Ayahuasca, Tobacco, and the Pursuit of Knowledge
“The dose makes the poison,” says an old adage, reminding us that all substances have the potential to heal or to harm, depending on their use. This is especially true of tobacco. Although Western medicine treats it as a harmful addictive drug, tobacco is considered medicinal by indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest. In its unadulterated form, it holds a central place in their repertoire of traditional medicines. Along with the hallucinogen ayahuasca, tobacco forms a part of treatments designed to heal the body, stimulate the mind, and inspire the soul with visions. Anthropologist Jeremy Narby first learned of the shamanic uses of ayahuasca and tobacco while conducting fieldwork in the Amazon region decades ago. After witnessing the transformative power of these mind-altering plants, Narby embarked on a quest to understand their effects on human consciousness. His search led him to contact Rafael Chanchari Pizuri, a traditional healer from the Peruvian Amazon. In Plant Teachers, Narby and Pizuri hold a cross-cultural dialogue that explores the similarities between ayahuasca and tobacco, the role of these plants in indigenous cultures, and the hidden truths they reveal about nature. Juxtaposing two distinct worldviews, Plant Teachers invites readers on a wide-ranging journey through anthropology, botany, and biochemistry, while raising tantalizing questions about the relationship between science and other ways of knowing.
AVAILABLE IN AUGUST