Bringing together traditional and western medicine to improve health in native communities in Peruvian Amazon

Bringing together traditional and western medicine to improve health in native communities in Peruvian Amazon
February 8, 2022 Rachel Biel
Small group collection of medicinal plants, Amazon Ecology, Peru

By Campbell Plowden, Executive Director, Amazon Ecology

COVID has hit Peru very hard.  Despite tough government mandates, over three million people have gotten the disease, and more than two hundred people have died from it.  The pandemic’s impact in the Amazon region was particularly high where many people died in the first wave due to lack of therapeutic oxygen.  While infection rates were as high as 90% in a few of Amazon Ecology’s partner communities, there were surprisingly few fatalities.  Many believed that their use of traditional plant medicines were crucial supplements to some medicines available from the pharmacy.

Small group discussion at medicinal plant workshop, Amazon Ecology, Peru

Small group discussion at medicinal plant workshop, Amazon Ecology, Peru

In October of 2021 we organized a four-day long Integrated Health workshop in the village of Huitotos del Estiron to facilitate the sharing of information and skills related to both traditional and western medicine for the 14 native communities in the Ampiyacu River region with a grant from the GlobalGiving COVID Relief Fund.  We invited each community to send a “curaca” who knew traditional medicine well as well as their “health promoter” who was responsible for handling some medicines they had in a village pharmacy.

Boiling bark for medicinal tea, Amazon Ecology, Peru

Boiling bark for medicinal tea, Amazon Ecology, Peru

The first two days of the gathering focused on traditional medicine.  Participants initially discussed how they used medicinal plants to treat COVID, other ailments and physical traumas. On the second day, they gathered some plants around the village and demonstrated how they prepared and used them.  The final two days of the workshop shifted to training from the area health technician on how to take a patient’s temperature, measure blood pressure and oxygen saturation, give an injection and suture a wound.

Learning to read a thermometer, Amazon Ecology, Peru

Learning to read a thermometer, Amazon Ecology, Peru

The most emotional part of the workshop was hearing people share how COVID had affected their community.  A representative from Puca Urquillo Bora tearfully relayed how helpless they felt when so many people got sick and some died.  There were many appreciations expressed for Amazon Ecology’s donation of medicines to their health posts, food aid given to hundreds of families, and organization of this workshop.  Another health promoter said, “During the pandemic we applied much of what we knew, but we also experimented a lot. We had to try everything.  I came to this workshop to hear everything that others tried, and some were new to me. Medicine is a wonderful and complex thing. The knowledge of our ancestors is valuable, and our children should know it.”

Traditional healers discussing medicinal plant use, Amazon Ecology, Peru

Traditional healers discussing medicinal plant use, Amazon Ecology, Peru

See the full story and more photos from this workshop.

Amazon Ecology is an Artizan Made member selling fair trade crafts made by indigenous and campesino groups in the Amazon, Northern Peru.  This map shows you their field sites and can give some idea of the places mentioned in this article: Google Map .
Workshops, like this one, are a part of their larger mission:

Amazon Ecology promotes the well-being of the Amazon ecosystem by supporting its people to create sustainable livelihoods, vibrant cultures, healthy and empowered communities, and resilient forests.

Visit their Member Profile for their links and story.

Comments (0)

Questions or feedback? Leave us a comment!

%d bloggers like this: