Preserving traditional medicine knowledge in the Amazon

In one of the great tragedies of our age, indigenous traditions, stories, cultures and knowledge are winking out across the world.

 Whole languages and mythologies are vanishing, and in some cases even entire indigenous groups are falling into extinction. This is what makes the news that a tribe in the Amazon—the Matsés peoples of Brazil and Peru—have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine all the more remarkable. The encyclopedia, compiled by five shamans with assistance from conservation group Acaté, details every plant used by Matsés medicine to cure a massive variety of ailments.

"The [Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia] marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words," Christopher Herndon, president and co-founder of Acaté, told Mongabay in an interview .

The Matsés have only printed their encyclopedia in their native language to ensure that the medicinal knowledge is not stolen by corporations or researchers as has happened in the past. Instead, the encyclopedia is meant as a guide for training new, young shamans in the tradition and recording the living shamans' knowledge before they pass.

"One of the most renowned elder Matsés healers died before his knowledge could be passed on so the time was now. Acaté and the Matsés leadership decided to prioritize the Encyclopedia before more of the elders were lost and their ancestral knowledge taken with them," said Herndon.

Acaté has also started a program connecting the remaining Matsés shamans with young students. Through this mentorship program, the indigenous people hope to preserve their way of life as they have for centuries past.

"With the medicinal plant knowledge disappearing fast among most indigenous groups and no one to write it down, the true losers in the end are tragically the indigenous stakeholders themselves," said Herndon. "The methodology developed by the Matsés and Acaté can be a template for other indigenous cultures to safeguard their ancestral knowledge."

Responses to "Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia"

  1. Anonymous says:

    God bless you for your courage and wisdom. Thank you on behalf of all humanity!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Míle Buiochas. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would like to review this document. Where can we find it?

  4. Please let me know where to buy it when it is published. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, please. I want the encyclopedia. Thank you!

  6. Much respects and salutions for your awesome endeavours to preserve your ancestral tribal and ecological healing knowledge.

  7. Unknown says:

    Perhaps we find the key to cancer cure !!

  8. Unknown says:

    We hope to learn more about this literary treasure of natural medicine once it is completed.

  9. Unknown says:

    They should receive an award from UNESCO

  10. Wants this book also to most especially carry on this tradition, to share and save this knowledge. I study many things and though I am not a Shaman from the deepest forest, I am always open to learn and study with spirit and physical people. Thank you, please do let us all know when or where we can get this document.

  11. Unknown says:

    Thank you for your wisdom!

  12. Anonymous says:

    i pray for those to come forward to help protect this knowledge from those who would use it for their profit only. protect it from those who would make it unlawful for anyone else to use this knowledge. protect it from those who would alter this knowledge to make it different that what the elders and ancestors dictate. to protect it from those who would synthysize the knowledge and withold it from those who need it by charging unaffordable monies. protect it from those who would change the knowledge in any way to do harm. protect the land from those who would destroy it. protect it from those who do not understand, who would hide the knowledge to protect what they already have. come forward please if you can help...we are grateful and give thanks that this knowledge is being preserved.

  13. Unknown says:

    this book wont be released out side the tribes knuckleheads... it states that they wrote in there language to prevent people from reading it and taking there knowledge its only for those who know the language. maybe you all should read thru the information before commenting

  14. Thank you for this tremendous contribution to humanity, This is such an integral part of who we are and it is so very important to maintain our integrity with the rainbow people. Anything that I can do, assist in any way, please let me know. I strongly believe in what you are doing. Thank you for inspiring me and making my day!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Is a copy of the document available for personal use and teaching if a donation towards it's preservation is made?
    Barbara Daca

  16. Bobby H says:

    Whatever made us apparently made medicines for us too, too bad we no longer overall embrace these more gentle medicines as much today. It is wonderful to hear that this is occurring, just hope big pharma doesn't grab the seeds and GMO them.

  17. fiercemom says:

    @joseph sanchez: THANK YOU!!

  18. Unknown says:

    Thank you for the world !

