Plant dietas are an important part of many Amazonian healing and Shamanic traditions, and are a means through which one forms a deep connection with the spirit of a plant for healing. Referred to as a 'dieta' or diet, during a dieta a restricted diet is followed, along with other lifestyle restrictions, in order to achieve and maintain a strong connection with the plant spirit. The plant that is being 'dieted' is consumed daily, usually as a tea or as an extract, for the duration of the dieta which can be anything from a few days up to several months.
Plant dietas are sometimes confused with the diet followed before and after drinking Ayahuasca, but these are two very different things. The 'Ayahuasca diet' does not necessarily need to be very restrictive but it is often useful to follow a clean and simple diet before drinking Ayahuasca in order to reduce toxicity in the body and to allow for a more pleasant and insightful experience (you can read more about dietary suggestions around drinking Ayahuasca here). The diet followed during a plant dieta is much more restrictive and is followed specifically to allow for the connection with the plant spirit to be made. Salt, oil, spices and sugar are eliminated along with processed foods and red meat, and meals are very simple consisting of mainly rice, chicken or fish and some vegetables. Alcohol and chemical drugs are also eliminated along with any other medicinal plant or any substance that has a strong effect on the body. During the dieta, the only strong influence coming into the body is the plant that is being worked with, allowing for the plant to work effectively and for its medicine to be easily received.
The concept of a plant dieta may seem very strange at first, especially to those coming from a culture or background where there is little acknoweldgement or belief in the spiritual world or in the consciousness of plants. However, there is no need to believe in the plant spirits to receive the benefits of a plant dieta, and after experiencing the strong healing effects of the process many people go on to take more dietas with different plants, and, for many, ones perspecive on the spirtual world and plant consciousness is dramatically changed following their expereinces during the dieta.
Plant Dietas & Master Plant Spirits
In the Shipibo healing tradition, the Curandero (healer) forms relationships with the spirits of medicinal plants and works with these spirits to bring healing to their patients and ceremony participants. These relationships are formed through thier dietas with strongly medicinal plants, often referred to as 'master plants' – these are powerfully healing plants which have the ability to clearly communicate with humans. During Ayahuasca ceremonies, the plant spirits are called into the ceremony to assist with the healing of participants, and the dietas of the Curandero will have a huge impact on the healing power of the ceremony. Curanderos will also work with the plant spirits with their patients outside of cermony and a good Curandero will have many dietas with many powerful plants and will call upon the appropriate plant spirit for the healing of a patient whenever necessary.
When someone wishes to take a plant dieta for their personal healing, the Curandero will receive information on the appropriate plant for that person through communication with the plant spirits. Where in our Western culture we often have a tendency to look anaytically at what plant may be good to treat a specific symptom, the intelligence of the plant spirits and their medicines look at what plant will be best for the individual person and for the overall picture of their health condition, their life situation and who they are. Two people experiencing similar health issues may be prescribed different dietas because of their physical, energetic and spiritual healing needs, for which different plants are the most suitbale.
The plant medicines work on every level with an understanding that everything is connected within the human being. The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels are all related and so a plant dieta will be working on all of these levels together, but may be experienced most strongly where most of the healing work is happening. So where one person may have a very emotional process during their dieta, another may experience a lot of physical healing, and another may receive more insights and understanding around their problem. No two dietas are the same, as no two people are the same, and the medicines work to bring each person the healing that they need in the way that they most need to receive it.
Diet & Lifestyle Restrictions
Many restricitons are followed during the dieta in order to create the best conditions for the plant spirit to enter and work with the person taking the dieta. The diet involves the elimination of salt, oil, spices, sugar, processed foods, red meat, and some other food items. There are different reasons for the different restrictions, but overall this allows for the medicine and spirit of the plant to fully enter the person without being 'blocked' or influenced by other substances, and keeps the person spiritually and energetically clean and safe throughout the process.
Salt is considered to be energetically grounding and protective: in our ordinary lives the inclusion of salt in our diet provides us with a protective barrier from external spiritual energies, which is incredibly useful when we are out in the word where all kinds of things are happening. However, during a dieta, the elimination of salt allows us to open up to the spiritual world and allows the spirit of the plant to connect with us more easily. Because the dieta is taken in a safe, protected environment and is overseen by the Curandero, measures can be taken to keep negative or harmful energies away during this much more open time, including some of the other dietary restrictions.
