Medicinal Herbs from the Amazon

The Amazon rain forest, spread across nine countries in South America, is home to a wide variety of herbs. While it is true that not many medicinal herbs from the Amazon have been thoroughly or scientifically researched in the western world, it can not be disputed that they are an important form of alternative treatments for variety of ailment and might hold the key for a cure for many diseases. The Amazon basin is a rich resource for herbs which possess invaluable healing properties.

Maca, is an indigenous annual herb of the Andes mountains in Bolivia and Peru. It is closely related and quite similar to radish and turnip in terms of size, growth habit etc. Maca has been an integral part of the diet of the people in the Andean region for centuries. Attempts were made to cultivate this herb in Central Europe, but in vain. Maca has aphrodisiac like effects and also helps in raising the overall level of energy in the system, due to the presence of alkaloids and compounds called macamides and macaenes. Scientific research suggests that maca works like an adaptogen, that is, it enhances the immune system and increases the adaptability of the system. It is also used to restore hormonal balance and reduce symptoms associated with menopause. Maca has also been used to reduce the risk of breast and stomach cancer.

Another plant native to the Amazon basin and with a range of benefits is Guarana. It’s the seed of the plant which is widely used as it contains caffeine. Guarana extract is used to make soft drinks, which are extremely popular in Brazil. The form of caffeine found in guarana is called guaranine and is different from that in coffee as it is stronger and also it is released in the body at a much slower rate. This makes guarana based beverages better relaxants than coffee or even tea. Clinical research suggests that guarana is also better than coffee for enhancing memory. A much lower dose of guarana as compared to coffee is effective in improving memory and alertness. Another benefit of guarana is that it exhibits antioxidant properties.

Catuaba, a tree indigenous to the Amazon forests of Brazil contains alkaloids which have a positive effect on mental health. It is also widely used for its aphrodisiac like effects. There are two species of Catuaba that are generally used to make supplements and these are Erythroxylum catuaba and Trichilia catigua.

Coffee is perhaps one of the most popular beverages of all times and it is made with coffee beans. The latter is nothing but the seed of the coffee fruit. The fruit, though it has many benefits, rarely survives the process of making coffee as it is highly perishable. However, new and better technology is being developed to preserve the coffee fruit. Studies indicate that the fruit has the potential to not only decrease tumor size, but prevent their formation altogether. Perhaps the fruit is able to activate T-lymphocytes so as to shrink or even prevent mammary tumors.

The Amazon rain forests in Brazil are home to Muira puama, which is a small tree that grows up to be as tall as five meters. It is best known for treating erectile dysfunction and increasing libido. However, its use is not limited to that of a sexual stimulant. It is also used for improving overall general health and works as an energy booster. Muria puama also shows potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

The acai palm found in the Amazon basin, bears grape-like fruits which provide an array of benefits. It helps increase the level of energy, is a powerful free radical fighter, it improves the digestive system and builds up the immune system. It is also an antioxidant and possesses anti inflammatory effects. Moreover, clinical research is being carried out to test whether acai berries can be used to combat leukemia and the results show much promise. Since the berries decay easily, they need to be processed in order to preserve the nutrients. While buying supplements, make sure that they contain acai berries that are organically grown under fair trade.

Thordur Sturluson
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Thordur Sturluson

A biologist, zoologist, scuba-diver, blogger and aspiring herbalist with interest in nature conservation, animal protection, herbal medicine and medicinal plants.
Thordur Sturluson
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