Oops, did you leave your blood pressure medication back home when you came to Panama? Don’t worry, Panama has a natural plant pharmacy waiting for you. Whatever your ailment(s), I can assure you that Panama’s rain forests offer plant medications of all kinds for you.
Shortly after my daughter moved to Panama, we visited a medicine man at an Embera village about two hours away from Panama City. The Embera are one of the indigenous tribes in Panama. He spent an interesting four hours with us walking through the jungle while he pointed out different plants, and explained how they are used.
He showed us that walking through jungle rainforest was like walking through a natural pharmacy. It’s filled with many medicinal plants.
At one point, he gave us each a tiny leaf and told us this is what I give people if I need to pull a tooth. My daughter and I each chewed on the tiny leaf (1/4″ x 1/4″ piece), and our mouth was completely numb within seconds. The numbness wore off in less than 10 minutes (just enough time to pull a tooth).
He showed us many plants that are given to prevent illness too.
Did you know there is a plant that will regulate your insulin level? Consuming two leaves a day of the insulin plant helps lower and regulate blood glucose levels. You can eat the leaves or make tea. The insulin plant grows throughout Panama.
Being a shaman, or medicine person, is something that is passed down from generation to generation in Panama. Shamen are taught, like their grandfather or grandmother before them, from an early age how to identify plants and how they can be used to heal any health problems or prevent health problems.
The medicine man said, “many westerners take hand fulls of pills every day, but they never get well. The plants that Mother Nature provides are here to heal health problems, not just mask symptoms”.
Spending a day with a medicine man was a very eye-opening experience!
There are experienced medicine men and women throughout Panama.
The Kuna of Panama, another indigenous tribe, exemplifies the significant relationship between plants and Indigenous people. According to the Kuna, plants were created and invested with spiritual powers to defend the life and soul of the people.
I’ve followed Irma, a fifth-generation Embera medicine woman, and her husband, Raymond Hermenet, for years. People come from all over for her medicinal plant healing. Irma and Raymond live just west of Panama City.
Irma can diagnose a person’s ailment by analyzing their urine with the help of plants. Then she goes into the jungle to find exactly the right plant or combination of plants to heal the person.
Irma works with physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs. She works with imbalances of the thinking and feeling minds and deals with temperature imbalances in our character. Full adaptogenic indigenous plant-based healing is possible across every aspect of human dynamics. It’s not magic. It’s thousands of years old.
Irma, like all Shamans, respects the plants and talks to the medicinal plants to ask them to heal. The plants talk to her too! When consumed, some medicinal plants will talk to you, too (I know this from personal experience).
With the high costs of medications, many Panamanians are turning back to natural medicinal plants for health problems… with great results.
When the pandemic first started, my Panamanian friends would drink a tea made of Hombre Grande as a preventative for Covid and to ease the symptoms. Hombre Grande is one of the most studied and analyzed plants in laboratories due to its medicinal properties, which are found in its compounds especially related to the bitter substance known as Quassin.
My Plant Medicine Journey
A few years ago, I had my own plant medicine journey. After my husband died, I could not get the visions of him dying out of my head. Someone suggested I try ayahuasca, an ancient plant medicine that is made from the bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine (containing beta-carboline alkaloids) and leaves of the Psychotria Viridis bush. It is brewed for many hours then you drink a shot glass of the brew every couple of hours for several days.
Ayahuasca is illegal in Panama, it’s a very strong hallucinogen. So, I went to Costa Rica for my ayahuasca journey. After five days of drinking the ancient plant medicine, under the supervision of several shamans, I was cured!
Ayahuasca is said to cure other things like PTSD, anxiety, addictions of all kinds, and depression. Ayahuasca should only be taken when supervised by an experienced Shaman. It is a plant medicine that needs to be approached with absolute respect and caution. It has been an integral part of the well-being and survival of many indigenous communities of the Amazon basin for centuries, possibly even millennia.
My friend Lynne learned that what she thought was a weed in her yard is actually a powerful plant used to prevent dementia and Alzheimers.
She visited an alternative doctor in Boquete, Dr. Da Costa. Many of his therapies offered are hard to find in Panama, including Ozone Therapy, Chelation Therapy, Ultraviolet Light Therapy (UBI), Magneto therapy, and Photodynamic Therapy, and he even has a Hyperbaric Chamber.
After learning about Lynne’s organic farm, Dr. Da Costa wanted to see it. He discovered Pennywort (aka dollarweed) plant growing everywhere and mentioned how good it is for the brain and memory. What??? Lynne had been pulling it out as a weed for 12 years! What Lynne thought was a weed is now a medicine? Lynne looked it up and found out it is a member of the Gotu Kola family that is beneficial for the brain and memory.
There are many ways to prepare the Pennywort leaves.
- Put a handful of fresh leaves in the blender, with a dash of water, and pour through a strainer over a glass to separate the juice and drink it. It has a good flavor OR
- Pick fresh and add to your salad or other dishes OR
- Dehydrate the leaves and make a powder in your blender to add to your food or put in capsules.
Healing Plants Everywhere in Panama!
Darlys has used medicinal plants in the 3 years that she has lived in Bastimentos Island (Basti) in the Bocas del Toro province of Panama. Medicinal plants have effectively helped her with several unrelated conditions.
She is learning to incorporate the local plants into her daily life!
First, when the doctor told her she had an amoeba parasite and would need antibiotics, a local friend “Melva” told Darlys about the ‘amoebas bush plant’ located right by her house. She cut some leaves from it, boiled them, and steeped for 15 minutes into tea, then drank it for three straight days (3 times a day). Then took a break from it, and continued again after a few days. She was much better, and never needed to take antibiotics with all their side effects.
