My Last Mistake of 2018

Last week I totally linked the wrong episode to the blog post. Instead of The Real Dirt episode from Peru, I linked the episode where I discuss cannabis taxonomy and the differences of Indica and Sativa. Although that’s a great interview, I meant to share my first experience at Refugio Altiplano in the Amazon jungle in Peru. The Real Dirt host Chip Baker and I discuss my love of herbalism, how we met at the University of Georgia through the Cannabis Action Network and other engaging topics of plant medicine.

Enjoy the Peru episode of The Real Dirt- for real this time!

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

The Real Dirt Podcast Interview from Peru

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to get my thoughts in order after all that sugar intake yesterday! I’ve been writing down my Lessons Learned from 2018 and Vision for 2019 and it’s been a little hard rehashing the year. It was challenging for many of us and as we have high hopes for the future, it is going to take hard work on our parts to make it happen.

As an herbalist, I rely on my herbal allies to keep me healthy, sane, and balanced. This means everything from smelling a rose bush or spruce tree when I walk by to drinking a cup of herbal tea to smoking a joint of some fine cannabis. I utilize what I need when I need it.

Right now I need to brew myself an elderberry citrus peel tea, take a bath, and check out for the night. I’m not going to release another episode of The Herb Walk Podcast until January. In the mean time, enjoy this interview of me on the The Real Dirt Podcast. Recorded at Refugio Altiplano in the Amazon jungle in Peru, Chip Baker and I discuss cannabis, ayahuasca, and how we met through the Cannabis Action Network back in the early 1990’s. You can almost feel the mosquito bites through the recording.

Have a fabulous rest of 2018! Until next year.

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Image: Maloca at Refugio Altiplano; taken by me

The Herb Walk Interview with Kelly Green

This episode of The Herb Walk Podcast is very close to my heart. I have had the pleasure of being friends with Kelly Green, COO of Refugio Altiplano, for almost 15 years. We met as neighbors on a 5 acre piece of land outside Watsonville, California when I was a graduate student at Five Branches University. Who knew all these years later he would be the proprietor of Refugio Altiplano, a Natural Healing Medicine Center in the Amazon jungle in Peru. 

Kelly’s first trip to Peru 18 years ago led him to Iquitos and unknowingly, Refugio Altiplano. A random encounter at a cafe got him on a boat with a stranger and a lifelong connection to the river, land and people began. Kelly met Jose Huanaquiri, a Mestizo Ayahuascero that is the true custodian of Refugio, on that very first visit and now they share a heartfelt friendship.

As “medical” and ayahuasca tourism becomes more popular there is also a lot of concern and controversy. Unstable guests are permitted to sit in ceremony even when shamans or staff are concerned about their mental stability. There have been some very unfortunate incidents, including the murder of a well-known and respected female shaman who tried to get the murderer arrested by Peruvian police multiple times before he shot her. 

People are not going to stop going to the Amazon to drink ayahuasca, and this is why it is so important that there are places like Refugio Altiplano.  Guests are required to fill out a medical form prior to attending and Kelly and Jose will reject people that do not meet their criteria (many centers don’t reject anyone that has the money to pay). Refugio has a strict policy regarding inappropriate guests and once escorted back to Iquitos, they are not allowed back at the center for any reason. Holding a safe and sacred space for guests is always paramount at Refugio, as they understand the depth of healing that has the potential to occur. 

The staff at Refugio are highly regarded for their compassion and understanding for the experiences the guests are having. The warmth and tenderness that everyone from the guards, to the women in the kitchen, to the shamans, is genuine. They are all available to guests to help with anything you need. The kinship and love that flows from them, from the jungle, from the river, will permeate your soul and stay with you forever. 

If you or someone you know is interested in ayahuasca or traveling to Peru, share this episode so they can learn more.  I suggest listening in a hot damp room surrounding by the sounds of insects to help set the Amazon vibe. If you’ve got mosquitos, even better. 

You can read my blog post on my first experience at Refugio

Listen to my interview from Refugio Altiplano on The Real Dirt Podcast 

With love,

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows 

Learning from the Masters

I have been having a hard time liking humans lately, which is not a good place to be in. When I went to Peru this trip I knew that is what I wanted to work on with the shamans at Refugio Altiplano. The shamans Jose and Heracio, listened compassionately as I spoke about how humans are on the fast track to destruction and how I couldn’t assimilate the actions of our insane reality. When I was finished, I felt more at peace just knowing there are men like these two helping to facilitate the healing of us all.

The next day Jose tells us we are going to Terapaca, the small village 30 minutes or so

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Older children by the new playground

upriver from Tamshiyacu. Terapaca is where some of the staff live, including Jose. Last year we went to the village to celebrate Peruvian Independence Day and noticed that the playground at the school was in total disrepair. The small group I was in (all friends of Refugio owner, Kelly Green) decided to pitch in and buy a new playground for the children of the village. A year later, it was such a joy to see the kids playing on the swings, see saw, monkey bars, and other structures. 

 

I knew what Jose was doing. He reminded me that all humans are not evil, destructive. By taking us to the village, he reminded me that all humans are not evil, destructive beings. He showed me how village life is in contrast to our modern lifestyles. I saw the beauty of life through the eyes and hearts of children. I saw our future and the potential for greatness in us all. It was heartfelt and beautiful. A gift I needed at just the right time.