  19. Sylvia says:

    Well, my friend, that's really valuable and wonderful. I'm a phytotherapist myself, and I take no payment from those who request my knowledge. I keep studying and looking for answers all the time. I would like you to consider the following: so many people around the world would benefit from this precious knowledge. So, if they can't travel to the Brazil or any wise medicine man/woman doesn't move elsewhere in the world, what can people do to heal themselves? It would be a gift to the Humanity if you could publish it. With all respect. Happy New Year!

  20. Unknown says:

    I agree..i respect them trying to keep their traditions alive,.but the rest of us need this knowledge keep big corporations from gaining profit they should give the knowledge away free..there are many of us who would also love to learn and also grow the plants

  21. Anonymous says:

    No, no, never free. We do not have the right to request it. As an Indian descendant, we receive the knowledge when we show respect for our ancestors knowledge, and we show good intention to use it for the benefit of the people. I am not Matsés, but I love the idea. I wish I have one book from our ancestors because we forget the teaching and the portions.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to the Matsés Shamans for sharing your knowledge and experience with your young descendants. Many Blessing you will receive from God, the Earth and Universe.

  23. Yahtze says:

    The Matsés peoples of Brazil and Peru—have created a 500-page encyclopedia of their traditional medicine compiled by five shamans with assistance from conservation group Acaté, details every plant used by Matsés medicine to cure a massive variety of ailments.

    Unfortunately the Matsés have only printed their encyclopedia in their native language to ensure that the medicinal knowledge is not stolen by corporations or researchers as has happened in the past. Instead, the encyclopedia is meant as a guide for training new, young shamans in the tradition and recording the living shamans' knowledge before they pass.I imagine the corporations will eventually find a way around this. I would prefer that the Acate group help the tribe achieve remuneration but help ensure that all people can benefit from any useful medicines.

  24. Unknown says:

    I could be tottally wrong and ignorent but, this is what I think in my words.
    Respect? What is respect, the Webster Dictionary definition is, a feeling of deep
    admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities,qualities, or
    achievements. All words among the English language, for that matter all languages
    have an origin. Respect in Latin respectus, from the verb respicere ‘look back at.
    When our ansisters wanted and needed change in their "quality" of life. (To jump
    centuries ahead)
    The "civilized" way of living was worked out by for a better word the 1% er's.
    These were the land owners, community elders, the so called leaders. I believe
    these people all had good intentions. They saw life was harder amoug the
    isolated, meaning the one's who were not allowed to live near Rivers, Lakes, and
    good hunting grounds but, with civilization people lived in great numbers and had
    developed commerce and trade which was the basis of"Civilization". The major flaw
    with this new exsistance was leadership was not ever someone among the one's
    that were so called lead. the community leaders and Religious leaders were most
    always the one's that either by strength or by corruption controlled the so called
    commoners. Respect was rarely shown towards any citizens (commoners) or people
    without. I am a true believer of everything NEW and product Advancements have all
    been developed and used before. the look may have been different and in some
    cases better. I am not talking about products, I am talking about ideas on
    what is right and wrong. What to Respect and leave alone and not try to figure
    out why. The music group The Beatles sang it the best, Let It be. I could write
    a book on the word Respect and the total lack of it in our today (2016) civilized
    way of corruption, and life isn't fair but, everyone has one. Respect others, Please.

  25. Unknown says:

    I am so grateful for this work. We need more of this kind of work in the world, respecting indigenous cultures, knowledge and languages. Thank you very much for this contribution to human knowledge and for the respect of indigenous human cultures and societies.

  26. Anonymous says:

    The only way to protect this knowledge is to get it out. To everyone.

  27. Dr Nathan Josephs says:

    I would love a copy. Any possible way. You would know why. Blessings

  28. Philip L says:

    It is important to maintain certain traditional knowledge. This is the wealth of a culture, and is an expression of our common humanity. It should be respected, and any dissemination be voluntary. For when it can provide benefits to humanity(, and free from corporate theft).

  29. Anonymous says:

    Cant anyone read past the title?

  30. If you read thru the post you would know what this is really about, please read it all!!!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thank you... And God bless

  32. CrabbyEyez says:

    I commend the elders for sharing their knowledge and for the tribes commitment to self preservation. I pray that they hold their knowledge and traditions within their own communities I have long believed in the work of indigenous peoples and I get sick every single time I see someone take the knowledge, twist it for profit and gentrify what had never belonged to them. It is the most disrespectful gesture that can be shown to a people. So to the benefactors there in Brazil and Peru treasure this keepsake and guard as the ancestors would have you to do.

