"Plants with mother": plants that teach and guide in the shamanic initiation process in the East-Central Peruvian Amazon. - PubMed - NCBI

Posted October 16, 2017


We present and discuss a particular group of plants used by a variety of healers in the initiation process and apprenticeship of traditional medicine, as practiced by Amazonian societies in East -Central Peru. Often, these plants are locally called plants with a mother, and are thought to guide initiates in the process of seeking sacred knowledge, learning about plant usage, and understanding traditional medicine practices. We illustrate the diversity of plants used in the apprenticeship and practice of traditional medicine, and nurture the discussion to better understand the terminology used by Indigenous healers to describe plant uses and their practices.


The study was conducted between 2003 and 2008 with the participation of 29 healers (healers; 23 men, 6 women), 3 apprentices and 4 herbalists. The participants belonged to four ethnic groups: 17 Mestizos, 15 Shipibo-Konibo, 1 Ashaninka, and 1 Matsiguenga; a Spanish apprentice and an Italian herbalist were also included in the study. The field data were collected using semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and the witnessing of numerous healing sessions. Oral informed consent was obtained from each participant.


Traditional healers continue to be a primary source of health care for the majority of the population in the Amazon region. Our research suggests that the system of diets and the plants with mother are fundamental components of the traditional practice of traditional medicine, maintenance of cultural continuity and Indigenous cosmovisions in the Amazonian societies in East-Central Peru. This paper contributes to filling the gap in the understanding of the process of initiation among healers in this area of ​​the world. The study provides evidence of the need to collaborate with Indigenous healers to improve the recognition of their medical practices, role in their societies, and the value of their tools and medicines. A respectful attitude and open exchange of ideas and information may contribute to a better understanding of the language used by traditional medical practitioners, their practice, and their worldviews.

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