Spices are eliminated due to their strong stimulating effect on the body and also because, in Amazonian traditions, they are considered to be attractive to negative spirits and energies. For this same reason, alcohol is also eliminated.
Red meat and especially pork are also eliminated from the diet. Red meat has a heavy and grounding effect on the mind and body, and so eliminating it allows us to open up more to the spirutual world and to better connect with the plant spirit. Pork is considered to have an especially heavy energy and does not combine well with the plant medicines – along with its elimination during the dieta, it must also be avoided in the weeks following as its consumption following the medicine work can often lead to illness.
Processed foods and chemical substances, including pharmaceutical and recreational drugs are eliminated due to the toxic load they bring to the body. A plant dieta is an incredibly purifying process so the inclusion of any substance which increases toxicity will counteract the purifying and healing work of the plant (usually referred to as 'crossing the diet'), and can lead to illness or an ineffective dieta if consumed.
Other medicinal plants including herbal medicines and psychoactive plants like the San Pedro cactus are also eliminated. The purpose of the dieta is to connect with the medicine of that one plant and to allow that plant to work completely with the mind, body and spirit of the person. It can be considered to be like entering into a relationship with the plant for the duration of the dieta. Bringing in other medicines can reduce the effectiveness of the healing work of the plant or even 'cross' the dieta. The exceptions to this are usually Ayahuasca and mapacho (jungle tobacco) which can assist with connecting with the plant, and sometimes the Curandero may prescribe another plant as an additional medicine if it will be beneficial for the person.
All sexual activity must be eliminated for the duration of the dieta and for some time afterwards. Sexual activity is another thing that is considered to attract spirits and can potentially attract negative energies and spirits, especially when there is unhealthy energy within the couple's relationship or unhealthy perceptions around sex or sexuality. It also strongly draws the mind away from the plant and the dieta – if the dieta is considered to be a relationship with a plant, then sexual activity with another person, whether physically or mentally, would be considered to be cheating on that relationship. Sexual activity and relationship dynamics are also potentially huge distractions from the healing work of the plant spirits and the dietas, and habitually driven engagement can sometimes prevent insight into unhealthy relationship/sexual patterns which may otherwise have been discovered.
Plant dietas are often done in isolation. Degrees of isolation vary depending on the needs of the person and the recommendations of the Curandero, but conditions will be isolated enough to prevent exposure to external energies and to allow for maximum focus on the plant spirit and healing work. In complete isolation, the person will remain alone for the duration of the dieta, with the exception of comminication with the Curandero, and will eliminate all external influences such as media, books, using their phones or laptops etc. In a group retreat setting, the conditions are often more relaxed and participants are able to talk and interact, but there will still be much time spent alone, and other external influences are largely avoided. This allows for a clear communication with the plant spirit to take place and for maximum concentration on the plant and the healing that is being received.
Where the main reason for most of the restrictions is to allow for the clearest and safest communiation with the plant spirit, the restricitions also provide us with a great opportunity to explore and heal our relationships with many aspects of external life that can be a problem for many people. The restricted diet allows us to explore our relationship with food. We may need to confront unhealthy eating patterns, comfort eating and food addictions, along with attachments to strong or very specific tastes. Eating a simple, bland diet also gives us the opportunity to reset our eating habits, and many people find it useful time to adopt a healthier diet and to eliminate unhealthy or addictive foods right after the dieta, when the body is clean, when foods have already been eliminated for some time, and with a a 'clean slate' to create new habits. Isolation and the avoidance of sexual activity give us the opportunity to confront and explore unhealthy patterns in our relationships with others and our needs for external stimulation. It can be very challenging to be alone with our own thoughts and emotions, and many of us have strong attachements to something on the outside – be it another person, a source of stimulation, our phones or our social 'personas'. Time away from these, without the option of distracting ourselves with anything outside, allows us to see our attachments and habits for what they are, to understand what is at their roots, and to re-connect with our true inner selves, and this can be incredibly challenging but very healing and productive. Isolated conditions with minimum external stimulation through food, substances or company provide the optimum conditions for meditation, reflection and inner time with oneself, and the revelations, exploration and healing that come as a result of the restrictions can often be just as powerful, if not more so, as the work of the plant spirit itself.
