There is a renewed interest in medicinal plants all over the world. The
World Health Organization (WHO) now has a list including 150 plants that
its experts consider therapeutic. And in Brazil right now there is a boom
of natural medicine. At least 5 million Brazilians use homeopathy as their
first choice for treatment, creating an annual half a billion dollar market.
While in the US there are no more than 3,000 homeopathic doctors, in
Brazil there are 13,000 of them. In 1982 there were a mere 300. No other
country with the exception of India has more homeopaths. And, in the last
20 years, the number of homeopathic pharmacies has skyrocketed from 10
to 1600. Two thousand pharmacists produce 3,000 medicinal formulas using
minerals, animals, and most of all plants. There are also 250 dentists
and 100 veterinarians specialized in homeopathy.
Modern pharmacology does not ignore the therapeutic effects of plants.
Forty percent of the time industrialized medicines use plants as their
active ingredient, although generally in a synthesized more concentrated
formula. The active ingredient in aspirin, for example, was originally
found in the bark of willow trees.
According to the American publication The Nutrition Business Journal,
60% of Yankee physicians have on occasion referred a patient to alternative
treatments, including naturopathy, herbalism, and homeopathy. In the U.S.,
the market for herbal supplements grossed over $700 million in 1995 and
it is expected that this amount will grow to $1.6 by the year 2000.
Botanists believe that from 35,000 to 70,000 plant species are used
throughout the world as medicine, most of them growing in tropical forests.
And in the U.S. there are at least 120 widely used prescription drugs made
from 95 species of plants, 39 of which are originally from the rainforest.
Roughly 1/4 of all pharmaceutical products in the market today use substances
from the rainforest. Among widely used products based on plants we have
aspirin, morphine, and codeine. There is also digitalis, used as a heart
medicine; curare, as a muscle relaxant; and colchicin, prescribed as an
IN THE BEGINNING
Five hundred years ago, 14% of the earth’s surface was covered by rainforest.
Since then, an area of 3.5 million square miles of these forests, roughly
equivalent to the size of the United States, has been destroyed. The rainforest
today occupies only 6% of the earth. As a consequence of this destruction
it is estimated that 1.5 million life form species were lost and 50,000
more continue to be destroyed every year. All this was done and continues
to be done in the name of progress and allegedly for economic reasons,
even though studies have shown, for example, that 2.4 acres of land in
the Amazon can produce $1,000 of annual income when clear cut, but generate
$6,800 a year when left intact.
Despite all the destruction, it is believed that the rainforests still
preserve 30 million different species, roughly half of all life forms on
earth and 2/3 of all plants. This without mentioning the importance of
these forests to the earth’s weather and atmosphere. A third of the world’s
tropical forests are in Brazilian territory and, as for the Amazon forest,
two thirds of it are in Brazil. The country still boasts the Pantanal (the
world’s largest wetland), the Cerrado (the world’s most biologically diverse
Savannah), and the Mata Atlântica, an even richer life laboratory
than the Amazon, despite its much smaller size.
At the time of Brazil’s discovery, the Mata Atlântica, the strip
of luscious forest covering the entire Brazilian coast, occupied an area
equivalent to 12% of today’s national territory. In its widest area the
strip was as large as 300 miles. Today this treasure has been reduced to
10% of its original size. From 1985 to 1990 alone 1.2 billion trees were
cut. Its destruction is a textbook case of how to dilapidate an inestimable
The devastation accompanied the several cycles of the Brazilian economy,
all of them much more interested in immediate profit instead of a long-term
planned investment. First was the brazil wood cycle that would cut this
valuable tree destroying in the process 6,000 sq. km of the forest. In
the XVIII century, the discovery of gold and precious stones gave the jungle
a respite while 2,000 tons of gold were dug up. During the sugar cane and
coffee cycles as well as the cocoa tree plantation cycle in the state of
Bahia, huge areas of jungle would be burned down to make room for these
crops. From 1.5 million sq. km 500 years ago, the Mata Atlântica
today is just a sad shadow of its previous self, with just 95,000 sq. km
Despite all the recent rhetoric in Brazil about preserving the green,
Brazilians were and still are too eager to cut trees. Not before the 80s
did the first green groups start to voice their outrage and the theme became
a national issue. In Brazil, the jungle and backwardness have always been
equated. Caipira and caipora, two words to designate a rustic
man without culture have their roots in Tupi terms that referred to inhabitants
of the forest.
“The Amazon’s chemiodiversity is much bigger than the forest’s visible
part,” says Massuo Kato from Universidade de São Paulo’s (USP) Chemistry
Institute. Kato has worked in the development of a new classification for
the Amazon’s vegetables based on the chemistry of its fruits. This should
help to find what is the best time for picking the fruit as well as indicate
which part of it has more active elements.
There are tens of millions of species in the world, according to scientists
speculations, even though they were able to describe less than 1.5 million
up to now, half of them living in rainforests. Some scientists believe
that that proportion would grow to 90% in favor of the tropical forest
if a complete tally of all species was ever accomplished. Brazil is home
to the greatest number of insects species, as well as of terrestrial vertebrates,
amphibians, primates, freshwater fish, and flowering plants. With a handful
of other countries, it is classified by scientists as a megadiversity land.
