Many South Americans cultivate chiric sanango ornamentally, but this pretty little shrub does more than add floral flair to the front yard.
In Ecuador, Shuar shamans mix the hallucinogenic plant’s root into batches of ayahuasca tea for added psychedelic potency during special initiations. Throughout the Amazon, healers rely on the root for its diuretic and analgesic properties, using it to treat everything from yellow fever to syphilis to snakebite. The Conibo, who live around Peru’s Ucayali River, drink a root-based decoction for alleviating rheumatism and arthritis.
But the root’s power does come with strong side effects, including chills, itchiness, nausea, stomachache, and vomiting. Risk-averse consumers may want to stick to chiric sanango’s pain-relieving leaves. In Peru, the Ese’eja use the leaves as a cure for the common cold, while residents of the eastern city of Pucallpa treat arthritis, rheumatism, and venereal disease with a leaf-based tea.
Despite chiric sanango’s medical applications, the plant does carry significant risks. Overdosing can be fatal, and other side effects include convulsions and spasms. Like most powerful plants of the Amazon, chiric sanango is effective and safe only when in the right hands.