Etnobiology 5: Mansoa alliacea Ajo sacha, Jungle Garlic


Jungle garlic is in the Bignoniaceae Family and is an evergreen shrub native to the Amazon and flowering vining plant that grows to 2-3 meters in height. Sacha is a word meaning shrub or bush in Quechua and ajo is the Spanish word for garlic, and the crushed leaves of Mansoa alliacea smell like garlic. The plant is well known in Amazon market places where it is sold for a variety of shamanic, medicinal and culinary purposes. The plant is used as a garlic-like herb, but also like garlic and its vampire lore, Ajo sacha is said to be a plant to help protect us, to break spells and magical attachments, and purge the body of impurities. Ajo sacha is sometimes used to shift ones luck, to cleanse the spirit, and to help cleanse the body and restore physical health.
Fresh ajo sacha leaves are also rubbed all over the body to reduce human stench and improve success in hunting. Shamans also believe that Ajo sacha sharpens eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell to improve hunting prowess. It is considered to be a stalking plant due to its ability to amplify the senses. Some shamans use the plant to help a person see their spiritual path and have insight into other realms or states of reality that underlie everyday reality.
The plant is also thought to have magical properties, bringing lucid dreams, driving away evil spirits and bringing good luck. The leaves are sometimes gathered and tied in bunches, and burned as a smudge to cleanse the spirit is homes and places. The Shipibo people give a tea prepared from the bark to their hunting dogs as well as consumed the tea themselves to bring luck in hunting and fishing. Ajo sacha is also added as an adjuvant ingredient to Ayahuasca brews to help drive away evil spirits during the experience and to purify the body and make it more open to the plant spirits.
Some shamans report that Ajo Sacha has a sense of humor and is a gate keeper to the dream world and to realm of plant spirits. The plant may use humorous tricks to get your attention during dreaming and promote lucidity. In fact, the shamans tell us, everything is a dream and Ajo Sacha helps us to understand this through our lucid dreaming. One vegetalista and tobascero with whom I am friends recommends “dietas” with Ajo sacha where the plant is consumed daily.
Mansoa is also used as an all-purpose tonic, appropriate for a wide variety of health complaints. It is antiinflammatory by virtue of being a free radical scavenger and antioxidant. It is antimicrobial to bacteria, fungi, and viruses making it useful for everything from simple colds and flus, to intestinal infections, to topical skin washes for fungal infections. The Shipibo have used the bark topically as a poultice on injuries and inflammatory conditions of the skin. The bark is also decocted to consume internally for musculoskeletal disorders, uterine disorders and infertility. There is also mention of the plant for epilepsy. The root is sometimes tinctured to use as a general tonic. So called “cold macerations” where the chopped root is simply soaked for 2 or 3 days in water is a common Mansoa medicinal preparation. Baths of the plant have also been prepared for muscle pain and the achiness of influenza and viral infections.

Happy trails!