Powerful natural remedies from the Amazon


Powerful natural remedies from the Amazon

A local shaman in Iquitos proudly presents an array of natural jungle cures
Photo by Hendrika Janssen 

Are you interested in good alternatives to mainstream medicine? South America is one of the most biodiverse continents in the world and home to a wide array of natural remedies that can be used to treat a variety of ailments. With over 2,000 plants that are believed to have medical properties, Peru specifically is a leader in natural cures. While we at Peru for Less make no claims about the use or efficacy of these products for medicinal purposes, we wanted to share some highlights and interesting facts.

A leader in versatility: Sangre de Grado

One of the most intriguing natural products indigenous to the South American Amazon jungle is Sangre de Grado. It is found primarily in the Amazon in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador. This product is a leading natural cure due to its versatility and potency. It has been used for many centuries by indigenous populations to alleviate a variety of symptoms, from irritable bowels to skin reactions to insect bites.

Sangre de Grado, also known as Blood of the Dragon due to its red tint, is a medium-sized tree and the product is derived from the sap and bark of the tree. Many consider Sangre de Grado as a crucial first aid product due to its ability to treat a wide range of health issues.

Sangre de Grado, Jungle Remedies, Amazon, Peru, Peru For LessThe red pigment referred to as “Dragon’s Blood” can be seen here at the base of some dead leaves.
Picture by Sharktopus/Wikimedia Commons

Sangre de Grado is said to be one of the most powerful natural antioxidants. Being such a powerful antioxidant ensures that it is extremely effective in reviving body cells and tissues.

Uses and benefits

Sangre de Grado has a large variety of uses. Most commonly, it is referred to as a “liquid bandage” due to its ability to heal cuts, wounds, rashes, and a variety of skin problems. It creates a “latex layer,” disinfects, and consequently heals impacted areas in a short period of time.  Sangre de Grado is also extremely effective in treating ulcers of the mouth, stomach, throat and intestine. Its benefits include:

  • Anti-inflammatory action
  • Antiseptic action
  • Reduces bleeding
  • Kills bacteria/germs/viruses
  • Treats diarrhea
  • Treatment of insect bites (anti-itch)
  • Treatment of fever
  • Kills cancer cells

Sangre de Grado should be applied in its undiluted form, and can be used both internally and externally.

Natural remedy at work

During a recent river rafting trip to Lunahuana in Peru, I forgot to use mosquito repellent. Surely enough, within 2 days, I found over 30 insect bites on my legs. The bites were extremely itchy and I had nothing to relieve this inconvenience. I decided to ask my hotel manager if he could think of any remedy. He smiled and handed me a small bottle of Sangre de Grado.

I took the little bottle from him and applied a tiny drop of the red liquid to each of my bites. While it was a lengthy process, I finally covered them all. Then I waited.

Within 10 minutes the itchiness caused by the bites had actually disappeared to my great surprise. I was intrigued by how effective the potion was. I then kept applying the Dragon’s Blood every day for the next 3 days, and the bites slowly started fading, and stopped itching entirely within a week. My first experience was a positive one!

Where can you buy it?

If you do decide to venture into the Amazon jungle, visit a local shaman to purchase this product. With its growing popularity, Sangre de Grado can now be ordered online from a variety of sources, and is available in many health stores in Peru.

A powerful cure: Uña de Gato

Another leading jungle product is Uña de Gato, literally meaning “cats claw.” Its name is derived from the hook-like thorns growing on the vine, which look similar to the claws of a cat. This immune-system boosting plant is indigenous to South and Central America, including Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Panama, to mention only a few. As a natural cure, it is derived from the bark and root of the plant.

