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Jungle Medicine
Jungle Medicine

Jungle Medicine, by Constance Grauds, R.Ph. 2001, 206 pp., softcover. ISBN 1-928595-08-1. $14.95.

A hero and a heroine, a shaman apprenticing a shamana, plants that speak, medicines from the rainforest, dreams that come true. All this and more is packed into 206 pages of a new healing and adventure book called Jungle Medicine. Connie Grauds is a pharmacist from California who was a participant on the first "Pharmacy from the Rainforest" expedition to the Peruvian Amazon with the American Botanical Council and International Expeditions in 1994. This book is an autobiographical account of her evolution from disenchanted retail pharmacist to modern-day shamana. It is quite a metamorphosis.

Although Jungle Medicine is a personal voyage of discovery, it is also a high-spirited adventure told from the heart, the mind, and the intellect with conviction and fascination. She reflects upon her early years as an HMO pharmacist, getting burnt-out, developing cancer, going through a divorce, and seemingly at the end of her sanity. Along comes Don Antonio, a Yagua shaman, who becomes her spiritual teacher in the forest, as well as in her dreams.

What is very pleasing about the book is Connie's elegant style of writing. Reading through Jungle Medicine, one would assume it is her third or fourth book, but it is her first (although she has published numerous articles for journals and periodicals). She writes with a flare for the exotic and her stories fill your senses as though you were transported into the middle of the emerald forest.

Connie reveals her experimentation with the powerful hallucinogenic medicine ayahuasca under the tutelage of the Yagua shaman. This relationship between the teacher and the apprentice is truly the highlight of the book. Her descriptions of the dreams that clouded her senses seemed to "open" her eyes to the wanderlust of the forest and the potential for healing the body and spirit. The plants would talk to her and whisper specific messages. Personally, I think her colorful and distinguished narratives of ayahuasca dreams are good if not better than Wade Davis' One River or F. Bruce Lamb's Wizard of the Upper Amazon.

Connie also has an indelible sense of humor which she magically weaves through the book. It adds a light touch to an otherwise provocative subject (healing the sick!). Connie leads you into the deep forest as if you were her guardian angel sitting upon her right shoulder with a good view of the journey. Step by step, mile by mile, always returning to her beloved rainforest.

For the layperson who has only watched television documentaries about indigenous healers who concoct medicines from jungle plants, Connie has an exciting tale to tell. To the everyday pharmacist or healthcare professional who can remotely relate to the excitement of discovering the rudimentary beginnings of their own profession in the world's greatest pharmacy (the rainforest), Connie evokes the certainty that it can happen to anyone who works on fulfilling their dreams.

The "shamana" experience that Connie attains at the end of her narrative is a deeply personal achievement, a higher calling that most people could not even fathom. How a jungle-taught shamana functions in the modern-day San Francisco Bay area is probably not as important to understand as her reason for doing it. Overall, Jungle Medicine is a great weekend read.

– Daniel T. Wagner, Pharm.D., R.Ph., MBA Nutri-Farmacy Wildwood, Pennsylvania