Medicinal Plant Directory
Plant medicine is older than history, older than humankind itself, for undoubtedly animals were using plants to heal before humans emerged on earth. We, as living beings, are all made of the same planetary material and we use this material, our own and of others, to live together, making up the body of Mother Earth. We share the air we breath with the plants, in a beautiful example of how interconnected we are. Where would we be without plants?
This directory is our way of helping to preserve the wisdom of plant medicine. It will forever be in development, as we continue to learn and discover more information regarding the medicinal properties, chemistry, and preparation of a growing number of plants.
Achiote – bixa orellana
Achiote is a small tree or big bush that reaches a height of 3 to 5 meters. The leaves are alternated heart-shaped, generally 10 to 20 cm in length and 5 to 10 cm in width. They are green on both sides with discreet purple coloration on the back of the ribbings. Sometimes known as Annato, Achiote is known for its fruit, a bright red spiky seed capsule that contains seeds covvered with a soft red matreial that is used as a pigment for indigenous adornment. Typically, achiote is used as a food coloring and spice in cooking, but it is also a very useful medicinal herb for the treatment of many illnesses.
Ajo Sacha – mansoa alliacea
Ajo sacha is an evergreen tropical shrubby vine with leaves that have a strong garlic smell and flavor when crushed. Ajo sacha produces bright green leaves up to 15 cm long and beautiful deep lavender flowers with a white throat that fade to a pale lavender, then to almost white. All three flower colors can be found on the plant simultaneously. While it is used in cooking as a flavorful herb, it most often used medicinally.
Ajo sacha is well used and respected by most of the indigenous Indian tribes of the Amazon and almost all parts of the plant are used; the leaves, vine bark, and root. Most consider the plant to be magical and capable of driving away dark spirits. Sometimes, it is used as an ingredient in the making of ayahuasca. It is most often used in baths, however, to cleanse the spirit from negative energy and to boost the immune system and the body’s ability to resist colds and illnesses.
It can be used to treat inflammations, rheumatism, arthritis, colds, uterine disorders, and epilepsy. The root is prepared in a cane alcohol tincture as an overall regenerative tonic. Dieting with this plant can often produce a heightened sense of brain activity and the ability to focus and concentrate, which is very helpful when drinking ayahuasca, and in life in general.
Albahaca – Ocimum basilicum
Albahaca, in english basil, is a medicinal herb that grows to a height of around one meter. It has oval or lanceolate leaves around 5 cm in length that are very aromatic. The flowers are grouped in spiral patterns formed by 6 flowers. This aromatic plant is typically know for its culinary uses, being a popular herb to spice food, but its medicinal properties are also well known in the Amazon.
It is often used for digestive problems, to prevent gastric spasms, and is very useful in the cases of the gastritis, hiatal hernia, and flatulence. The aroma of the plant stimulates the appetite, reduces nausea, and can also stimulate the production of milk in nursing mothers. It strengthens the nervous system, treats mouth ulcers and bad breath, and can even be used in abdominal massages. A seed of albahaca placed in the eye will remove unwanted material from the eye, like mucus.
Albahaca is often used in conjunction with other plants. One popular remedy is to combine five leaves of albahaca, three leaves of malva, and one large leaf of salvia and brew a tea. This will calm the symptoms of indigestion, gastritis, and even reduce an inflamed prostate. It is often used in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Anis – pimpinela anisum
The anise is a perennial medicinal plant that grows up to 50 cm in height. This medicinal plant has small white flowers around 3 mm in diameter with five petals, joined in flower clusters having stalked flowers arranged singly along an elongated unbranched axis. The fruits of Anise are between 3-5 mm in length with excellent medicinal properties. Throughout the world, anise is used to treat a variety of health problems.
Anise is used to treat digestive and stomach problems like gastritis, stomach aches, heartburn, and flatulence. It is also used as a remedy for asthma, respiratory diseases, bad breath, and to increase one’s appetite. For this reason, it is also used in treatment for eating disorders like anorexia. Anise can also ease nervous anxiety, help colds and coughs, bronchitis, and aid with tonsillitis.
