By Instituto Socioambiental - ISA
The "Manual of Yanomami traditional medicine" is the result of extensive work by Yanomami researchers. Young members of the community are being trained to carry out research aimed at reinforcing traditional knowledge and promoting a dialogue with other knowledge systems, indigenous and non-indigenous. The manual was inspired by the research of anthropologist Bruce Albert and botanist William Milliken, carried out between 1992 and 1994, and presents an extensive survey of medicinal plants used by the Yanomami to cure different diseases.
Yanomami long house in the Toototopí region (2010) by Edson SatoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
The Yanomami are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples in Brazil: a population of 22,000 people living in the states of Amazonas and Roraima, in the north of Brazil. Their territory is located on the borders of Brazil with Venezuela, with several communities in the neighbouring country. The Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) is working with the Yanomami to develop projects to ensure the protection of their territory, to strengthen their organizations and to value their culture.
Inside the long house, Watoriki community (2013) by Marcos WesleyInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Timóteo Xirixana in the forest during the Õkãpomaɨ Expedition (2014) by Mídia NINJAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
The Yanomami have a different way of understanding what we call "nature." In their language Urihi a - forest-land - is a living entity that is part of a complex dynamic relationship between human and non-human beings, such as animals, plants and others.
Leader and shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami (2016) by Matthieu Jean Marie LenaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
"White people think that the forest was laid on the ground for no purpose, as if it was lifeless. This is not true. It is only silent because the xapiripë spirits restrain the malign beings and the anger of the storm beings. If the forest was dead, the trees would not have shiny leaves. Nor would there be water on earth. Our forest is alive, and if white people make us disappear in order to cut it down and live in our place, they will be poor and will end up suffering from hunger and thirst. " – David Kopenawa Yanomami
Shamanic spirit of the jatoba tree (2003) by Joseca YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Shamanic spirit of the jatoba tree (Hymenaea parvifolia, arõ kohi), with nests of the Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela, ayõkora)
Yanomami shamans meeting in Watoriki village (2011) by Beto RicardoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Meeting of Yanomami shamans (2011) by Beto RicardoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
The Yanomami healing system is based on the action of shamans. They are like a protective shield against the evil powers of humans and non-humans. They are tireless warriors of the invisible, dedicated to protecting the lives of the members of their communities.
Yanomami men using medicinal plants by William MillikenInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
When someone in the village falls sick, medicines collected from the forest are used in conjunction with the action of the shaman. Knowledge of these remedies was traditionally held and transmitted by older women who would apply them in conjunction with the healing work of shamans.
Yanomami researchers (2012) by Vicente CoelhoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
However, in the 1970s women from several Yanomami villages, holding the knowledge of forest remedies, died from outbreaks of measles and malaria brought by the invasion of the Yanomami territory by outsiders. As a result, knowledge of forest medicines was kept alive only through some of the survivors’ children.
Yanomami undertaking intercultural research at workshops on medicinal plants by William MillikenInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
At the beginning of the 1990s, research on Yanomami medicinal plants helped to revitalize traditional community medicine, as opposed to the manufactured medications that had been used to combat the diseases introduced following the invasion by prospectors in the late 1980s. After an intense process of political empowerment and training of Yanomami researchers, the study and use of traditional medicine have become community priorities.
Interviewing elders about medicinal plants (2012) by Vicente CoelhoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Twenty years after the research, the situation of diseases introduced by outsiders had stabilized and less importance was attributed to manufactured medication. The knowledge of the elders started to awaken the interest of a new generation of Yanomami. Between 2012 and 2013 research workshops were held with nine young Yanomami researchers. This team extensively interviewed the elders, as well as other community members. The "Manual of Yanomami traditional medicine" is the result of this project of listening to, transmitting and systematizing knowledge.
Yanomami women with the "Manual of Yanomami traditional medicine" (2016) by Mari Corrêa / Instituto CatituInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Õkãpomaɨ expedition - The defence of the Yanomami Indigenous Land (2014) by Mídia NINJAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
"First the shamans would point out the leaves: 'when you see these leaves hanging in the woods, you rub the patient with them and the fever will decrease; when you rub the patient with saima hanaki leaves, rub the whole head and give them a full bath, that's it!' The elderly woman picked the leaves, tasted them with her tongue, kneaded them by hand, made a thick broth with them and bathed the patient: 'xaoo xaoo'. When older women were still numerous, this is what they did with the patients." – Justino Yanomami
Drawing of a Saima hana kɨ plant by Ehuana YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Peperomia macrostachya (Vahl) A. Dietr.
Popular: A type of epiphytic
The leaves are used to treat flu
Researchers interviewing elders about the use of medicinal plants (2012) by Vicente CoelhoInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
"After all had died here from an epidemic of sorcery, there were no older women and we were impoverished. However, despite being impoverished, other women who had survived continued treating us closely; other younger women, such as those sitting here, who had seen their mothers heal." – Justino Yanomami
Puu hana kɨInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
"Our elders knew many treatments. When they had the tarantula itch caused by sorcery, they rubbed themselves with grated puu thotho fruits, with puu hana ki leaves and gratings from hwapoma hi, raina tihi and wapo kohi trees… When they had an itch, they rubbed themselves with grated hwapoma hi; in the old days they rubbed themselves with this. After the application, the itch would disappear; that was how they treated each other". – Justino Yanomami
Drawing of a Raina tihi tree by Ehuana YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Anaxagorea acuminata (Dun) A. St. -Hil.
The bark is used to relieve itches in general. It is also used to treat diseases introduced by outsiders
Drawing of a Wapo kohi tree by Ehuana YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Clathrotropis macrocarpa Ducke
The bark is used to treat strong fevers caused by diseases introduced by outsiders and itching resulting from contacts with tarantula spiders
Maokori sina kɨ by Ehuana YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Renealmia alpinia (Rottb.) Maas, Renealmia floribunda K. Schum
A type of herb
The stem is used to treat infections and swellings caused by sorcery
Renealmia alpinia (Rottb.) Maas
Renealmia floribunda K. Schum
Drawing of a Pirima ahu thotho tree by Ehuana YanomamiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
Spondias mombin L.
The fruits and leaves are used to treat frailty and diseases introduced by outsiders
Long house at night, Watoriki village (2011) by Leandro LimaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA
About the manual
Knowledge holders interviewed: Antonio, Jonas, Justino, Luana, Lucas, Madalena and Paulo Yanomami
Interviewers: Anita, Denise, Edmar, Ehuana, Guiomar, Junior, Morzaniel, Nílson, Salomé and Suanã Yanomami
Consultants: Bruce Albert (Institut de recherche pour le développement - IRD), William Milliken (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) and Vicente Coelho (Instituto Socioambiental - ISA)
Download the full publication at: http://isa.to/manual-dos-remedios-tradicionais-yanomami
Curator: Marília Senlle
Text editors: Tatiane Klein and Gabriella Contoli
Special thanks: Alex Piaz, Beto Ricardo, Bruno Weis, Claudio Tavares, Estevão Benfica, Marcos Wesley, Moreno Saraiva and Tony Gross
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