Uña de Gato, Jungle Remedies, Amazon, Peru, Peru For LessCurled thorns resembling the claws of a cat
Photo by Saluda Activa

Uses and benefits

Similarly to Sangre de Grado, this product has a wide variety of uses. Most commonly, Uña de Gato is used for supporting the immune system, cleaning of the digestive tracts and promoting anti-inflammation and joint strength. It is also used for:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis/Osteoarthritis
  • Viral infections (i.e. shingles/cold sores)
  • As an analgesic
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • General wound healing
  • Ulcers
  • Parasites
  • Bone pains
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

This product can be purchased as an ointment or in tablet or pill form. Traditionally the root of the plant was boiled in water.

Natural remedy at work 

A good friend of mine got Lyme disease when she was a young girl. The disease had remained undetected by doctors for a long time, and as a result she had a near death experience. Although antibiotics ended up curing her, she was left with mild Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) as a result of the illness.

Years later, during a winter break from school, this friend and I decided to make a trip to the Peruvian Amazon jungle. Upon visiting a local Shaman there, we learned about the benefits of Uña de Gato. As my friend had been suffering from RA in the joints of her hands, she decided to buy a small container of Uña de Gato in ointment form and apply it.

Uña de Gato, Jungle Remedies, Amazon, Peru, Peru For LessA small container with Uña de Gato in ointment form
Photo by Oro Verde

She told me that after applying the ointment, the pain in her hand lessened almost immediately. It seems this product has good anti-inflammatory properties.

Where can you buy it?

As Uña de Gato grows in the Amazon rainforest, a local jungle shaman will be able to sell it to you. It is however available online as well, and in pharmacies throughout Peru.

A natural stimulant: Guaraná

Guaraná is a natural product that has been used for centuries by Amerindians. This natural cure comes from a creeping shrub found throughout the Amazon rainforest, most notably in Brazil and Peru. The fruits produced by the plant are round, small and bright red in color. As the fruit of this plant ripens, it splits to reveal a black seed, resembling an “eye” mentioned in traditional legends.

Guaraná, Jungle Remedies, Amazon, Peru, Peru For LessThese Guaraná seeds have already split and are revealing an “eye”.
Photo via Radio Clube de Valença

Uses and benefits

Like many natural jungle products, Guaraná is used for a variety of purposes. Traditionally, the seeds of this plant were dried, roasted and then mixed into a paste with water. This mixture was then used similarly to our current day use of chocolate: to prepare drinks, food, and medicine. Guaraná is currently mainly used as a stimulant and astringent for diarrhea. Other uses include:

  • Pain reliever
  • Fever reliever
  • Hypertension
  • Prevention for arteriosclerosis

A large part of the production of the Guaraná paste is still done by the Guarani natives of Brazil. They harvest the seeds of the plant from the wild, and create the paste by hand.

Natural remedy at work

Guaraná is now known and used across the world, most notably in the national beverage of Brazil: Guaraná Soda! I was told that the true potency of Guaraná can however better be experienced by mixing powder derived from the plant with some water or juice. A traveling student who had recently come from the Amazon jungle told me that she used used the Guaraná powder as a stimulant. Each morning she would mix the powder with water and drink it. She compared the effects as similar to drinking coffee.

Guarana seed powder, Jungle Remedies, Amazon, Peru, Peru For LessGuarana seed powder
Photo by Wesley H. Brewton Jr./Wikimedia Commons

The Amazon jungle’s staggering diversity ensures that it is rich with natural cures. Sangre de Grado, Uña de Gato, and  Guaraná are just three of several natural jungle remedies used by local communities in the Amazon that have began to receive international notice. Keep you eyes out for more in your home country and on a trip to the Amazon. 

Further reading

Find out more about the ethnobotany of the Peruvian Amazon here

Find out more about safer ways to prevent bites here

Plan your own Amazon tour!

Latin America for Less specializes in fully customizable vacations. Visit the Amazon jungle for your own chance to get immersed in natural cures.


About Author

Hendrika is Belgian but she considers herself a citizen of the world as she has lived in many different countries before moving to Peru. She fell in love with South America after her first visit to the continent in Bolivia, and has since then spent a lot of time traveling in the area. She especially enjoys Peru for its diversity, delicious food, and rich history.

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