Ayahuasca - Banisteriopsis Caapi
The brew made from this jungle vine has been used for centuries and perhaps millenia by the shamans of the Amazon Rainforest. The mashed vine is usually cooked together with the leaves of the Chacruna plant (psychotria viridis) or other plants similar in chemical composition. The brew is drunk in healing ceremonies lead by ‘curanderos’, or spiritual healers… shamans.
There are several different types of Ayahuasca vines, each with different chemical compositions. The most popular variety to use in the healing brew is ‘Cielo Ayahuasca’ because it is considered to be the smoothest and easiest on the head. Some of the other varieties are ‘Boa,’ ‘Rayo,’ and ‘Negra.’
The vine has brown bark, usually covered by moss, that twists in a spiral as it grows, with green offshoots and ovate-lanaceolate leaves up to 8 inches long and 3 inches wide. The vine rarely produces flowers or seeds, going several years without blooming. The flowers are pink, with five delicate, fringed edged petals, and bright yellow, bizarre pistols, that seem to resemble some sort of alien cat. The seeds come individually inside a winged shell that ‘flies’ away.
Ayahuma – Couroupita guianensis
Ayahuma is a type of evergreen tree that grows up to 100 feet high. Its flowers are orange, scarlet and pink in color, and form large bunches measuring up to 10 feet in length. They produce large spherical and woody fruits ranging from 15 to 24 cm in diameter, which is why the english name for this plant is the cannonball tree. Each of these fruits, or cannonballs, contains up to 200 or 300 seeds apiece. This tree is considered a maestro plant, as its spirit enjoys teaching and the plant itself has incredible medicinal properties. The spirit is typically male and works well with other power plants like ayahuasca.
The flowers, leaves, bark and fruit flesh are used medicinally. Ayahuma possesses antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities. The bark is used to cure colds and stomach aches. The juice made from the leaves is used to cure skin diseases and for treating malaria. The inside of the fruit can disinfect wounds and young leaves ease toothache. It is common for curanderos to diet with this powerful tree in order to strengthen their spirits and protect them from dark or negative entities.
Bobinsana – Calliandra angustifolia
Bobinsana is a small, shrubby tree that grows to a maximum height of around 4 meters. Most commonly found alongside rivers and streams, Bobinsana is known especially for its beautiful pink flowers, made of long strings of bright pink that puff out from white central stalks. It is often kept in gardens as an ornamental flower.
Bobinsana is used for several reasons, most commonly as a stimulant and to treat arthritis and colds. The roots are often used in plant diets to give strength and energy and the bark is sometimes added to plant baths to boost the immune system and to increase resistance to sickness.
Considered a plant teacher in the tradition of curanderismo, bobinsana is occasionally added to ayahuasca preparations but it is more commonly dieted on its own in order to learn more about its healing properties and to gain power through connecting with its spirit. It has been used to treat a number of illnesses due to its immune system boosting properties.
Capirona – Calycophyllum spruceanum
Capirona is a canopy tree in the Amazon that grows tall and straight up to a height of about 30 meters. For this reason, it has been used as a source of good, high density lumber. It produces an abundance of small, white, aromatic flowers which are followed by elongated seed pods with 3-5 seeds inside. It can often be found near water as it can survive common periodic flooding in the region.It is noted for its ability to completely shed and regenerate its bark on a yearly basis, making harvesting the bark a totally renewable and sustainable enterprise. The bark is smooth (as if polished) and changes colors throughout the year as it matures – going from a green tone to a brownish tone.
Capirona bark is used as an admixture to ayahuasca, but it is more often used as a poultice made from the bark to treat cuts, wounds and burns. It is believed to have antifungal and wound-healing qualities. A tea made from the bark is used as a lotion after bathing. This forms a thin film covering their bodies believed to help fight the effects of aging, parasites and fungal infections. A bark decoction is also used to treat diabetes. 1kg of the bark is boiled in 10 liters of water until 4 liters remain. It is believed that if this decoction is drunk every day (about 5 ounces daily) for three consecutive months that it is a “cure” for diabetes. Peruvian tribes also apply the powdered bark to fungal infections of the skin. They also prepare a bark decoction to treat skin parasites – especially “sarna negra” – a nasty little bug that lives under the skin which is commonly found in the Amazon basin area.
