Medicinal Plants in Panama

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).

medicine man
Panama shaman, medicine man.

medicine man 2
Embera medicine man

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.

Insulin plant

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”.

The Embera village where we visited the Shaman

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 and Raymond

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 gathering plants
Irma’s medicinal plan brew
Irma prepares medicinal plants

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.

Hombre Grande

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.


Prevent Dementia?

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.

Dr. Da Costa has offices in Panama City and Boquete.

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.

  1. 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
  2. Pick fresh and add to your salad or other dishes OR
  3. 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 three years she has lived in Bastimentos Island (Basti) in Panama’s Bocas del Toro province. 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’ 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.

noni leaves
Noni leaves

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.

Marshmellow plant

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.

Dog Pipe Plant

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.

guanabana soursop

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!

Panama Relocation Tours
Coconut Water during a Panama Relocation Tours

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.

Tree Spinach

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.

angel trumpet plant
Angel Trumpet plant

On a flight from David Panama to Panama City, across the aisle from me, there was a Ngobe Indian with 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 alone 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.

pineapple smoothie
Licuada de pina (Pineapple smoothie made with water)

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)

Come see how you can LIVE BETTER for LESS in Panama!

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

Reader Interactions


  1. Dr Emil Zmenak says

    What a wonderful and unanticipated bonus. I am a retired chiropractor and have used nutritional support and herbs extensively in my practice. My partner and I will be visiting Playa Blanca for two weeks starting November 11. Would love to visit and learn from the Shaman

    • Abayomi says

      Hi Jackie, you made my day. Thank you so much for this power house herbal medicine information.
      My western great uncle was a herbalist
      my family knows and used herbal medicines for years. I love herbs but I’m afraid off the bad taste that comes
      With some off them. If all goes well, I would like to visit Panama for my birthday . I’m not sure where to go though. I was thinking about David or Boquete . How do I contact the medicine people? I’ll see how I feel after I visit Panama a few times after
      I’m looking forward to meet you Jackie
      Thanks again for another wealth off information.

      • Jackie Lange says

        Hello Aboymi, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I had a link to Irma, the 5th generation Embera medicine woman and her husband Raymond (he speaks English but Irma does not )

        • Patrick Perry says

          Hi Jackie,
          This article is incredibly useful and the timing is perfect.
          Thank you so much,

          • Jackie Lange says

            HI Pat, I’m glad you liked the article about medicinal plants.

    • Emil Zmenak says

      Is there any probability that we could meet with the Shaman while we are in Panama?

      • Jackie Lange says

        Sure, you can contact the Shaman to meet them in advance. See the link to Irma and Raymond. Or arrange an Embera village tour to meet other Shamans.


    Thank you for your incredible story today about Shamans and their skills.

    • Jackie Lange says

      You’re welcome Robert. I’m glad you enjoyed the medicinal plant article.

  3. Rose (Mary) Mitlyng says

    Jackie Lange,
    This is the best newsletter ever! I love all the useful information about the healing plants! Thank You for sending this! I I’ll download the book.
    Also I’m using a new email. One different from when I originally purchased the guide.
    I hope the system recognizes my address.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Rose, I’m glad you enjoyed the medicinal plan article. It’s an interesting topic which I plan to learn more about.

  4. Phil Rossner says

    Wonderful and informative article, Jackie! Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating world of medicinal plants. We look forward to availing ourselves of nature’s pharmacy, by way of a local medicine woman/man, when we move to the Boquete area in April 2023!

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Phil. I’m glad you enjoyed the medicinal plant article. You’ll be amazed at all the healing plants available in Panama.

  5. Edward Attallah says

    Hi Jackie:

    I am 76 years old and contemplating relocation to Panama. I noticed during my research that thick clouds are present in most of the pictures. Is it cloudy a lot in Panama? Several years ago, I worked in Seattle, WA and found the grey skies and frequent rain very depressing. I now live in Florida and we do have our rainy season and grey skies (sometimes) but not very often. Could you shed some light on this subject. Thanks.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Edward. During the rainy season, it does not rain every day or all day long. You’ll almost always wake up to blue skies and sunshine. If it rains, it is usually after 2 or 3 (but not every day).

  6. Victor says

    Hi Jackie. This is a very fresh look at the topic of healing plants and their many benefits. I have been researching herbal medicines for years on my own. I really enjoyed your article and knowing that I will be able to find all those beneficial plants in Panama is great news!!!
    Thank you very much.