What to Expect
Your dieta will be selcted by your Curandero and, if you are drinking Ayahuasca, it will be opened during a ceremony, or if not, it will be opened ceremonially with tobacco. You will usually drink the plant daily for the duration of the dieta and follow all of the necessary restrictions. Throughout the dieta, the Curandero will give you regular energetic cleansings to ensure that the plant spirit is entering and working well with you, and you may also participate in Ayahuasca ceremonies during the dieta, during which the Curandero will also work with you and the plant spirit for your healing, although participation in Ayahuasca ceremonies is not essential. At the end of the dieta, the Curandero will close it ceremonially, either during an Ayahuasca ceremony or with a tobacco cleansing. The closing of the dieta includes the placing of a strong aura of protection, called an 'arcana' around you and your energetic body to seal in the dieta and to keep you energetically protected. Following the closing of the dieta, lime and salt are often taken before the usual diet and lifestyle are resumed.
During the dieta, there are many ways that a communication with the plant spirit can be experienced. Many people experience a meeting and communication with the plant during the Ayahuasca ceremonies. This is sometimes through seeing a vision of the plant spirit or through receiving an understanding of how the plant is working with the person and the healing it is bringing. Plant spirits will also commonly communicate with a person through dreams, and it is not uncommon for dreams to be extremely vivid during this time, sometimes bringing very clear messages, or dreams of healing experiences or of meeting with the plant spirit. Communication may also happen during the dieta through altered thoughts or moments of insight and understanding. There can often be a trail of thought that emerges during the dieta which will lead one to an awareness and understanding of an unhealthy pattern or approach to life that can then be healed and transformed. Emotional release is also very common, along with physical release and physical changes and improvements. Just like with Ayahuasca, there is no one-size-fits-all experience with plant dietas: each plant will bring the person what they most need in the most appropriate and healing way for them. And it is also common to not have a very strong experience with a plant dieta and to feel fairly 'normal' throughout the process. This doesn't mean that it isn't working, just that the plant spirit may be working in a more subtle way, or working in areas that the person doesn't necessarily need to know about. Changes may happen subtly on any level, and sometimes the work of the dieta becomes more clear in the weeks and months following, when its effects become more obvious.
Following the dieta, some restrictions are usually continued for the weeks or months afterwards, depending on the length of the dieta. This is to allow the work of the plant to settle, and to re-introduce very strong substances slowly without shocking the body or causing the work of the plant to become crossed. Post-dieta restrictions can vary depending on the Curandero, the plant and the nature of the healing, but usually involve eliminating pork, alcohol, spices, chemical substances and sexual activity for some more time, and re-introducing other foods, medicines and substances that were not included in the dieta carefully.
Once the dieta has been closed, the spirit of the plant remains with you and you are likely to continue to experience a communication with that plant spirit as you continue with your life. Our Curandero Raul says that the plant spirits guide us towards our best paths and keep us safe, so if we are potentially heading towards a dangerous or unhelpful situation, our diets will guide us towards a safer option by guiding our throughts, decisions and intuition in the best direction.
Dietas with Us
We offer plant dietas during group retreats and for individuals. There is always the option for a plant dieta during a retreat for any member of the group for a minimum of five days up to the length of time that Ayahuasca ceremonies are being taken for (as we cannot cross the dieta with Wachuma ceremonies if these are included at the end of the retreat, the dieta must be closed before these begin). Dieta plants are selected by the Curanderos to meet the needs of each person. Dietary restrictions are followed during the dieta and appropriate meals are provided, and the Curanderos work with the plant spirit and the participant during the Ayahuasca ceremonies and outside of ceremony when needed.
We also give the the option of private dietas for individuals, with one-to-one attention from the Curandero, in a quiet loacation, with the elimination of outside media and distractions and with near to total isolation from other people as required. This is recommended for those who have already done some work with the plant spirits and who wish to go deeper into the medicine work, or for those experiencing an illness or condition into which they wish to put their full, undistracted attention for healing, or for those who wish to work on social or relationship issues for which isolation away from others can be useful.
For those living/staying in the Sacred Valley who have already worked with us, we also give the option for you to diet with a plant in your own home or residence with regular cleansings and optional Ayahuasca ceremonies, overseen by a Curandero.
Please get in touch (email:firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested in dieting with us, or for more information about the process and how it may benefit you.