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Is The Rainforest A Natural Pharmacy? Cancer Patients Seek Medicinal Healing In The Amazon

The Amazon rainforest harbors a great diversity of life, but it also contains medical cures that millions of people around the world rely on for treatment. These resources are found nowhere else on Earth, so the jungles of the Amazon represent an important ecological niche.

As many as 25 percent of active ingredients in cancer drugs come only from the Amazon rainforest, according to Collective Evolution. Yet, only 10 percent of the resources of this huge area have been fully explored for possible medicinal properties.

To that end, three cancer patients traveled to the thick jungles of South America to receive treatments based solely on plants from the Amazon River basin. A documentary film called “The Forgotten Cure” chronicled the journey of these brave souls in search of a cure in 2015.

The Scientist and the Shaman

Image by Nick Jewell via Flickr

Image by Nick Jewell via Flickr

Robert Sindelar began training as a chemist and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps as a medicinal chemist. As a teenager, Sindelar noticed how cells in peanuts can help cure ovarian and breast cancer, and his interest in plant-based medicines grew. After a few years as Ph.D candidate at MIT’s chemistry department, Sindelar found himself drifting away from academia and into the realm of spiritual healing combined with organic medicines.

While he was teaching high school chemistry in California, Sindelar found himself in Peru on vacation, and his career passions led him to move there. The former scientist found a calling to the spiritual practice of shamanism as he embarked on his own incredible healing journey. Now, he teaches people how to heal themselves with plants.

Healing Potential

Image by David Evers via Flickr

Image by David Evers via Flickr

The goal of the documentary is to shed light on the healing properties of plants in the Amazon. Sindelar has yet to publish any scientific work, and he hopes to collaborate with scientists, companies and pharmaceutical companies that may need these healing plants for future projects.

Sindelar’s work has a chance to heal these three cancer patients and the scars made by humans in the Amazon rainforest. When pharmaceutical companies realize the economic potential of the forest, more lands may be saved for conservation rather than slashed and burned for cultivation of cash crops. Medicinal cures could become the next conservation movement in this area of the world.

The Amazon jungles have more than 60,000 plants that could harbor healing properties, and less than 6,000 of these opportunities have been fully explored, notes Collective Evolution. Many people travel to South America for healing since many of these medicines have not been approved in developed nations.

Reasons for the Journey

Image by Phil and Pam Gradwell via Flickr

Image by Phil and Pam Gradwell via Flickr

People looking to heal spend one to two months in the Amazon, notes The Mindful World. The documentary film “The Sacred Science” looks into people’s struggles with sickness and modern medicine. More than 400 people applied to take the trip in 2014, and eight people went to live in the jungle without modern conveniences such as running water, electricity or contemporary food preparation practices.

People who need healing travel to the South American jungles for a few reasons. Primarily, people want to heal after other options are exhausted. Pharmaceutical companies have set up laboratories on the fringes of the jungles, but approval for drugs in America may take years and millions of dollars of further research.

In addition to physical healing, shamans preach to candidates for healing to follow their hearts when finding medicines. Many cures for diseases have yet to be written, and shamans may keep these healing remedies a secret known only to themselves and to those who need a cure. Trusted shamans such as Sindelar help bring the mind-body connection into focus as travelers learn to appreciate the land in all its glory.


This new twist on ecotourism serves as a reminder that some journeys and vacations revolve around healing the body, mind and soul. Not only are these places home to vast arrays of plant and animal life, but these dense forests also unlock the healing potential of the human mind and body.

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