Peru is a plant person’s paradise


Peru is an awesome and inspiring place to study plants and plant spirit medicine. Within the geological and ecologically varied terrain of the country are some of the most biodiverse and wild places on the entire planet. The Madre de Dios region of the amazon includes high jungle cloud forests stretching down to the jungle basin and is the home to some 80 thousand higher plant species, calculated to be one of the most species-dense places known.

Peru is also an intensely earth and spiritual based culture with numerous pre-Inca ancient cultural influences intact, with many lineages maintaining the evolved versions of centuries-old ways of living in, and relating to the jungle or other natural environment around them. Add the amazing power spots, ruins, natural wonders, fascinating arts, architecture, music, textiles, dance, and thriving religions and spiritual groups, Peru practically oozes spiritual energy. Peru is a driving force behind the pulse of the planet’s being, and Peru has now superceded India as the number one travel destination for spiritual seekers of the world.

*Not Just Ayahuasca*
Many spiritual seekers flock to Peru to imbibe Ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic and transformational brew of the amazon. And to be sure, this potent medicine deserves a blog entry of its own at some point in the future. However, plant spirit medicine is much more than ephemeral psychedelic journeys, and I wish to focus on the broader concepts of plant spirit medicine, herbal medicines, and subtler forms of healing using plants and plant traditions seen here in Peru. And indeed, you can see ethnobotanical connections everywhere you look. The beautiful hand-woven textiles used as natural dyes such as _Curcuma_ for bright yellow and the cochineal insect that parasitizes the _Opuntia_ cactus, known as Tuna in Peru, yielding a brilliant magenta hue, are one example.

These brilliant colors connect us to the plant realm via our eyes and are said to open the heart to the sacred experience of the here and now. All of the hundreds of saints and religious days celebrated throughout Peru involve a fusion of Catholicism and Incan and Pre-Incan traditions in the smudging of religious icons with Palo Santo (the aromatic wood of _Triplaris_ trees used as an incense), the draping of Jesus with garlands of flowers, garlic and aromatic herbs, and laying corn and other symbolic offerings at his feet. Over the doors of many rural campesinos hang cactus arms naturally configured into the shape of a cross, or wheat and grasses woven into crosses hung with monopoly money to bring good fortune, Ruda (_Ruta graveolans_) to ward off evil, and fresh flowers, to attract beauty and harmony into one’s life.

*Invitation to the Conversation*
This blog series will explore individual plants with culinary, nutritional, medicinal, spiritual, and cultural significance. We will look at healing with herbal baths, shamanic preparations such as amulets and seguros, planta maestras such as ayahuasca and San Pedro, as well as dozens of individual plants and explore their chemistry, physiologic effects, and their ethnobotanical significance throughout history. If there is a plant, a ritual, a healing therapy that you would like to see explored here, write me! We can start a conversation and flesh it out for all to join.

*Go on one of Jillian’s tours!*
Join Jillian in the Jungle! Dr Stansbury will be leading 10 day ethnobotanical tours for plant lovers in Peru each August 20-30. They will meet in the fascinating city of Cusco, Peru and spend several days studying Andean plants, traditions, foods, and culture, and then spend a week traveling down in the Manú region of the Peruvian amazon studying the mystical and medicinal plants of the Hauchiperi, Matsigenka, and invited guests from other indigenous communities with whom Dr Stansbury has been studying for the past decade.

This is a rare opportunity to get off the tourist trail and travel by van, boat, and easy jungle hikes to some of the most remote, and biodiverse places on the planet and meet with native communities who hold age hold wisdom about the plants and spirits of the forest. You will study plant families, medicines, chemistry, philosophical and healing ideas, and of course ethnbotanical basics, and have a chance to interact directly with the warm, skillful, and fascinating people of the forest. Upon returning to Cuzco, the group will hold a traditional Andean healing and Coca ceremony on the outskirts of town for the closing day. You will eat at some of the best restaurants in Cuzco while in town and enjoy evening musical and cultural programs, and will travel with a private chef while visiting remote jungle lodges. This is a once in a lifetime, plant and spirit-filled adventure! The trip is limited to 12 participants.

*Want to know more? You can sign up for an Ethnobotany journey by contacting Dr Stansbury at jstansbury@ncnm.edu.*Meet Peru this Week’s new travel blogger, Dr Jillian Stansbury!