So that is my message today. Be hopeful for the future. Be a beacon of light for the children, for they emulate what they see. Know that we are all held in the bosom of the Earth, loved and adored for exactly who we are. And if you need reminding like I did, go to Refugio Altiplano and they will show you your brilliance.

With much love and gratitude for all of life,

jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Featured Image: Staff at Refugio Altiplano

An Offering to the Trees

My recipe today is a re-post from last June. As I sit among the trees in the Amazon jungle I am reminded of how powerful a simple offering can be.

The recipe today is a simple offering from my heart to our life-giving Earth.

Sit at the base of your favorite tree (it can be in your yard, the park, or in the forest- just make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or chemicals). Take 3 deep breathes and notice any subtle or profound changes in your body that occur with each breath. What does the exchange of CO2 and O2 with this magnificent tree feel like? With permission, take a leaf, flower and/or twig from the tree and place it in a bowl of fresh spring (or filtered) water. Infuse in the water for as long as you have time, whether it’s 5 minutes or overnight). When you feel ready, gently take out the plant material and take a sip of the infusion. Allow the vitality of the tree to flow through you. What medicine does this tree have to offer? What do you have to offer back?

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Four Books on Medicine from the Amazon

I am still in the Amazon jungle about an hour boat ride up the Amazon River from Iquitos, Peru. More than likely at this moment I am listening to the symphony of insects, birds, and monkeys while I lay in my hammock and reflect on the ceremonies of the past couple of nights.

If you are interested in coming to Peru, I highly recommend you bring herb books so you can identify some of the plant life that thrives in this ancient rainforest.

Two books I can’t do without are The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs: A Guide to Understanding and Using Herbal Medicinalsby Leslie Taylor, N.D. and A Field Guide to Medicinal and Useful Plants of the Upper Amazonby J.L. Castner, S.L. Timme and J.A. Duke.

For understanding the medicine of ayahuasca, check out these books, Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon by Jonathon Miller Weisberger and The Fellowship of the River, A Medical Doctor’s Exploration into Traditional Amazonian Plant Medicineby Joseph Tafur, M.D.

I hope you find these books as helpful as I do.

With love and gratitude,

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Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows

Back in the Amazon Jungle Again

I am in Peru with six beautiful women experiencing all the Amazon jungle has to offer. We are back at Refugio Altiplano, a natural healing wellness center, where I spent time last year with my husband and a few dear friends.

Since I am immersed in my jungle retreat and not in Internet range (thank goddess!) I share with you my experience from Peru last year. I will share my most recent experience when I return in the middle of the month.

From July 2017: It’s hard to explain the Amazon rainforest to those that haven’t experienced it. I’ve listened to others tell me all about their trips to Peru and how much they loved the people, the plethora of plants and animals, and none of their explanations could’ve prepared me for how utterly amazing this place is.

My husband Chip and I started it off with a day in Lima, scouring music stores for a Peruvian made guitar and a 10-stringed Andean instrument called a charango. Much to our surprise, we came across a luthier that had both in his shop. My charango is so new I can still smell the varnish on it! On the plane from Lima to Iquitos, the guitar got a little banged up, but it just adds to the story of our Peruvian guitar.

Once we arrived in Iquitos, we met up with our friend Kelly (aka “Sparkles”) that has been coming down to the Amazon for 17 years. After the unfortunate death of the owner of Refugio Altiplano, he was asked if he would be interested in buying it since he had been attending ceremonies there since 2000. Much to his (and our) pleasure, he was able to pull it off and is now the proud custodian/proprietor of a natural medicine-healing center with over 20 years of history of helping people heal.

Refugio Altiplano is over an hours boat ride up the Amazon River on old cattle grazing land surrounded by 1,200 of acres of rainforest preserve. It is a beautiful property with El Centro, a meeting area that includes the kitchen and dining area, several rustic jungle casas, and a maloca where ayahuasca ceremonies are held.

They also have a large medicinal herb garden where they are growing peppers, aloe, and noni, alongside wild sangre de grado (dragon’s blood), una de gato (cat’s claw), chacruna, and ayahuasca. The reverence that Jose, a Mestizo shaman, and the true custodian and guardian of Refugio Altiplano, has for all of these plants is as palatable as the oxygen rich air the rainforest exudes.

It was during the ayahuasca ceremonies that I truly experienced Jose’s love of plantmedicine. Once he began to pray and sing the ayahuasca songs, I could feel the sacredness of his words infusing me with love that transcends time and space. Once Daniel, a very powerful Shipibo shaman, begins to sing an icaro to each one of us, I was already deep into the medicine of ayahuasca. An icaro is a song that shamans sing to induce a profound state of healing and awareness. It is unlike anything I have experienced before. Beautiful and deeply, deeply healing.

The river, the villagers, the shamans, the abundance of medicinal plants, they are now ingrained in my body and in my soul. They are again a part of me, as they always have been, as they always will be.

With love and gratitude,

cropped-jessicabaker

Jessica

when energy flows, wellness grows