Medicinal Plants of the AmazonAyahuasca is a drink brewed from several native plants, and the composition of any one batch depends on the skill and experience of the shaman. Most often, however, the brew contains at least Psychotria viridis, which contains DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and Banisteriopsis caapi, which contains an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor). Ayahuasca has been used as a strong medicine for centuries by indigenous people

What most don’t realize, however, is that there are several other interesting medicinal plants from the Amazon that we know about and countless others that haven’t been discovered yet. Lets take a brief look at some of those plants.

Stevia rebaudiana

Yes, the sweetener stevia comes from the Amazon and is native to Brazil and Paraguay. It’s much sweeter than sugar although some people note a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations. Stevia is readily available in the US and Canada.

Pilocarpus annatifolius (Jaborandi)

The modern drug Pilocarpine is derived from this plant. Pilocarpine promotes sweating and salivating and is used to treat glaucoma and conditions in which a patient suffers from a dry mouth. The drug is inexpensive to make and is on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medicines.

Cinchona sp.

Cinchona is native to western South America, and some varieties are the only known natural sources of quinine, the first (and still used today) treatment for malaria. The national tree of Peru is a species of Cinchona tree.

Menispermaceae, Loganiaceae, Aroideae Families

These plant families are the sources of curare, a well-known muscle relaxant and paralytic used today in anesthesia. These plants are native to South America and have been used for centuries to poison the tips of arrows for hunting.

Cephaelis ipecacuanha

This plant is the original source of ipecac used historically to induce vomiting and as an expectorant.

Paullinia cupana (Guarana)

Guarana, native to the Brazilian Amazon basin, has seeds that are very high in caffeine, about twice the concentration in a coffee bean. It’s an effective stimulant and is the basis for several soft drinks manufactured in Brazil.

So much of the Amazon remains unexplored and many other useful plants are waiting to be discovered.

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