A bark decoction is used topically for eye infections and infected wounds as well as for skin spots, skin depigmentation, wrinkles and scars. It also stops bleeding quickly and is often applied to bleeding cuts and to soothe insect bites and reduce bruising and swelling. The resin is used for abscesses, and skin tumors.
Catahua – Hura crepitans
Catahua is a tree that can reach a height of 40 meters. It is most known for its recognizable trunk which is covered with conical spines. The leaves are thin and heart shaped and its flowers are red. The tree is poisonous, with toxins released by its thorns that are used in poison dart preparations. For this reason, it is considered to be a powerful protection plant.
Most commonly used in vapor baths, the bark of the Catahua plant provides protection from negative spirits by producing a suit of armor similar to its bark in the spiritual dimensions. The thorns are carefully cut off the bark prior to using it, however, to prevent any toxins from being inhaled during the vapor baths. It is also a powerful teacher plant and is often dieted along with ayahuma or by itself, using a decoction made from boiling the bark.
Chacruna – psychotria viridis
The leaves of this jungle bush have been used for ages in the brew ‘ayahuasca,’ prepared by the shamans of the Amazon Rainforest to diagnose and heal countless afflictions. The leaves of the Chacruna plant are usually cooked together with mascerated segments of the ayahuasca vine.
Because of its chemical composition, the mixture of plants allows the shaman to enter a spiritual dimension where most of shamanic work takes place. The brew is drunk in healing ceremonies lead by ‘curanderos’, or shamans that heal.
There are several different varieties referred to as Chacruna by the shamans of the Amazon, but psychotria viridis is the most common of them all.
The shiny leaves of this evergreen bush are long and narrow and vary from bright to dark green. The small white flowers grow on long stalks that produce several red berries, about 1cm in length. These berries contain multiple long, oval seeds.
Chanca Piedra – phyllanthus niruri
Chanca piedra is a small herb that grows up to 30 cm in height. The plant’s name means “stone breaker” in spanish. It was named for its effectiveness in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones. Used in a tea preparation or as an extract, the plant has tremendous medicinal properties. It is used in treatments for a plethora of other illnesses, including cancer and AIDS due to its ability to strengthen and protect cells. It is also a great aid to digestion and the removal of gases in the system.
Chanca piedra is also used to treat hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other viral infections, as well as for liver conditions and venereal diseases. The entire plant, including its roots, is used when making the preparation. It is one of the most famous medicinal plants in the Amazon for its incredible ability to remove stones, but also for its positive effect on general health, digestion, and cellular activity.
Chiric Sanango – brunfelsia grandiflora
Chiric Sanango has a long history of indigenous use in the healing traditions of curanderismo. It is a sacred and spiritual plant sometimes used by Curanderos in ayahuasca preparations, in protective baths, plant diets, as well as remedies. In the Amazon, the root is infused with alcohol for treatment of rheumatism as well as a decoction of leaves used externally. Sometime referred to as the Fever Plant, preparation of the roots are used for chills, fever, yellow fever, colds and flu, and even venereal diseases to clean the blood while using a poultice of the leaves as a topical analgesic.
The root of Chiric Sanango is said to stimulate the lymphatic system, and it has also been used for the treatment of syphilis. It is powerful teacher plant as well and is commonly dieted to increase energy, healing awareness, and to boost the immune system. It is very common for it to be found near the homes of curanderos as well as throughout the gardens of people everywhere, as it is always in bloom and its purple flowers are beautiful.
Chuchuhuasi – maytenus macrocarpa
Chuchuhuasi is a very large tree that grows to a height of over 30 meters. It is known for its powerful medicinal bark, as well as its large leaves and small, white flowers. Perhaps most commonly known as an aphrodisiac and sold throughout Peru as an alcoholic beverage, it has long been employed in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis. A decoction of the bark is typically taken three times a day in small quantities before meals.
The medicinal bark decoction is often used as a general tonic to help indigenous older people on long walks or when working in their farms or chakras. The reddish bark is soaked in sugar can rum and can be kept for long periods of time without losing its medicinal properties.