    • Jackie Lange says

      HI Victor, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article about medicinal plants. The more I learn about them, the more interested I become too!

      • Victor Flint says

        Hi Jackie. I sent you a question about how do I contact the healer who gave you the tour of the healing plants, but I don’t know if I sent it to the right place. That’s why I’m sending you this message. I’m not too good at navigating Facebook. Thanks for being such an inspiration to so many of us.

        • Jackie Lange says

 is where we met the shaman that explained the healing powers of plants

  7. Thomas Flinchum says

    Thank you a thousand times over. I have long wondered about this subject. Looking forward to experiencing it first hand.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hi Thomas, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article about medicinal plants in Panama


    Hi Jackie, I always look forward to reading your posts. I especially enjoyed this one.

    I’m really looking forward to my PRT in June 2023, so excited and hope that i will

    get a chance to meet you in person. Thanks for all the great information.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Hi Rhonda. I’m glad you enjoyed this article. I look forward to meeting you too.

  9. Lawrence says

    Really appreciate your time for this information.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Lawrence. You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the article about medicinal plants.

  10. Eric Briggs says

    So curious about the medicinal plants. I am a voracious reader so I will be reading more about this subject.
    Thanks, for sharing this topic!
    – Eric

    • Jackie Lange says

      Glad you enjoyed the article. I added a link to a 490-page book about Medicinal Plants in Panama (in spanish) to the article. There is very little written in English about medicinal plants in Panama.

      • Sandy Mulholland says

        Hello Jackie,

        Thank you for this very informative email!

        We prefer natural medicine.

        I tried to download the Spanish book, but the website does not open?

        I would really like to have that book.

        • Jackie Lange says

          I’m glad you like the medicinal plan article. The download for all 4 books works for me. Try again.

  11. Margarita says

    One of the best posts I have read in a while. Love the pictures and the story behind it all. Beautifully written and very informative. Thank you, Jackie.

    • Jackie Lange says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the Medicinal Plants in Panama article.

  12. Doug Akin says

    Great article, Jackie! I am especially interested in the treatment of dementia and would make a trip to Panama just to try the plant. Thanks again for all of the useful articles.

    • Jackie Lange says

      Pennywort plants are available outside of Panama.

  13. Stephanie Whitlow says

    Wow! You’re Amazing! I was just talking to my mother about how they used plants in SC to heal the community. She talked about her grandmother that was the community nurse and how she used plants to heal but never thought to ask her what she was doing and why! So that knowledge has been lost and to see this totally made my day! Thanks for always sharing! Greatly appreciated!

    • Jackie Lange says

      Stephanie, I’m glad you liked the medicinal plant article. Luckily, in Panama, the knowledge is passed down from generation to generation of healers in indigenous tribes.

  14. Lynne Van der Kar says

    Hi everyone, I am Lynne Van der Kar owner of Finca Feliz in Volcancito where the Pennywort went from a weed to medicine. I have dedicated places in the farm to grow and harvest it. I am offering Jackie’s people a free tour of my farm where you will learn a lot of valuable information regarding all plants, including medicinals. Growing here can be a challenge and I’m happy to share with you all I’ve learned in the 12 years I’ve had my farm. You can reach me via email at [email protected].

  15. Patrick Lynch says

    Hi Jackie
    I found this very interesting, I was hoping there was a thriving peoples pharmacy business in Panamanian.
    We try to use the peoples pharmacy as much as possible here in the states.
    When the time comes, we will embrace natures way as much as possible.
    Panama certainly creates that path.

    • Jackie Lange says

      I’ve never heard of a people’s pharmacy.

  16. William Jones says

    Hi Jackie; another great article. I am trying to put together another trip to Panama, with 2-5 other friends in January – February. Would love to spend time with a Shaman. How do you suggest I schedule in advance.

    • Jackie Lange says

      you could go on an Embera village tour

  17. Allison S Meridin says

    Hi Jackie: I was on PRT185 and would love to visit an Embera village as you mention you did. Is there a way to “make an appointment” to walk/talk with a shaman?


  18. Mary Roberts says

    Wonderful article Jackie. I’m looking forward to my PRT on October.

    • Jackie Lange says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! We look forward to showing you how amazing life is in Panama during your Panama Relocation Tour in October!

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