Most of the medicinal secrets of the Amazonian tribes have been kept for thousands of years, besides the attempts of the hundreds of explorers and scientist to discover them. After all this time, the Matses people of Brazil and Peru have put their ancient medicinal practices on paper, so now they are available to the community.
The facts tell us that there are only about 2,200 Matses living in the Amazon rainforest on the Peru-Brazil frontier. They exactly live around the Yaquerana River, which runs through the heart of their land, and is the international border that separates their land into two parts. But they are moving on both parts of their ancestral territory, and are sharing everything they produce.
They are not willing to give out any part of their ancestral territory, because they need all the area for planting and growing their food, as they don’t buy it. They also don’t buy other things needed for living, and they build up the ability and space to grow their own, which is essential to the tribe’s existence.
By using ancient weapons, such as bows, arrows, and traps, they hunt for animals. However, they adapted some of them to the modern times and use shotguns.
Their communities live close to the riverbank, and their children are responsible each morning for catching the fish for the day. As they grow a wide variety of crops (mostly plantain and manioc), these are the essential ingredients of their culture and medicine.
Their people who are healing from various diseases have a deep understanding and knowledge of all plants that are used in illness treatment, which is passed on through generations. According to them, the animals and plants have some specific spirits which they consider to be able to heal a human body.
After identifying the cause of patient’s illness the healers treat it with its respective plant medicine. For instance, sore throat can be caused by eating howler monkey meat, and they treat it by a plant that resembles the monkey’s voice box.
The non-profit organization Acate Amazon Conservation, have spent years attempting to help to create the documented list for all plants that the tribe uses for medicinal purposes.
Matses people have passed down for centuries these remedies, offering a knowledge for treatments that western medicine hasn’t even heard of.
The main problem during the obtaining information was that the Matses people, suffered severe illness such as malaria when they first came in contact with explorers. For this illness, they didn’t have the cure. During that period, when the illness spread, the Matses withdrew into the jungle. It took long period (decades) for them to regain trust in outsiders and share their best-kept secrets with them.
Their remedies and medicinal secrets of the tribe are written in their language, and for now, there seems to be no plan to be translated into English or Spanish, respecting the will that the tribe wants to protect them.
We hope that in the coming years, with a new generation of Matses, there will be a new trend of thinking, and they will find that sharing this information with others is the global interest and everyone can benefit, including their own tribe.