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Conserving Amazon Healing Herbs - 2003-04-22


On Earth Day, we bring you a close-up look at a man who is close to the earth. He is a botanist, Doctor James Duke. Here’s Miguel Rivera’s report.

NATURAL SOUND BIRDS CHIRPING

Deep in the amazon rainforest you can still find traditional healers with ancient wisdom.

NATURAL SOUND SWORD CUTTING WOOD

Don Antonio Pisco is a local shaman. Dr. James Duke is an American botanist who used to work for the Department of Agriculture for 30 years.

JAMES DUKE, BOTANIST
“Nature has produced more chemicals than all the chemists in the world can synthesize in a decade.”

Duke’s best-selling book, The Green Pharmacy, describes the healing qualities of using whole plants and herbs as opposed to just extracting its active compound.

NATURAL SOUND FLUTES AND BIRDS

Dr. Duke says more and more scientific studies are verifying the healing powers of natural plants. He wants to make sure Don Antonio’s knowledge is not lost but preserved and shared with other communities of the world.

Jim Duke makes his home in Laurel, a city in the U.S. state of Maryland. He says that for some illnesses, taking herbs instead of prescription drugs may be a better alternative for your health.

NATURAL SOUND BIRDS

JAMES DUKE, BOTANIST
“Each plant contains thousands of different chemicals just like you and I do, and your genes know over half of those for 5 million years. And your genes miss a few. The stinging nettle is in the garden for hay fever. It’s an edible green anyhow, normally eaten.”

NATURAL SOUND BIRDS

Dr. Duke’s two and a half hectare herb garden is organized by the ailment they relieve.

NATURAL SOUND JAMES DUKESPEAKING
“Its major function is to introduce people to the major medicinal plants. We get a lot of doctors and nurses that come here, some holistic who love herbs, some who hate herbs but they all want to see these herbs whether they like them or not. And this is one of the best collections of herbs there is in this area.”

Jim Duke believes the human body remembers the chemical compounds in plants upon which our ancestors fed.

There are many studies and reports citing the health benefits of a number of plants. One study for the use of complementary and alternative medicine from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that alternative medicine has been readily accepted and used by just under half of the American population.

These two remarkable friends, Jim Duke the botanist and Don Antonio his “medico brujo”, which is Spanish for medicine man or shaman, get together each year in the Amazon jungle.

JAMES DUKE, BOTANIST
“This is Kamu Kamu. Kamu Kamu is an indigenous plant that I think you will hear a lot more about in the United States. It’s got about thirty times more vitamin C than citrus, for example.

Together they created this 10-hectare garden laboratory with over two hundred rain forest medicinal plants. And as more and more plants prove to be of medicinal value, Don Antonio’s traditional wisdom becomes increasingly important.

NATURAL SOUND DRUMS AND FLUTE

JAMES DUKE, BOTANIST
“He knows the tress. We need him just as bad as we need the trees. Because every time I doubted him, there’s been a chemical explanation for what he says. If he dies without telling us what he knows we lose it. It’s like a library burning down each time we lose a Shaman.”

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