They don’t (and I’ll demonstrate this). But first, a little background. I recently watched a really wonderful documentary called “The Sacred Science” (you can check it out here: http://www.thesacredscience.com/). Briefly, eight people travel to the Amazon rain forest and spend one month with curanderos (similar in many respects to a shaman) to be healed of their ailments (ranging from depression to cancer). The documentary takes us through some of the healing ceremonies and shows the local healers gathering plant medicines from the rain forest. There is no doubt this would have been a wonderful opportunity. But, I do feel this documentary speaks to our biases about the local landscapes we interact with and the way many people view them—routine, usual, and without wonder.
For example, if you look critically at children’s books and note which wild animals are often included, you will notice a lot of reference to elephants, lions, tigers, zebras, and such animals. Children learn about the animals of distant lands (which is great), but it sits in stark contrast to indigenous stories where people learn about the animals they will actually encounter in their forests. How many children’s books have you seen that feature, as the main characters, species like pokòmk (fisher), apistanewc (martin), and espons (raccoon). I’m not saying they don’t exist, but many children’s books feature the exotic wild animals of distant lands. It speaks to the way we view the landscapes that we regularly see—routine, usual, and without wonder.
This bias against our backyards is so pervasive that sometimes we will acquire herbal medicines from places such as China, India, and South America even though we have safer and/or more effective remedies here in the United States. For example, the plant sweet-flag (Acorus calamus), native to Europe and Asia, is used in many traditional cultures to heal various ailments. It was brought here by Europeans and can be ordered on-line through many companies specializing in natural remedies. It turns out this species contains β-asarone, a known carcinogenic compound. However, we have a species of sweet-flag native to North America called Acorus americanus. This species does not contain the β-asarone phytochemical (or contains miniscule amounts) and would be much safer to use (especially in quantity and/or for long periods of time). Most people who utilize herbal remedies do not know this, in part, because of the way we view the landscapes we regularly see—routine, usual, and without wonder.
Now, back to the documentary. Let me demonstrate some of the powerful and sacred healing remedies that grow wild here on the North American continent (using the local indigenous names to maintain secrecy and generate mystery) that could have been used by those in the documentary. One gentleman travelled to Amazonia to cure diabetes. Aside from the fact that Type 2 Diabetes is completely preventable (through diet), diabetes can also be cured (not just treated) through diet. However, to jump start the healing process, there is a mushroom that grows in northern areas called wapilatuwan by the northeastern indigenous people that has been shown to retard the absorption of glucose by digestive organs. This remedy helps to insure that the body does not experience a spike in blood sugar levels following meals, thus helping alleviate the issues faced by diabetics. One lady travelled to Amazonia to find a cure for breast cancer. There is a well-known herbaceous plant that has been documented as beneficial for breast cancer patients called aqotuwaluwèhc by the indigenous healers of the northeast (among other names). Another woman travelled to Amazonia to find assistance with Parkinson ’s disease. There are several Native American plants that would help (along with dietary modifications), including skitapewi-wocòpsq and kikcokalokiqeminsimùs, which are used in healing throughout eastern North America by Native Americans. These two plants would beneficially alter dopamine levels and supply key nutritional elements needed by those dealing with Parkinson’s disease. All of the participants in this documentary took part in rituals that included entheogens (substances that aid in awakening and connecting with the divine within). There are several plants and their accompanying ceremonies that could have been experienced without flying thousands of kilometers, including the eastern kawisi-minùs, a species used by many indigenous and traditional cultures (even outside of the United States). All of these remedies are here for our use, and we would know this if only we changed the way we view our local landscapes—dynamic, exciting, and with wonder.