This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Universo Online. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website. Our RJF website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.
After drinking ayahuasca, guided by strange visions and strange coincidences (which we will tell you more about later), French doctor Jacques Mabit was drawn into the universe he sought to know. He became a healer and decided to create a center in the Peruvian Amazon jungle to treat chemical dependents and to research and protect local traditional medicine.
To learn more about this character's story, our team traveled to Tarapoto, a small town located in the state of San Martin, Peru, on the border between the Andes and the Amazon Rainforest, where the Takiwasi therapeutic center (a Quechua word that translates into Portuguese as "The House That Sings") has been operating for exactly 30 years.
It is worth pointing out that Amazonian medicine, especially Peruvian traditional medicine, is a very old and complex system of knowledge that works with a huge variety of plants. The main one is ayahuasca. And these practices in Peru are recognized as cultural heritage.
Ayahuasca is a drink prepared from the leaves of a shrub called chacrona (Psychotria viridis) and a vine known as mariri (Banisteriopsis caapi), two psychoactive Amazonian plants. It has been used for thousands of years by dozens of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon and for decades by Brazilian religious cults, such as Santo Daime and União do Vegetal, which have spread around the world.
In Brazil, the use of ayahuasca by Indigenous peoples and religious groups is protected by a 2010 regulation. But research with the Amazonian drink is advancing with promising results in the direction of a possible therapeutic use as well.
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I quickly came into contact with healers and they all said the same thing: "If you don't try medicine, you won't understand. It's the plants that tell you. I was confused, I had never talked to plants before."