicines in food comes from traditional healers.”
“Stress is the worst thing to make you sick,” Henri affirmed. “When you eat you have to take time. When you have tension and stress and you are in a hurry, the food is not going to be good for your system.”
Henri also described how in the healing he has studied, it is important that people feel needed, wanted, and loved by those around them: “If the kidneys are not functioning well the person feels lonely, sad. Some people as a result take to drink and they get hooked on alcohol.”
Modern science is beginning to learn from these traditional practices. Researchers are scouring the Amazon seeking knowledge from plants and hoping to find miracle cures for the scourge of human diseases.
“Listen to the plants,” a wise shaman healer told Henri long ago. In traditional healing, plants can talk.
Dr. John Christopher Fine served as a medical missionary in war-ravaged Congo. He saw firsthand the power of the shaman in tribal life and the use of indigenous healing remedies. He is a marine biologist and often describes ocean elements that are used for food and healing. He is the author of 24 books, many dealing with health and environmental issues.