From Jungle to Lab: A Deeper Look At The Real Roots of Plant Medicine

by Conscious Good

From Jungle to Lab: A Deeper Look At The Real Roots of Plant Medicine

The Shaman & The Scientist – Conscious Good’s Exclusive Movie of the Month for November

This film is NOT about taking ayahuasca for expanding consciousness. It explores the use of plant medicines that exist in the rain forest, from the perspective of well-known ethnobiologist Dr. Dennis McKenna, and Don Juan Tangoa Paima, an Amazonian curandero.

In Director Sarah Hutt’s new short documentary and official selection of the 2018 Yosemite International Film Festival, The Shaman and the Scientist, she shares her decades long investigation into plant medicine research and the conservation of traditional knowledge. Conscious Good sat down with Hutt to discuss the various aspects of her powerful film.

Her journey started many years ago at a conference on Shamanism in Peru when she met a local curandero (a spiritual guide within a community, also known as a traditional native healer or shaman), who performed ceremonies at his home for locals and westerners alike suffering physical and spiritual complaints. In Peru, treating malaria, cancer and Alzheimer’s converge with the use of modern medicine and tradition to treat illness.

“People forget that the use of plants in our daily life has been a part of cultures for millennia. Ask your grandmother how she used herbs.”  

Exploring and tracing the medicinal herbal garden of other cultures, particularly outside the western world has always interested Sarah. “Ehtnobotanical practices are part of our consciousness. It’s the study of people using plants.” It’s also the professional interest of Dr. Dennis McKenna, renowned American ethnobotanist who features prominently in the film as he looks for new plant compounds to treat schizophrenia and dementia.

Sarah puts forward something modern societies have forgotten – how to harness the healing power of plants; “We have lost touch with growing plants, using them for medicinal purposes.” Her film approaches plant medicine from two perspectives – that of Don Juan Tangoa Paima, the curandero who works with ayahuasca medicine in the Peruvian Amazon and through the research of Dr. Dennis McKenna. The story takes viewers from jungle to lab asking what is the value of undiscovered knowledge in the world’s most biodiverse biomes, and what’s at stake if we allow those precious resources to be lost. It’s a nice snapshot of the intersection of science and ancient shamanic knowledge and indigenous wisdom that covers the basics in an accessible way.

The noted book “Plants, People, and Culture: The Science of Ethnobotany” by Michael J. BalickPaul Alan Cox describes the relationship between plants and people as profound, affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. “The roots of human culture are deeply intertwined with plants. From the prehistoric use of plants by hunter-gatherers to contemporary development of therapeutic agents derived from plant compounds, plants have, and will continue to influence the trajectory of human civilization.”

Sarah Hutt is an author, director, and documentary producer. Her EMMY nominated work has appeared on VICELAND, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Wild, MSNBC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, and The History Channel, to name a few. Her writing has made the NY Times Best Seller list and she is a Publisher’s Weekly starred reviewed author of non-fiction books for children and young adults. 

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