Copaiba – Copaifera officinalis
Copaiba is a tree that grows to a height of around 30 meters. This tree is quite famous in the Amazon region for producing a resin in its trunk, which is tapped and collected in a similar fashion as the harvest of maple syrup. Dozens of liters of resin can be collected each year without damaging the tree. It is this resin that is used medicinally. The tree produces long clusters of small, white flowers.
Copaiba resin is used topically to treat cuts and wounds and to stop bleeding. It is also used in the treatment of skin sores and skin conditions like psoriasis. It can be taken internally in very small doses for the treatment of respiratory problems like bronchitis and to treat kidney and bladder infections. It is sometimes used to help with ulcers and incontinence. It is primarily used topically for treating skin problems, even being employed to help with insect bites.
Guanabana – Annona Muricata
Guanabana is an fruit edible fresh or in ice creams or drinks. It grows on a small tree that reaches a height of no more than 8 meters. Nearly every part of this plant is used medicinally. The fruit is used to treat worms and parasites. The leaves are used to cleanse the liver. The bark and roots are used to treat diabetes and heart conditions. Guanabana is also used for chills, colds, diarrhea, dysentery, dyspepsia, fever, flu, gallbladder attacks, hypertension, insomnia, kidneys, nervousness, palpitations, pediculosis, ringworm, sores, internal ulcers. It has been found to be very beneficial in the treatment of cancer as well.
Hierba Luisa – cymbopogon citratus
Better known as lemon grass, Hierba Luisa is a small bush made of long grass. The leaves can grow as long as 70 cm, but just 1 to 2 cm wide. It rarely produces flowers. Typically, a tea is made from the leaves which is drunk as a delicious beverage but also to provide relief from stomach pain, menstrual cramps, and to help with aches and pains associated with arthritis.
It is sometimes used as a purgative, where a weak tea is drunk in very large quantity to induce vomit at the end of a plant diet or to help with digestion. It has a very nice flavor and smell and helps with maintaining general health when used regularly.
Huacapurana – campsiandra angustifolia
Huacapurana is a medium-sized tree that grows alongside rivers and streams. It produces small pinkish flowers with red stamens. Commonly used as a remedy for malarial fever, it is also used to treat arthritis and diarrhea. The bark is boiled in its common preparation and very small amounts are ingested two or three times a day. The most common use is for treatment of malaria, but the indigenous consider it to be a very powerful plant in the spiritual realm as well.
A decoction made of the bark taken from the corona of the tree is used in small doses as a severe purgative and treatment for cancer and blood born illnesses. This treatment produces profound vomiting and diarrhea but is often used by curanderos to increase their spiritual strength and connection to the spirit world. After drinking, the following ayahuasca ceremonies are often much easier to navigate with much stronger visions.
Ishanga – urtica dioica
Ishanga, or Stinging Nettle, is a perennial plant growing in temperate and tropical wasteland areas around the world. It grows 2 to 4 meters high and produces pointed leaves and white to yellowish flowers. Ishanga, also called Ortega, has a well-known reputation for giving a savage sting when the skin touches the hairs and bristles on the leaves and stems.
Ishanga is used against a variety of complaints such as muscular and arthritis pain, eczema, ulcers, asthma, diabetes, intestinal inflammation, nosebleeds and rheumatism. Externally it is used for inflammations, sciatica, wounds and head lice.
The stinging sensation of the leaf hairs is caused by several plant chemicals including formic acid, histamine, serotonin, and choline. Several of Ishanga’s lectin chemicals have demonstrated marked antiviral actions (against HIV and several common upper respiratory viruses). Other chemicals (flavonoids in the leaves and a lectin in the root) might be useful in the treatment of systemic lupus.
Maca – lepidum meyenii
Maca is a hardy perennial plant cultivated high in the Andes Mountains, at altitudes from 8,000 to 14,500 feet. It has one of the highest frost tolerances among native cultivated species. Maca has a low-growing, mat-like stem system, which can go unnoticed in a farmer’s field. Its scalloped leaves lie close to the ground and it produces small, self-fertile, off-white flowers typical of the mustard family to which it belongs. The part used is the tuberous root, which looks likes a large radish (up to 8 cm in diameter) which is usually off-white to yellow in color.
