A New Reason To Care

By Nick Polizzi

Have you ever wondered what a shaman’s responsibilities are? We often think of them as healers of the sick, but it turns out this is only half of the picture. The word for this sacred profession actually comes from the Turkic dialect, originating in a remote region of Siberia thought by many to be the birthplace of shamanism. One of the earliest interpretations we have found for the term shaman is “one who heals the sick and honors the forest.” So in essence, their duty is to look after the wellbeing of both man and mother nature.

Today, I’d like to focus on that second obligation. I am not a shaman, but working alongside them in the course of this work has taught me that in addition to their obligations as tribal healers and the keepers of the ancient ways, the shaman also leads the conservation effort in their tribe or community. They take responsibility for the protection of the forest, the ecosystem that supports the sacred plants.

If you follow the news, you’ve probably noticed some big demonstrations and summits about the global climate crisis lately. In fact, the Peoples Climate March in New York City last month was the largest demonstration on US soil in over a decade. This is some rare good news for mother nature, but still many bemoan the abstract and indecisive rally cry of these movements and feel that this cause is a headless serpent moving without any real strategy. Today, I’d like to pose a new message from the Sacred Science team, specifically regarding the preservation of the most essential natural sanctuary left on earth – the Amazon Rainforest.

The message is simple – we are unwittingly destroying the earth’s medicine cabinet and shredding the pages of its built-in manual.

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The environmental crisis in the Amazon is not a new issue. From the time I was a teenager I can remember watching commercials and reading magazine articles about the mindless destruction of the South American jungles. In fact, it became such a popular topic back in the eighties that it might have even over-saturated our awareness and become one of those shamefully ignorable tales of devastation.

But in the fight against deforestation in the Amazon, there is one angle that doesn’t seem to have been emphasized enough. There is plenty of talk about our moral duty and obligation to do the right thing, but what about the 100% selfish reasons for preserving this incredible resource that is burning down before our very eyes?

There are over 60,000 species of plants in the Amazon Rainforest and of these, less than 3% have been studied by western medicine for their medicinal value. Of this small number of plants that have been extensively researched, over 25% of our conventional treatments are derived from them. Aren’t we curious about the potential cures that the other 97% of these plants hold?

Unfortunately, we don’t have much time to find out. The tropical forests of South America are rich in natural resource value and are being bulldozed and burned by government backed businesses who are willing to do whatever it takes to squeeze money from them. Each year, hundreds of plant species go extinct and countless indigenous tribes of the Amazon are displaced because of this type of “forward progress”.

As renowned ethnobotanist, Mark Plotkin puts it, “If you look at the Amazon Jungle as an encyclopedia of medicinal plants, the indigenous tribes that live there are surely its index and table of contents.” Without their guidance, you are lost in your search.

The indigenous communities in the Amazon are the only people who know how to navigate the maze of plant species in this region. Having thousands of years of ancestral experience with these herbs, they alone can distinguish which have medicinal value and which do not. As we continue this mindless destruction of their land and the plants that live on it, we are losing this knowledge forever.

Our mission with the Sacred Science is two-pronged. On one hand, we are endeavoring to seek out ancient medicines, something that is near and dear to our hearts, as you know. On the other, we are working to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the native communities that hold this wisdom.

Our “angle” in this second mission is to show the medical importance of understanding indigenous healing lineages, with a highlight on the plants they use. Our aim is to make a logical, scientifically sound case for the preservation of this tribal wisdom – as an untapped well of potential cures.

The Sacred Science movement began as an unlikely healing journey into the Amazon, but there is more at stake now than the physical and emotional wellbeing of eight patients. In the coming months, we will be exploring new ways of giving back to the culture that is featured in the Sacred Science film and we invite your suggestions and feedback.

FYI: During next week’s free screening of The Sacred Science, we will be hosting a special live talk with the founders of Amazon Watch, one of the most respected environmental conservation organizations in the world, who will be giving us their insights on what each of us can do to help protect our precious forests and support the efforts of our indigenous brothers and sisters.

It all starts with community. Together we can accomplish the impossible.

Truly yours,

Nick & The Sacred Science Team

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173 Responses

  1. you’re doing great work. Thank you from my grandchildren and great great great grandchildren to come! Jenny x

  2. Thank you for your taking actions necessary to make a difference. My prayers and meditations will include the the Amazon Rainforest, including the people and all animal life. Also, in my prayers and meditation will be those involved in the destruction of life in the forest.
    Love and Grace to all !

  3. Keep up the amazing work. Keep feeding us with knowledge. You and your team are truly inspirational
    A sincere thank you.

  4. Hi Nick,
    Thanks so much for the work you do — and continuing to spread awareness on this topic. I look forward to all your future posts. Just last night, I had the good fortune to watch the documentary Cowspiracy. The filmmaker interviewed someone from Amazon Watch. I wondered whether you’d seen the film. Just wanted to pass this along.

  5. Your work is so inspiring… I live in Ecuador and see first hand what the gobernment is doing with the Amazon and with Native people there :(.. very sad. We made a pledge for the Yasuni forest not to be exploited but there is just too much corruption and economical interests.. I wonder what else I can do to help.. Thank You for your work!!!! My Best wishes to you

  6. Thank you for all you are doing. Big pharma is not interested in cures – they are profit driven and more interested in pills from the lab. We have to do all we can to save all we can and support the indigenous people and the forest and plants.
    With love

  7. Meat eating is the number one cause of deforestation, so the number one thing that any person can do is to be as organic vegan as you can be.

  8. Nick it’s not just the amazon that need protecting it’s our very own as well .We all need to feel some respect and glorify our natural resources to make our countries ( which ever one you live in) feel some national pride about our very own jungles. National pride man, our very own man, come on and look around at our own disasters. Do something about our own mistakes. National pride! I am a proud canadian but not so proud of our own deforestation.

  9. I give up!! I have tried to write a reply 5 times and had it erased 5 times. This is from an environmentalist (when did that become a dirty word) from the 60’s. Noone else will listen, even my very intelligent friends and co-workers in the healthcare field, I was hoping you would. What can I do after 50 years of blank stares regarding the environment?!?!

  10. My wife (Connie Grauds, author of JUNGLE MEDICINE) and I have created the Living Shaman Museum in San Francisco, CA. The article above gets to the heart of what we are committed to helping raise awareness about in the Amazon. Our work there and our plans to expand that work are meant to help communicate the amazing resource the plants and indigenous people are to the world. Please communicate WHEN the AMAZON WATCH segment will air. Thanks! http://www.Living ShamanMuseum.org

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