Then, when Darlyn slipped on the muddy trail in the rainforest and strained her thigh muscles, she immediately felt pain. Her friend Choney brought her a few Noni tree leaves and told her to ‘plaster’ them to her thigh while she slept. When she awoke the next morning, the throbbing pain was gone!
Then, as she walked past one of her neighbors on the trail the following day, she had something green poking out from a hair band on her head. Turned out she was using the Noni leaf to cure a migraine.
Later, she caught a bad viral head cold and suffered from a sinus infection & earache for a couple of weeks. While she was in the sinus infection stage, her friend Rachel offered her Marshmallow plant leaves to make into tea. It helps with sinus and mucous conditions and its anti-inflammation properties. Marshmallow is also effective for urinary tract infections.
When her cold hit the earache stage, Darlys’ landlord Yuni suggested that she pick some culantro in the forest, mash up the leaves, roll them together, and place a ‘ball’ of culantro into the ear that was aching. She had to leave it there for the day, replacing it with a new “ball” every few hours, and by the end of the day, her earache was gone!
Culantro is a heat-tolerant “cousin” of the cilantro plant that we are more familiar with in the US. They share similar fragrances and flavors.
In addition, one of her rescue dogs arrived full of scabies (mange), fleas & ticks, and was emaciated. Local friends advised her to rub the ripened Noni fruit (not the leaves) on the dog’s skin to help with her scabies.
It didn’t smell too good but was useful in helping with her itch. It also offered flea-repellent properties.
Also, the dog had severe conjunctivitis and the medical eye drops from the vet weren’t particularly helping her. Her neighbor, Michelle, suggested the “Dog Pipe” Plant, so named due to its flower’s resemblance to a dog’s penis. You pick the bright red flower and squeeze the liquid from it right into your dog’s infected eye, it releases a liquid that clears up conjunctivitis. It is as effective in humans as well for conjunctivitis and other eye infections. Michelle says that it needs to be applied 3x/day and to use a fresh flower after 3 days of use. You can store it either at room temperature or in the frig.
Although the rescue dog had ‘every problem in the book’ when she first arrived, one by one, Darlys has been able to get rid of her conditions with all these highly effective local plant therapies.
In addition to Darly’s own personal experiences, here are several other healing plants in Panama that can help with many other conditions.
The soursop tree (also called Guanabana) is widely known as the “miracle tree” as it offers so many health benefits. When you brew its leaves into a tea, it helps with inflammation and bacterial infections, and it also is a sedative that helps with anxiety and insomnia. Its fruit is also stocked with many minerals and antioxidants. In Panama, they say it prevents and cures cancer.
And don’t forget that coconuts – always prevalent in the tropics – are their own source of “bottled energy water” waiting to quench your thirst with just one whack of your machete!
Friends in Bocas del Toro are happy to share their contributions about common plants on the islands:
Chaya – – its nickname is “tree spinach” because its leaves, when cooked, taste similar to spinach. It is almost a cure-all benefitting many health conditions, including high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, helping to prevent and treat inflammation, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney stones, varicose veins, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory infections. In general, Chaya is considered a toxin protector for the liver, heart, and kidneys.
Verbena – Another “multi-cure” plant for respiratory (mucous/cough/allergies) and urinary tract infections. Verbena also offers calming, anti-anxiety, and anti-parasite properties. For best effect, boil water, insert full plant (leaves/stems/flowers — break up into pieces), and steep in water for 10 min. Then pull out the plant, swish condensation from lid into the pan (it contains the useful plant oils). Drink 2 – 3 cups warm to kick-start your immune system. Then refrigerate the tea in a glass jar and take every 2 – 4 hours until finished.
Desbaratadora (often called “Sangria” because the water turns red when boiled) — It is used for kidney stones, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other common sexually transmitted diseases. It has been used by the Indigenous Indians for centuries as a pain reliever, for bronchitis and tumors, due to its antibiotic properties.
WARNING! Before consuming any medicinal plants, you should get advice from an experienced Shaman, Medicine man, or Medicine woman who knows the proper dose and applications for the plants.
Shortly after moving to Panama, I heard the story about a man that died after consuming trumpet plants. He heard they were powerful narcotics, so he rolled them up and smoked them like a cigarette. He died in less than an hour.
One time on a flight from David Panama to Panama City, across the aisle from me, there was a Ngobe Indian who had a wade of Trumpet Plants in a paper towel. She took “nose hits” every few minutes to ease whatever was ailing her. You should NOT try this on your own without guidance from an experienced medicine woman or medicine man.
Yes, some plants can be deadly, when used the wrong way!
Healthy Plants in Panama
Of course, one of the healthiest plant medicines is to consume fresh fruits and vegetables from the many vendors throughout Panama. They are more affordable in Panama, so you can have all you want!
Replacing sugar-filled soft drinks with smoothies made with fresh, healthy fruit will help you have a healthy lifestyle.
Many people have reported being able to get off all medications and even losing weight, after moving to Panama. You’ll have less stress in Panama, and that helps a lot too!
FREE BOOK! 180-page book about Traditional Plant Medicines used in Mexico (in English)
FREE BOOK! See this 24-page book about Medicinal Plants in Panama (in English)
FREE BOOK! 360-page book about Medicinal Plants in Central America (Spanish only)
FREE BOOK: 490-page book about Medicinal Plants in Panama (Only in Spanish)