Amazonian Traditional Plant Medicine Internship

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The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, with over 40,000 plant species and 2.5 million insect species! Also, many species of Amazonian flora and fauna have medicinal properties, and about 25 percent of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from the rainforest.The main indigenous group in the region, the Kichwa nation, is known for using natural healing and plant medicine to treat everything from colds to chronic illnesses and wounds. Despite the existence of both traditional and Western medicine in the region, this province has disproportionate access to healthcare and a lack of educational resources for disease prevention.

Interns work in the Napo province, centered around the main city of Tena. This province is home to many natural healers, herbalists, and medicine men that are working hard to preserve their traditions.

  • Live with a host family that uses plant medicine and traditional healing practices
  • Learn about Amazonian herbalism, traditional medicine practices, and traditional farming practices
  • Depending on the placement, opportunity to make salves, tinctures, balms, and more; observe and/or participate in traditional cleansings; plant medicinal plants in agroforestry farms
  • Collaborate on projects that disseminate knowledge of indigenous, traditional medicine
  • Opportunity to collaborate part-time in a health clinic, hospital, or governmental health organization

Questions & Answers

Hi Samira, Thank you for your question. To answer: No, you do not need to have a background in ethnobotany to participate. It is preferred that you have a background in ethnobotany, herbalism, traditional medicine, or a related field. The more knowledge you come with, the easier it will be to learn and work with local experts. We do require an intermediate level of Spanish to participate in this...


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Yes, I recommend this program

My public health internship through Amazon Learning: How it showed me my path

I interned with Amazon Learning during the winter of 2017 as a Public Health intern at the Runa Foundation. My time there was incredibly impactful in learning what field I would want to go into after graduating from college. I spent my two month internship learning about the chacra system and traditional medicine from local farmers and my host family, developing arcGIS mapping skills to help the Runa Foundation in their project aiding local farmers in the mapping of their land, and also assisted on a food security project which involved interviewing farmers about their family’s nutrition experience and needs. This experience helped my language skills immensely, launched me into the local culture of Archidona, Ecuador, and taught me that I want to go into medical anthropology and learn more about how indigenous communities engage with health care systems. These connections from my internship with Runa Foundation through Amazon Learning helped me make the connections that I would then use for a Fulbright scholarship this year. I am now researching women’s health in Archidona on a Fulbright grant, thanks to the help and support of Amazon Learning opening my world two years ago.

1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Can't wait to go back!

I was paired with the most amazing host family, who are growing dozens, if not hundreds of medicinal plants in their chakra (permaculture rainforest garden). I learned so much from them, and it was also a good learning experience to be volunteering with Amu Pakín, the Kichwa midwives association. There are also lots of botanical gardens you can go to that have information about medicinal plants. There’s so much to learn, I will definitely be coming back because in two months I barely scratched the surface! Of course, it was not all sunshine and rainbows, you have to know a good amount of Spanish to avoid communication problems, and going into the Amazon by yourself (or at least without anyone you know, Amazon Learning is still there for support) is not for the faint of heart. If you are staying with a host family, you should expect to be living rustic, and this sort of travel can be stressful. But if you are willing to overcome obstacles for this experience, it will definitely be worth it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be patient. Ecuadorians run on a slower clock than Americans (and maybe other western countries too). It’s important to be proactive about achieving the goals you came here for, but it’s equally important to flow with their pace of life, enjoy the beauty of the Amazon, and build a relationship with your host family. It can be frustrating sometimes, between the fluidity of plans people there have, and the waiting time for local busses, and the communication barrier, but for me it was all worth it.
1 person found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A life-changing experience!

If you are interested in learning about traditional medicine from indigenous people this program is the program to do it with! I went into the program with an interest and left with a passion! You live with a host family in the Ecuadorian Amazon and learned so much about the jungle and yourself. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for an adventure and a life-changing experience!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I got to experience many different traditional amazonian foods. The best part was all the unusual fruits!
1 person found this review helpful.