  33. Anonymous says:


  34. Anonymous says:

    You want to buy a copy! Oh heck no!you only want this for big profits and/or your own use. I read the commit from a Doctor that he wants to buy.

  35. Patty says:

    I would love to buy a copy, also.

  36. They cured my cancer and more! In the deep jungles of Ecuador!

  37. Gypsy Lecas says:

    I would love a copy of this when it's done Please blessings Gypsy

  38. Anonymous says:

    thank you and God bless you ALL.

  39. I'm interested also in the book

  40. Sir V says:

    I would like a copy of this particular book. Where can I obtain a copy?
    Thank you!

  41. Unknown says:

    Please let me know how to bey it, Thanks, Susanne

  42. Unknown says:

    Even if these documents were able to be purchased, we would still probably not have access to the plants or the seeds. This is a wonderful thing these people are doing and if they choose to keep this information in their own society that is their right, I believe.

  43. Rainer says:

    Please let me know, too, how to buy it. Thank you very much. Rainer

  44. Unknown says:

    I am so grateful this knowledge has been preserved even though I can't read it. The world is sinking into an abyss of ignorance and this book shall save many from doom.

  45. Unknown says:

    is the encyclopedia available for purchase?

  46. Unknown says:

    Amazing!Thank you for the world!

  47. Read and comprehend the article. It's in their indigenous tongue and will stay that way. It's not for sale, nor are they translating. I hope their language remains strong, and they aren't being colonized with other languages, to keep this indigenous knowledge intact. #indigenousknowledge

  48. Unknown says:

    Where can I get one......

  49. Anonymous says:

    I would love to buy a copy!! thank you for caring

  50. Unknown says:

    I would love to learn the traditional medicinal ways. I would treat them with respect and honour those that have gone before.

  51. Unknown says:

    I would definitely want to have a copy!!!

  52. Unknown says:

    Today Antonia and I find ourselves in the lungs of the earth here in Tarapota Peru. Our small lungs breath a sigh of relief in knowing we know more and more how we breath same air and have to protect our one atmosphere from burning our lungs. Just put it out and then we all can breath a sigh of relief in unison with all creation beating to the one song spoken of by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

  53. Unknown says:

    This could be wonderful news. Lets keep it away from big pharmaceutical corp.
    Lets also stop depleting the rain forest so these wonderful God given plants are no longer in existence.

  54. Jaclyn says:

    My Great Grandmother was a medicine woman from the Northern sister tribe of Saginaw/Chippewa. She left Earth when I was barely five years of age. I am very aware I have the same qualities as my Great Grandmother. I have not had success in locating another of my same qualities near me. I ran across this article and was so pleased to see it. I am almost certain this encyclopedia would enhance my understanding of the medicinal knowledge I already possess. I would absolutely appreciate a copy of this post published. Thank you for giving me hope.

  55. Sal says:

    I hope big pharma don't get there hands on this will be destroyed....please get it out there as fast as possible.

  56. Jackie says:

    I would love to purchase one when available. Please let us know. Thank you.

  57. Please make sure this knowledge is published.

  58. Ensure it is backed up to survive several ways. Also to the people who say they want a copy - it is not for you. It is for their tribe. Maybe you could earn some of the knowledge by going and living with them?

  59. Unknown says:

    I thought I read it all

  60. Unknown says:

    Please let me know when this treasure is published! Also, where we will get the " herbs" ect...thank you! God bless you♥️♥️♥️♥️

  61. Look here. :)

  62. Unknown says:

    Have been to the Amazon and met with natives and observed a demonstration by the tribes "Healer", Would like very much to obtain a copy of this encyclopedia of native medicines, How do I get a copy?

  63. Unknown says:

    I think they might need to also patent these there or there may be a danger that they will get patented by big pharma and they will end up not being allowed to use their own traditional medicines!

  64. How do we get a copy?

  65. Unknown says:

    I would love to donate and help these people continue their amazing AND LIFE PRESERVING WORK FOR ALL. I want nothing . Please post a donation link

  66. Anonymous says:

    I love you

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