In the Ecuadorian Amazon the bark of Cespedesia spathulata (Ochnaceae); Kichwa: Amarun Caspi is widely used as a remedy for stomach problems as well as for aches and pains.   Runa believe that their ancestors lived longer and had more endurance than people have now because they drank daily doses of tinctures made from Cespedezia spathula and other bitter trees.  This practice was called “ayajda upina” or drinking bitters because of the bitter alkaloids contained in the bark.  “Drinking bitters” was believed to impart the long life and the strength of the hardwoods to the drinker.  The tree is also said to be a person who heals in a cross gender fashion.   Female patients drink medicine taken from the male tree, recognized by the reddish color of its new leaves (below center).  By contrast, male patients drink medicine taken from the female tree, recognized by the pale green color of its new leaves (below left).  The night after the patient drinks the bitter tea the tree may appear in a dream as a human medicine woman or man to sweep away the sickness of the patient.  In the video Ritual Harvesting of Cespedesia spathulata two Kichwa women harvest Amarun Caspi bark.  The women first “wake up” the sleeping tree by tapping around its base.  They then speak to the tree asking its permission.  Later they harvest bark from  the east and west sides of the tree.  Later the bark is steeped in hot water.   When the water boils down to a thick, brown liquid the preparation is ready.  For a more effective remedy the bark of the Amarun Caspi can be mixed with the bark of challua caspi.

“Amarun Caspi makes you dream”    Kichwa narrative by Eulodia Dawa   (Cuento 16 )

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