GET OFF OUR JUNGLE
Most of all, the military are today in the forefront of a movement to keep
foreigners out of the Brazilian jungle. Some of them are even ready to
go to war, literally, in defense of the rainforest against what they call
the “international cupidity”.
“We can start a guerrilla war over there as the Vietnamese have done,”
said reformed colonel Gélio Augusto Fregapani at the end of last
year in Rio, during a forum called “Amazon – Threat of Territorial Losses,
Occupation, and Development,” which was part of the Third National Encounter
on Strategic Studies, a meeting organized by the Escola Superior de Guerra
( Higher School of War).
It was a rare instance of the right and left putting aside their differences
to join efforts against a common enemy. Former Army minister Leônidas
Pires Gonçalves was there as well as Roraima’s governor Neudo Campos,
and historian Lygia Garner, who teaches at Southeast Texas University.
The assembly’s indignation was palpable when lieutenant-colonel, Marcus
Vinicius Belfort Teixeira, who at 43 is considered one of the youngest
most active military voices today, denounced the U.S. effort to internationalize
the Amazon. And the mood was belligerent when the Air Force officer told
about a sticker circulating on car windows in London that say: “Fight for
the forest. Burn a Brazilian.”
According to Belfort, the Brazilian government is demarcating indigenous
areas on the frontier with other South American countries—something he
considers extremely dangerous to national security—succumbing to international
pressure mainly from the United States and Germany. Americans and Germans,
according to Teixeira and other military personnel, are interested in the
mineral-rich area’s subsoil.
A sacred plant used as food and folk medicine in the Andes for a variety
of purposes including an anesthetic and calcium supplement. Coca (Erythroxylum
coca) means simply tree in the Aymara dialect. It was in 1860 that German
chemist Carl Köler isolated the cocaine and found its virtues as a
local anesthetic. After that, coca and cocaine started to be used for a
variety of ailments and were added to several tonics including Coca-Cola.
A poisonous concoction with several plants whose formula was kept a
secret for centuries. Alexander von Humboldt was the first European to
witness and describe the way the ingredients were put together, in 1800.
But curare would start being used as an anesthetic only in 1943, four years
after its active ingredient, the d-tubocurarine was isolated.
Used as an infusion by the Amazon natives in the treatment of fever.
Derived from the cinchona tree (Cinchona officinalis) it was used
in the 20s in the US for the treatment of malaria. Known as Indian fever
bark the product was used in Europe since the early 1500s. One century
later its name had been changed to Jesuit fever bark. The demand for the
cinchona almost made it extinct. By smuggling it from South America to
Java, in 1865, Englishman Charles Ledger saved the plant. Sixty years later,
more than 95% of the world’s quinine was coming from Java.
Ayahuasca or caapi or santo daime or jagupe (Banisteria caapi)—Stimulant
of the senses, with claims to cure cancer. Patented by International Plant
Bibiri or beberu (Ocotea radioei)— Used as contraceptive
and as a HIV and small tumors inhibitor.
Cabacinha (Luffa operculata)—Mixed with cachaça
(sugar-cane hard liquor) it is used against sinusitis and as a nasal
decongestant. As an unguent it is applied on tumors.
Erva botão (Eclipta prostata)—An antidote to snake
Erva de jabuti or aperta-ruão (Leandra lacunosa)—Good
Guaraná (Paulinia cupania)— Source of caffeine,
it fights fatigue. Used in soft drinks.
Hortelã roxo—Used as solution for ear pain.
Jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi)—Taken as a tea
as a diuretic or to induce sweat. Also used in treatment of diabetes, asthma,
arthritis, and baldness.
Japana (Eupatoriu ayapana)—Leaves are rubbed on insects
Muirapuama (Ptychopetalum olacoides)- It is reputed
to be an aphrodisiac. Also used for arthritis and as a stimulant.
Oriza—Tea is taken for heart ailments
Pau d’Arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa) A medicine for candida,
athletes foot and also used as a natural anti-biotic. It has also been
used against cancer.
Picão (Bidens Pilosa)—For the treatment of malaria
Puxuri or puxiri or pixurim (Licaria Puchurymajor)—A preventive
medicine against baby colic.
Quebra-pedra (Parietaria officinalis)—For kidney stones
and urinary tract relief. Patented by Fox Medical Center for the treatment
of hepatitis B.
Saracura-mirá—A cure-all elixir. Used to treat all kinds
of pain and also malaria
Sucuuba (Himathantus Sucuba)—Mosquito repellent. It can
be used in candles.
Suma or piriguara or paraguaia (Achietea salutaris)— Called
South American Ginseng. Used as tonic and to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
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By Brazzil Magazine
The purpose of this note is twofold. First, I would like to congratulate
you for your May article about the economic force that businesses in Brazil
have found in the gay community in Rio. It is nice to see that the trend
present in the U.S. is also taking place in Brazil. Now, in your June issue,
Adelaide B. Davis’s “Os Alegres Rapazes da Banda” (The Boys in the Band)
brought us another look at this very complex subject of homosexuality.
