An ethnobotanists’ protocol to reduce indigenous cases of COVID-19 in the Amazon

Meet Michael Stuart Ani. This might not be the first time you read his name, he has been a trusted friend, advisor and Sinchi program director for the Ghost Dance Storytelling-Project. Go here to read more about that.

Michael has been a student of plant medicine for over 50 years, having lived with the Mazateca of Mexico (well-known for their sacred mushrooms) for 10 years and 20 years with the Yamomami in Venezuela. He was also a very important vehicle in fighting the major epidemics amongst the Yamomami in the Venzuelan rainforest during the 80s; He introduced the plant Artemisia annua  which proved to be a much more effective antimalarial than the WHO pharmaceutical used at the time.

We are publishing his protocol for combatting the alarming rate at which COVID-19 is currently spreading amongst indigenous populations in the Amazon today, 20 years later. Because we believe that Michael could play a similarly important role in fighting this epidemic.

From an article in National Geographic Magazine, published on June 12 2020: “According to figures compiled by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), the country’s principal indigenous federation, deaths from COVID-19 in indigenous communities have risen from 46 on May 1 to 262 on June 9. APIB’s statistics also show that 9.1 percent of indigenous people who contract the disease are dying, nearly double the ‘normal’ rate of 5.2 percent.”



” A strategy for dealing with the current epidemics among the indigenous people of the Amazon rain forest.”

DISCLAIMER – I, Michael Stuart Ani, am not a medical physician or scientific authority on the Covid-19 virus. I am an ethnobotanist and longtime jungle scout who was involved in fighting epidemics among the Yanomami tribe of Venezuela’s Amazon from the 1980’s through 2003. My advice is based on what I observed and learned while helping the Yanomami.   

As the founder of the Amazonia Foundation, the only international NGO approved by the Venezuelan government to help the remote tribes during the epidemics, I learned many strategies for coping with epidemics among the Amazon’s indigenous people. I believe that my experiences have trained me for the current epidemic situation we have in Amazonia today with covid-19, malaria and other diseases.

Michael Stuart Ani by the Great Stasia Garraway (Teotitlan De Valle Oaxaca)

GOAL – To help the indigenous people of the Amazon survive the current pandemic.



  1. Covid-19 is creating a severe threat to human life in the Amazon.
  • Malaria, dengue fever, schistosomiasis, hepatitis and many others are among the diseases that were already impacting the health of the region before Covid-19 even took hold. For this reason, it is important to include their impact in any medical strategy developed for the region.

Covid-19 is also potentially dangerous because the immune systems of Amazonia’s indigenous population have already been severely compromised by factors that include the above-mentioned diseases and also the ongoing impact of the arson fires and smoke in the Amazon. The effects of these fires have severely weakened the people’s immune systems.

  • Clean water is no longer readily available in many areas that have been polluted by goldmining with Mercury and other chemicals. This lack of clean water only adds to the difficulty of addressing this complex problem.


For all the reasons listed above, a plan that is narrowly focused on addressing the impacts of just Covid-19 will not solve the bigger issues.

Luckily, there was a blueprint plan created during the 1980’s epidemic among the Yanomami that has been demonstrated to work. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel, just modify it to fit the present situation.

The success of a medical outreach project in the Amazon depends on using tools and people that are already in place.

Addressing the diverse demographics of the region is key to effective treatment.

So, the first step is to acknowledge and connect with the different indigenous groups that live in Amazonia, because they will need special types of medical attention.

There are 4 main categories of lifestyle in the Amazon

  • The Largest Population-NO LONGER LIVING IN THE FOREST

The largest population of indigenous people in Amazonas no longer live a traditional lifestyle. Their native forests have been burnt down and replaced by chemically driven GMO soybean farms and cattle ranches. They are severely immune weakened by synthetic chemicals and will need a much more western approach.

  • Second Largest-Edge of the Forest-LIVING ON THE EDGE OF THE FOREST.

This group are indigenous people who still live off the forest, but have accepted a more western life-style. They have access to electricity and machinery but still retain folkloric traditions and their tribal dialect. Their folk medicine and knowledge of plants still exists in some form and they’ll need a combination of western and folk remedies. This is where our outreach medical aid enters the forest.

  • Third Largest-LIVING IN THE FOREST

They still live a traditional hunter gather life style but have had on going outside contact. They are aware of a world outside the jungle, but still have their own ways to handle invaders of all types and sized. A leaf tea would make much more sense to them than an injection or pill.

  • The Smallest Population-UNCONTACTED TRIBES

The smallest population in Amazonas are now the uncontacted people who remain the true protectors of the forest. They invented “wayumi” which we call social distancing, an historically proven technique. These remote indigenous people are ultimately the key to all of our survival.  Only their medicine people know, not only the medicinal plants humanity needs to survive, but the way to use them and they are almost gone. This group should only have contact with the remote third group mentioned above.

Key Point:

This protocol is based on the concept that members from each of these groups have relatives in more remote groups so runners can introduce the medical outreach effort without outsiders accidently infecting the more remote tribes.


