UCL Discovery
UCL home » Library Services » Electronic resources » UCL Discovery

Teacher plants — Indigenous Peruvian-Amazonian dietary practices as a method for using psychoactives

Berlowitz, I; O'Shaughnessy, DM; Heinrich, M; Wolf, U; Maake, C; Martin-Soelch, C; (2022) Teacher plants — Indigenous Peruvian-Amazonian dietary practices as a method for using psychoactives. Journal of Ethnopharmacology , 286 , Article 114910. 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114910. Green open access

[thumbnail of 1-s2.0-S0378874121011405-main.pdf]
Preview
Text
1-s2.0-S0378874121011405-main.pdf - Published Version

Download (733kB) | Preview

Abstract

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Indigenous groups of the Amazon have developed intricate methods for the application of psychoactives, among which particularly the dieta or diet method of Peruvian-Amazonian traditional medicine stands out. It is a retreat-like intervention involving lengthy periods of social, behavioural, and alimentary restrictions, while ingesting specially prepared plant substances. The interplay of the dietary conditions and plants ingested sensitizes the dieter to receive healing, strength, guidance, and knowledge. From a clinical scientific point of view, the method has remained largely underexplored, but seems more pertinent than ever given the increasing interest in Amazonian psychoactive preparations including ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the burgeoning field of psychedelic-assisted therapies in general. AIM OF THE STUDY: This study offers a descriptive account and emic interpretation of the Peruvian-Amazonian dieta. More specifically we document in detail the procedure, its context and purpose of application, effects, modes of action, adverse effects, and risks, from the perspectives of a sample of Peruvian traditional healers. The Peruvian-Amazonian dieta is a multi-purpose method for making use of medicinal plants, many of which (but not all), are psychoactive; the current work especially focuses on its therapeutic applications in conjunction with psychoactives. METHODS: We interviewed 16 healers working in the Ucayali, San Martín, and Loreto provinces of Peru using a semi-structured interview approach. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The extensive data derived from these interviews were analysed by means of computer-assisted manifest qualitative content analysis using a theory-advancing approach. Over 500 coded text segments were categorized, resulting in 7 main theme clusters and corresponding sub-themes. RESULTS: The interviewed healers described a complex intervention with multifaceted applications (treatment, prevention, training) and effects in various domains (body, mind, spirit, energy). The process was portrayed as transformative, with benefits attributed to the effects of the so-called teacher plants in conjunction with the diet's conditions, along with the skill of the healer guiding the intervention. Further, a detailed risk assessment revealed sophisticated safety measures and tools designed to address adverse responses. The importance of adequate training of the healer that administers the diet was particularly highlighted in this context. CONCLUSIONS: The dieta is a central therapeutic concept and tool in Peruvian-Amazonian traditional medicine and a unique method for using psychoactive plants. Multidisciplinary health research that includes traditional treatment methods from Indigenous cultures, Amazonian and other, should not be neglected in the current global interest in psychedelic therapies; such research may in the long-term contribute to a more inclusive psychedelic research paradigm as well as healthcare practice in countries where rich traditional healing systems exist, and perhaps beyond. It may also contribute to the recognition of the Indigenous healers as not only historical forerunners, but also current leading experts in psychedelic medicine.

Type: Article
Title: Teacher plants — Indigenous Peruvian-Amazonian dietary practices as a method for using psychoactives
Location: Ireland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.114910
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2021.114910
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Keywords: Amazonian medicine, Ayahuasca, Diet, Dieta, Indigenous medicine, Peru, Psychedelic renaissance, Psychoactive, Teacher plants, Traditional medicine
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy > Pharma and Bio Chemistry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141249
Downloads since deposit
8Downloads
Download activity - last month
Download activity - last 12 months
Downloads by country - last 12 months

Archive Staff Only

View Item View Item