Rich in nutritional content (potassium, and higher levels of calcium than in milk), maca is a natural hormonal balancer which provides great health benefits for both, men and women. Due to its high nutritional value, maca is not only popular as a sexual libido enhancer and menopause symptoms savior, but also greatly affects energy, stamina, depression, and memory.
In Peruvian herbal medicine today, maca is reported to be used as an immunostimulant; for anemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, stomach cancer, sterility (and other reproductive and sexual disorders), to enhance memory, to increase energy, stamina, and endurance, to promote mental clarity, and to help with menstrual irregularities, female hormonal imbalances, menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Malva – malachra ruderalis
The roots of mallow are rich in beneficial mucilage. The leaves, dark-green and coarse, are a powerhouse of minerals and vitamins (calcium, iron, vitamin C, copper traces and more) and an abundant, free source of organic nutrition. Curanderos prepare mallow leaves by rubbing the leaves together in cool water to treat a cough or for a cold or flu patient, or just to maintain health. They make a drink of water and mallow mucilage which is a diuretic and soothing to the digestive system, especially the urinary tract. Congestion and chest pain can obtain relief from this drink too.
As a poultice, mallow leaves will draw out boils and pus from old infections. Rashes and burns can be successfully treated with mallow leaves, crushed or blended. Mallow mucilage is also used to treat acne. The morning after an ayahuasca ceremony, It was normal and encouraged to drink the cold water mucilage drink in order to cleanse the digestive system from any toxins left over from the previous night’s purge.
Mapacho – nicotiana rustica
Mapacho is considered very sacred by Amazonian shamans and is employed alone (by tabaqueros) or in combination with other plants in shamanic practices. Some shamans drink the juice of tobacco leaves alone as a source of visions. Mapacho is used extensively in healing practices and is considered a medicine, not a health hazard, when used properly.
The principal active biochemicals are nicotine, nornicotine and anabasine. The proportion of each varies greatly among the species and varieties. As many as eight other pyridine alkaloids occur in lower concentrations.
A perenial shrub characterized by large fleshy leaves and numerous sticky hairs, Tobacco is smoked on rare occasions, except in ceremonies and curative rituals of the medicine men who blow smoke over the patient or inhale the smoke, all with appropriate incantations and ritual. Recreational smoking amongst the Indians of the northwest Amazon is not common, and cigarettes are rarely smoked except in areas where tribal customs are breaking down due to acculturation and the availability of commercial cigarettes.
The mestizo ayahuasqueros of Perú use mapacho as an admixture to the sacred brew and usually smoke large cigarettes during ayahuasca ceremonies, both inhaling the smoke and also blowing the smoke over patients, a process called ‘soplaying.’
Ojé – ficus insipida
Dr. Ojé is one of the many medicinal trees of the Amazon. Locals take the latex from the base of the tree as vermifuge, to remove intestinal worms and parasites, drinking one cup fresh mixed with orange juice and sugar. Those who take this purge must avoid greasy and salty foods for a week; they can not receive direct sun, and must avoid being seen by strangers to the family. (Those not following this diet may become “overo” with white skin pigmentation.)
The latex is also used to rub onto rheumatic inflammations.
Paico – chenopodium ambrosioides
Paico is an annual herb that grows to about 1 m in height. It has multi-branched, reddish stems covered with small, sharply toothed leaves. Also known as Epazote, it bears numerous small yellow flowers in clusters along its stems. Following the flowers, it produces thousands of tiny black seeds in small fruit clusters. The whole plant gives off a strong and distinctive odor.
Indigenous people in the Amazon use it to expel intestinal worms and as a mild laxative. (usually by taking one cup of a leaf concoction each morning before eating for three consecutive days). The plant concoction is also used for stomach upsets and internal hemorrhages caused by falls, to expel intestinal gas, as an insecticide, and as a natural remedy for cramps, gout, hemorrhoids, and nervous disorders. Some indigenous tribes bathe in a concoction of Paico to treat childhood trauma or to reduce fever and will also throw a couple of freshly uprooted green plants onto their fires to drive mosquitoes and flies away.
