On October 21, 2004, twenty travelers from the United States and Australia journeyed to Peru for a ten-day workshop on Botanical Medicines from the Amazon and Machu Picchu. The trip was sponsored by the American Botanical Council, Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation, and West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Workshop instructors were James A. Duke, PhD, noted ethnobotanist and author of Sixty Medicinal Plants from the Peruvian Amazon (among numerous other books); Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and editor of HerbalGram; Sue Mustalish, RN, Coordinator of the University Outreach Program for the ACEER Foundation; and Don Antonio Montero-Pisco, Peruvian shaman and herbalist.
During the first half of the trip the group stayed in Southern Peru at the Reserva Amazonica Ecological Reserve, a 45-minute boat ride on the Madre de Dios river, downriver from the small town of Puerto Maldonado. The Madre de Dios is a major tributary of the Amazon. Don Antonio and Duke led herb walks in the rainforest where students were introduced to native plants, their traditional uses, and the conditions they treat. The group was also the first to use the new Canopy Walkway, which takes visitors to a height of 35 meters (115 feet) into the rainforest canopy and allows them to view plants and animals, including monkeys and many exotic tropical birds. A morning was spent touring the gardens and nature interpretation center at ACEER-Tambopata at Inkaterra, ACEER’s new international education and research center. Other activities included an excursion to Sandoval Lake (an ox-bow lake formed by the natural enclosure of a large curve of the river), to a small farm on which visitors were treated to ripe bananas picked directly from the tree, and to a one-room school in a local village.
After flying from Puerto to Maldonado to the ancient Incan capital of Cusco (located in the Andes at an altitude of 11,000 feet), the group spent the second half of the trip visiting the Peruvian highlands. Highlights included a day-and-a-half at the “lost” Incan mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu and the architectural remains of plazas, palaces, temples, homes, cemeteries, and irrigated mountainside terraces that formed the structure for the Incan agricultural system. The group also visited the market in Machu Picchu village, also known as Aguas Calientes, and hiked the Orchid Trail on the grounds of the Pueblo Hotel, home to the world’s largest native orchid species garden, which also contains many species of birds (including hummingbirds), butterflies, plants, and trees.
Physicians and pharmacists were able to earn CME or CEU credits, respectively, while learning first-hand about the ecology of the flora and fauna of Peru as well as the history of botanical medicine, the legal and regulatory status of medicinal plants in the United States, biological forms and activities of botanical medicines, clinical research on the efficacy and safety of botanical medicines, herb-drug interactions, and more. The College of Health Sciences at West Chester University of Pennsylvania provided accreditation for continuing education for physicians. The course was accredited for pharmacists by the Texas Pharmacy Association.
The 2005 trip to the Amazon and Machu Picchu is already being planned for October 17-26, 2005. Information will be published in future issues of HerbalGram, on ABC’s Web site (www.herbalgram.org), and will be available from the ACEER Foundation (www.aceer.org).