Healing Cancer and Chronic Illness in the Amazon

The Sacred Science

Nicki Polizzi (2011)

Film Review

The Sacred Science follows eight patients with cancer and severe chronic illness who seek treatment with traditional medicine men in the Amazon basin. The purpose of the film is to raise awareness of indigenous healing practices and the importance of halting the rampant destruction of the Amazon rainforest and indigenous cultures that foster shamanic healing practices. Twenty-five percent of the ingredients used in western pharmaceuticals originate from Amazonian plants. Moreover a range of cancers and chronic illnesses resistant to western medicine respond to traditional healing methods. Polizzi, Plotkin and others are very alarmed about the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous cultures that foster shamanic healing.

John Perkins, best selling author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, writes about his own experience with Amazon healers in Shapeshifting: Shamanic Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation, The World Is As You Dream It: Teachings from the Amazon and Andes, and Spirit of the Shuar: Wisdom from the Last Unconquered People of the Amazon.

Filmmaker Nick Polizzi first became interested in the healing potential of Amazonian plants when a friend developed untreatable Parkinsonism in 2009. Polizzi reached out to ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin* and through Mark, met Roman Hunt. Hunt moved to the Amazon in the late nineties to work with traditional shaman after they healed his Crohn’s Disease. Together, the three men conceived of a project in which eight patients would spend a month in the Amazon rain forest undergoing treatment with traditional medicine men.

Polizzi and his team received 400 applications when they advertised for patients to participate in the project. The eight they selected suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, neuroendocrine cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type II diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, irritable bowel syndrome and depression/alcoholism.

The treatment combined spiritual healing, diet and herbal remedies specific for each illness. All eight patients took Ayahuasca, a mild mind expanding psychedelic and participated in various spiritual ceremonies aimed at self-healing. All gained insight into ways in which their mental state impeded their healing. They also received regular monitoring by a western qualified doctor.

As the eight subjects talk about themselves, their lives and their illnesses, the stark contrast between their self-centered world view and the holistic beliefs of the shamans leaps out at you. Although Polizzi doesn’t dwell on this in the film, his blog explores the topic at length. He particularly laments the loss (in the global north) of unwavering respect for all living things, including human beings, that characterized early cultures. “We have forgotten how to look after one another.”

He’s also highly critical of the Newtonian model of western medicine that approaches human beings as if they were machines in need of repair.

Of the eight patients, one died of advanced metastatic neuroendocrine cancer, and five became symptom-free after 1-2 months. The patients with breast cancer and Crohn’s Disease experienced no improvement. Given that Roman Hunt required five months of treatment to recover from Crohn’s, I wonder if Jessica (who spent two months in the Amazon) might have benefited from a longer course of treatment.

More information and a free ebook available from http://www.thesacredscience.com/

*Ethnobotanist specializing in the healing properties of tropical plants and author of Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, Medicine Quest and The Killers Within: the Deadly Rise of Drug-resistant Bacteria and The Shaman’s Apprentice (a children’s book) with Lynne Cherry.