Sacha Culantro – eryngium foetidum
Sacha Culantro is a common weed found in throughout the Amazon Rainforest. The upper leaves are arranged in a star-like formation and clusters of tiny flowers grow from the center of these rosettes. If any part of the plant is crushed it produces a distinctive pungent odor.
While commonly used as a condiment with a distinctive flavor, the leaves are also used in a tea to treat indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, or dispel flatulence. Often used in conjunction with sage and/or mallow as well to maintain healthy digestion and immune system function.
Salvia – salvia officinalis
Sage is one of the oldest medicinal herbs ever used. There is no part of this plant that can not be used. The leaves, flowers and stems all have healing attributes. Sage is used to alleviate respiratory infection, nasal congestion, coughs, tonsillitis and sore throats. It helps with indigestion and with the liver. It is used for insomnia, by sleeping with a small pillow filled with dried sage leaves. Usually, sage is prepared as a tea. (Pouring boiling water over sage leaves and letting mixture steep for ten minutes) One to two cups are drunk each day to relieve symptoms of coughs, and respiratory infections.
Sangre de Grado – Croton Lechleri
Sangre de Grado is used to heal wounds, cuts, external injuries, and for vaginal baths before childbirth. It is also recommended for throat, mouth, intestinal and stomach ulcers. It is an excellent instant bandage for children and adults, good for leucorrhea, piles, cuts, etc. The alkaloid taspine hydrochloride has been found to be the main cicatrizant, wound healing principle, anticancer agent.
Sangre de Grado has been known and used as: anti-tumor, cicatrizant/anti-cancer, anti-diarrheal, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, wound healing. It demonstrated potent antibacterial activity against Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, genital herpes lesions, excellent healing agent for wounds, blisters, and burns.
Tangarana – triplaris surinamensis
Tangarana is a long slender tree growing 10-20 meters tall. A member of the buckwheat family, it often houses a specific species of ants in its hollow trunk.
A bark infusion is used throughout the Amazon as a ‘cure all’ and to treat intenstinal infections and diarrhea. The juice of the bark is used to treat toothache. Also used as vermifuge and for the treatment of herpes. The thin, papery bark is delicately sliced off with a machete and boiled, taken twice daily for several months.
Toé – brugmansia suaveolens
The leaves, seeds and flowers of Toé are most often used but in some cultures the root is also used. Preparations include leaves rolled up into cigarettes, mixing seeds with Cannabis and/or tobacco for smoking, mixing ground seeds with wine or beer, teas made with the leaves and flowers, cold water extracts of the root, enemas prepared with an infusion made from the leaves, and suppositories made from rolled up leaves.
Its confirmed medicinal qualities are spasmolytic, anti-asthmatic, anticholinergic, narcotic and anesthetic. The leaves are smoked to relieve asthma. A steambath is prepared from the leaves for bad coughs and bronchitis. The juice is boiled and mixed with lard as an external application for burns, scalds, inflammations and hemorrhoids. Poultices made of the leaves are applied to arthritic or rheumatic pains, swellings and badly healing wounds . It is used as an antispasmodic to control Parkinson’s disease.
In the Amazon, Brugmansia is used in magical practices for visionary journeys, shape-shifting, divination, clairvoyance, love magic, aphrodisiac, amulets, and incense. Scopolamine is responsible for the visionary effects and is the alkaloid occurring in highest concentration. Curanderos respect it as very powerful plant and use it cautiously and sparingly. On the other hand, Brujos, individuals engaged in the practice of black magic, may use Toé frequently with little discrimination or integrity in its applications.
Uña de Gato – uncaria tormentosa
Uña de Gato, or Cat’s Claw, is the one of the most sacred herbs among the Amazonian tribes. According to indigenous curanderos, Uña de Gato serves as a bridge and balancer between the two worlds “physical and spiritual”; because they believe that firstly soul becomes ill then the body- the sacred balance/unity is broken, therefore Uña de Gato helps to unify the two.
Cat’s Claw is used to treat cancer, HIV, AIDS, urinary track infection & inflammations, arthritis, rheumatism, sciatic nerve spasm, ulcers, and tumors. It is a very potent immune system booster and studies indicate that cat’s claw has the ability to protect cancer cells from maturing.