This time it was in the form of an extraordinary piece of fiction.
What was so fascinating about her story was the simple and non-sensationalistic
approach to the narrative. Furthermore, the human side of the story was
outstanding. While reading her short story, I found myself identifying
with the main character in many situations. The accuracy of this fictional
piece was impressive and many times similar to the reality I lived when
I was still in Brazil. Short stories like this, other literary articles
(such as the one about Clarice Lispector), and your music columns make
Brazzil a great source of information.
I am sorry, however, that I cannot say the same about your Rapidinhas.
The contents in that section are despicable. I am Brazilian and realize
that what you present in that column does appear in the Brazilian media,
but it is not in a publication of the caliber that Brazzil can be.
With the public you reach, you are doing Brazil a disfavor and perpetuating
a bad stereotype. The tone of the articles and the photos associated with
them are generally far from what the respectable press publishes in Brazil.
If you want to continue with your Rapidinhas the way they have been, you
might as well get the financial benefit of also advertising those 900 numbers
found in sex magazines. You will, however, continue to lose a lot of your
For your knowledge, Brazil is not the only country on earth where we see
scandals. The USA is full of them, with the President being a part of a
big one. The language used in this publication shows only prejudice an
lack of information. Too bad. I thought at first that this was a serious
journalistic publication. What a shame…
Brasília, DF, Brazil
Find attached a very good and positive article about Caetano Veloso published
by the Los Angeles Times. Now you don’t have any excuses for presenting
indecent and pornographic materials.
Huntington Beach, California
For Beauty’s Sake
Thanks for your fine publication! I read every word in each issue. Please
don’t let the small-minded suppressors of free speech (like the Consul
who won’t distribute your magazine because she doesn’t like the content)
inhibit you from publishing interesting and provocative articles and photographs.
The human body is not a shameful thing. It is a gift of God to be appreciated,
admired and respected. An occasional sensual photograph in your publication
adds a touch of beauty and fantasy to an otherwise serious publication.
(A male nude would be nice too now and then!)
I wish to add a bit to May’s article on homosexuality in Brazil. It
was my friend and co-minister, Onaldo Alves Pereira, who performed the
wedding of Luís Mott to his partner. Rev. Pereira is not Catholic,
but was a minister in the Church of the Brethren (an historic peace church
with about 150,000 members in the U.S.). Soon after performing the wedding,
Rev. Pereira lost his credentials in the Church of the Brethren, but he
continues to pastor the Comunidade Pacifista Cristã in Brazil.
The Comunidade is a church which does not discriminate based on sexual
orientation and which celebrates the commitment and love two adults of
any gender share with each other. Rev. Pereira and I cofounded the Comunidade
in 1987 and it has, in spite of church burnings and threats of violence,
continued to offer a voice of hope, peace and love to oppressed people
throughout Brazil. Rev. Pereira is a gentle but prophetic voice who should
be honored for his participation in the struggle to ensure equality for
West Hollywood, CA
Pleasing a Friend
I have enjoyed Brazzil magazine for some time now. I have also attended
a few of the nightclubs and cultural affairs that were advertised or listed
in the magazine. I’ve shown several issues to a friend. He likes Brazzil
so much, he gets excited when we talk about articles he has enjoyed,
and things Brazil. He reads Brazzil from cover to cover. My wife
and I would like for him to have a gift subscription. Enclosed is a money
order for a two-year subscription.
P.S.: It would be great to read articles about samba schools, in particular,
and in general. Perhaps, if enough info on the makeup of a samba school
was related in articles in Brazzil, it might spark those who know
little about samba schools, like myself, to join a local group or start
one in their community. Information is not only power, but most encouraging.
Thank you and keep looking up.
Please renew my subscription for the next couple of years. My copy has
started to arrive almost midway through the month now. Can you mail it
a little earlier please. Not being Brazilian nor having been to Brazil,
one of the things I appreciate about Brazzil is the variety of opinions,
viewpoints, and the dialogue that seems to get generated around the various
topics you cover and how you cover them. It must be a monumental task to
try to decide what to present each month on a country as large and diverse
as Brazil is.
Just the Best
I just saw Brazzil for the first time and I think it is very good!
I am an ex-journalist (music critic), and current jazz musician and samba
percussionist married to a Carioca sambista. I’ve read all of the
Brazilian magazines, newspapers, etc., published on the East Coast, and
yours is superior to all of them. Congratulations!
New York, New York
Can You Help?
I read Bruce Gilman’s article on Carlinhos Brown (Brazzil, September
1996) and I simply loved it. Great writing. I am music critic for the Spanish
newspaper El Nuevo Herald in Miami. I have been trying to locate
Mr. Brown for an interview and I was wondering if you have any way to reach
him. Thank you for any help.
We adore Brazzil. For the quality of its articles, level of information
and perfect writing. The Brazilian community feels honored to have Brazzil.
Many thanks for giving us this pleasure.
Rosalia and Scott Ennis
North Bay Village, Florida
And what do
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