Scientists Put Shamanic Medicine Under the Microscope

Ten years ago, Mark Pischea, then a 42-year-old political consultant and father of five from Williamston, Michigan, was rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pain.

Pischea was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic autoimmune condition that can cause extreme abdominal discomfort, weight loss, fatigue and fevers. For the next decade of his life, the formerly healthy husband and father lived in a constant cycle of flare-ups, surgery and recovery.

After his fifth surgery, Pischea was bedridden for six weeks. At that point, he was told his only remaining options were a sixth surgery or the removal of his stomach. He said that he felt ready to die.

But there was, in fact, one other option, albeit an unconventional one. At his wife’s insistence, Pischea got out of bed, boarded a plane and made his way down to a rustic healing center in San Roque de Cumbasa, a tiny village in the Peruvian Amazon.

Pischea spent most of the next three weeks in solitude, following a strict dieta of rice, plantains and specially prepared plant teas. Several times a day, he met with a shaman named Antonio, who prescribed him local plants known to induce vomiting, as a way to cleanse the body and “reboot” the immune system. The shaman’s recommendations also included ayahuasca, a potent hallucinogenic brew, and kambo, the venom of a rain forest tree frog.

Four months later, Pischea is free of not only his Crohn’s symptoms, but also the depression that had developed alongside his sickness.

“For me, being symptom-free is nothing short of a miracle,” he told The Huffington Post. “I’m thankful for each day that I’m feeling well.”

Looking for answers

Pischea is one of a rapidly growing number of Americans struggling with cancer, chronic disease, mental illness and other ailments who have turned to the —> Read More