by Dr. Katherine Gaston
There is a wisdom and healing nature to medicinal plants that may not be measured via scientific studies. Often plants of the amazon are taken in with the guidance of a healer or shaman. One who is considered to be a priest or priestess, connected to the spiritual world and the spiritual nature of the plant. Taking in of medicinal plants with a spiritual intention or in a ritual-like ceremony most certainly will have an affect on the plants ability to heal.
Understandably, western medicine would like to have scientific evidence of efficacy prior to making a statement on its usefulness. However, it is important to understand that the laboratory setting is a very different setting than that which the herbs have been traditionally taken in. Measuring the efficacy of a plant medicine in a laboratory setting or through the isolation of individual plant constituents may give results that are not always representative of the healing properties of the plant. Often, a medicinal plant is much more than the sum of it’s individual constituents, and for this reason, isolating an “active compound” of the plant may actually lead us astray in our understanding of how the plant works.
There is a spiritual component to the plant and a ritual to the ingestion of the medicine that is not currently honored in western medicine or in western clinical trials. For this reason, it is important to look to the indigenous people who have lived with the plants for generations. There is wisdom to these traditions that, as of yet, science has not been able to measure.