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medicinal plant


uña de gato. sano sano, caña caña. piñon rojo. tanagarana. toe.

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities
* All training provided *
Understanding and valuing medicinal plant use among rural native and mestizo communities in Amazonian Peru

Team Objectives

The Medicinal Plant Research Team, with headquarters in the city of Puerto Maldonado but undertakes field work in 10 rural communities, is tasked with listing the species of medicinal plants used in each community; estimating the abundance of medicinal plants growing in each community (garden plots and forest), and the rate of extraction; documenting the main methods used to prepare the top twenty plant-based remedies in each community using text, imagery and video (in the languages that each community will fully understand); understanding how men, women, and children use medicinal plants, and whether the plants and/or the methods of harvest and preparation vary significantly within and between communities; developing a photo guide of the medicinal plants used in each community (appropriately annotated in the language used by each community, and also into Spanish and English to assist the understanding of outside visitors, such as ecotourists); providing hard and digital copies of all materials collected and generated (i.e. texts, images, videos, photo guides, maps, etc.) for the benefit of the communities involved and their representative organisations; and providing guidance to those communities interested in showcasing their medicinal plant usage to visiting ecotourists and/or offering medicinal remedies for sale at local markets. By doing so, we aim to add value to medicinal plant use in communities and hopefully stem the tide of gradual loss of indigenous knowledge.

Medicinal Plants - Oje and Alberto (Juan

Don Alberto Ynuma (Shaman at the Boca Pariamanu Native Community), collecting

and driking Oje (Ficus insipeda). Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma

Methods Used and Skills Taught

The medicinal plant sampling methods that our volunteers and interns learn and implement under the leadership and supervision of our community research coordinators, include semi-structured interviews, and direct observation of plant use by community members, quadrat plot counts of medicinal plants in garden areas and community forests. Staying in communities for extended periods of time, sharing time and space with community members, and getting to know their cultures and attributes is an integral part of the team's activities. Data can also be recorded during incidental periods when out with community members undertaking other activities, such as Brazil nut harvesting, collecting palm thatching for, fishing, or simply exploring.  Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use include R, SPSS, Estimates, and QGIS. Each community has 8-50 families (population 50-400 people), 20-40 forest plots (each 0.05 ha), and 500-5000 ha of forest

Medicinal Plants - Interview 217 (Juan C

Collecting plant use data during semi-structured

interviews with community members.

Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma

A Typical Day

Research days are split into morning and afternoon sessions. On each research day, typically both sessions are completed, for a total of around 7 hrs of active field time and data input per day. On most morning sessions, sampling begins at 8:00 am, after breakfast, with visiting the homes of community members or going out with them to their garden plots of community forest, with the aim of understanding their way of life and registering harvest and plant use techniques in situ. Afternoon sessions from 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm, are pretty similar. It is difficult to tell sometimes how much information might be obtained on any particular day, and sometimes it is expected that the team simply accompany and assist community members while they go about their daily tasks, such as harvesting food plants and fruit, collecting building materials, fishing, and so forth. Helping to prepare food alongside the team's cook, who is sometimes a community member themselves. is also a common activity, especially for those who want to learn more about local cuisine. 

Medicinal Plants  - Preparation2 (Juan C

Don Alberto Ynuma preparing a kidney-cleansing infusion-based remedy made from two medicinal plants

Photo: Juan Carlos Huayllapuma

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The medicinal plant research team observing how Don Alberto Ynuma from the Boca Pariamanu Native Community prepares a kidney-stone remedy from two types of medicinal plant (Video: Fauna Forever / Chris Kirkby)

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Volunteer and Intern Participation Fees

1 week     -  US$ 1000

2 weeks   -  US$ 1630

3 weeks   -  US$ 2165

1 month   -  US$ 2895

5 weeks   -  US$ 3185

6 weeks   -  US$ 3515

2 months -  US$ 4200


Full board (veg options available) and lodging (shared rooms), scheduled transfers, field training and supervision, research permits, research activities.

Not included

Flights, non-scheduled transfers, clothes washing, rubber boots, rain poncho, personal medical issues.


Any time of year. We recommend successful applicants arrive in the city of Puerto Maldonado (PEM) on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday if at all possible. The city is served by daily flights from Lima (LIM) and Cusco (CUZ) via the airlines Latam and Avianca. 

Non-profit Fee Breakdown

Banking 5% 

Accommodation 21%

Meals 29%

Equipment  8%

Transport 15% 

Communication 3%

Staff 19%

Profit  0%

Recommended Reading

Field Guides

Book - Medicinal Plants Tambopata.png

Tambopata Field Guide - Medicinal Plants. By: ​Rainforest Expeditions

Published Articles

Williams (2001) Review of antiviral and immunomodulating properties of plants

of the Peruvian rainforest with a particular emphasis on Una de Gato and

Sangre de Grado. Alternative Medicine Review 6(6): 567.

Vandebroek (2004) A comparison of traditional healers' medicinal plant

knowledge in the Bolivian Andes and Amazon. Social Science & Medicine

59: 837–849.

Balunas (2005) Drug discovery from medicinal plants. Life Sciences 78:  431-


Bussmann (2006) Traditional medicinal plant use in Northern Peru: tracking

two thousand years of healing culture. Journal of Ethnobiology and

Ethnomedicine 2.

Bussmann (2007) Blending traditional and Western medicine: medicinal plant

use among patients at Clinica Anticona in El Porvenir, Peru. Ethnobotany

Research and Applications 5.

Perrault-Archambault (2008) Distribution of agrobiodiversity in home gardens

along the Corrientes River, Peruvian Amazon. Economic Botany 62(2): 109–


Sanz-Biset (2009) A first survey on the medicinal plants of the Chazuta valley

(Peruvian Amazon). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 122: 333–362.


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