  • If trained healthcare workers don’t already exist in a region, medical schools must be quickly put in place to teach indigenous healthcare workers to administer basic healthcare. A 2 week course would teach the basic necessities.
  • These indigenous healthcare workers can survive in the jungle much longer than outside medics and would need much less support. They also would be speakers of traditional dialects so they would be more trusted by fearful patients. 
  • Healthy food and clean water must be made accessible to the largest population groups closer to the cities where there are already hospitals in place.
  • Forest protectors or tribal members from less remote to more remote villages of relatives should be set up to get the plant artemisia annua to everyone without bringing more outsiders in. Artemisia annua is a key element to getting the Amazon’s pandemic under control.
  • We must look ahead to the burning season that is coming up soon. It is very likely that the flames will climb even higher this year now that the arsonists feel that they are achieving their goal of genocide and stealing the land.
  • The best piece of small equipment to fight the fires is a displacement or trash pump. By placing one hose in any size body of water the pump turns the hose on the other side of the pump into a firehose power spray. Displacement pumps run on gas or diesel and can be carried on the back. This will not stop the massive fires, only the military or international intervention can do that, but it can hopefully keep the course of the fire away from the villages. Containers of these should be immediately sent to tribal leadership and the money for fuel.
  • Indigenous people in the Amazon cannot just take off work when they get sick. Food is a daily chore and without it the people will starve to death before they can be cured. It is important that they get the proper food. Of, course the harvest of the forest is the best for them but manioc flower is a good native staple that most tribes are very familiar with. Although shelf stable food with preservatives is often the most requested by aid groups, processed food with preservatives is particularly bad for the immune system of people used to eating a more wild food, based diet. 
  • The remote and uncontacted tribes use wayumi, the original form of social distancing. In small groups of immediate family, they spread out in the deep forest where there is no one to spread germs and without new hosts the virus dies out in weeks. These remote tribes’ problem is the outside invaders who bring the disease in while raping and killing the native inhabitants. Because of this they are afraid to break up into small groups where they can’t defend themselves.
  • Covid-19 is not the most, deadly disease in Amazonas but it is a semi-airborne one. Members of the first, most westernized and easiest accessible group must be tested for Covid-19 before they are dispatched to further remote groups with outreach medical aid.
  • A backup support heath care program for doctors must be set up so they don’t get sick and can keep attending to tribal members.
  • A program of rotating medical doctors in the style of “Doctors without Borders” with the transportation to get them to more isolated areas.   
  • Forest Protectors – They are key to our success. These are individuals with vast jungle experience who have decided to put their lives on the line to protect the tribes. They are an incredible asset for an outreach medical effort because they can go where others can’t and are valiantly ready to continue in spite of attacks by death squads.

There are now judicial and military leaders in Brazil and other South American countries who are demanding protection for indigenous peoples. Relationships need to be established with these judges and military officers who want to protect the tribes.


  • Artemisia annua – The leaves of the plant artemisia annua are a proven cure for malaria, dengue fever and schistosomiasis. They have an 87% success rate, which is far above its synthetic counterpart, chloroquine/artemisinin in pill form and also effective on many other jungle pathogens and parasites.

Covid-19 research into the plant artemisia at Max Planck institute and in Madagascar is very promising, but it is still anecdotal. This said, Artemisia’s ability to suppress malaria and dengue fever is very high, inexpensive and scientifically proven. In over 2,400 years neither malaria nor dengue have shown resistance to the actual whole, unprocessed plant. It was one of the top 2 plants used in Asia to resist the Sars Covid epidemic. The leaves can easily be brewed into a tea, a form that makes more sense to remote tribal people.

  • As of yet, there is no vaccine for Covid-19, dengue fever or malaria. Artemisia can, at the minimum, deal with the other major epidemics in the Amazon and at least the fever of Covid-19. WHO recognizes that there is research showing that Artemisia annua could be very effective against Covid-19 but are wary that overuse on another pathogen could create a resistance which would hamper its effectiveness in treating malaria globally. In the Amazon this fear is not valid, because almost all of the Covid-19 patients already have malaria and dengue, so artemisia could be used on all three diseases at the same time in a relatively small population. 
  • Masks, antibiotics and hospital equipment is badly needed in the larger populated areas.
  • Ginger and Salt Cure: This should be taken immediately after having contact with a large group to prevent infections. Peel ginger and cover it with sea salt or other natural salt (not iodized). Let it sit in a refrigerator for an hour or two then brush the salt off and chew. The fiber left is spit out while the salt releases the antiviral compounds in the juice of the ginger and it runs down the throat to the tiny spot where most respirtory  pathogens enter the body. The ginger juice kills many viruses quickly before they can replicate and build up an infectious level load. This is simple and cheap technique, but it works.  
  • A bottle of 10% Povidone Iodine Solution, diluted to .5%, which is stable without refrigeration and inexpensive, has been proven to kill the virus in a number of studies. If it is gargled and put up the nose it drastically cuts the virus load to a point that research shows the infection recedes in a week. Go here to read one of the studies.

Jungle Epidemic Background Story

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