Mama Pacha

Mapacho – Medicine Plant


Research suggests that Mapacho – N. Rustica – was the first plant cultivated in America. With a history of around 8000 years of use this plant probably has the the most ancient medicine plant used. It is important to clarify that Mapacho plant, botanically known as Nicotiana Rustica is different from the plant normally used for cigarettes, which is Nicotiana Tobacum.


Nicotiana rustica leaves contain more than eight per cent more nicotine than commercial cigarettes (Nicotiana tabacum). Mapacho also includes a high proportion of harmala alkaloids (harmane and norharmane). Ayahuasca vine, banisteriosis caapi, contains similar alkaloids. They are MAO inhibitors that help increase serotonin in the brain.  

Use of Mapacho

Mapacho is the main plant used in shamanic practices through soplar or to blow smoke. Shamans blow mapacho smoke on patients to diagnose and treat them. Additionally, smoke is blown onto a person or object to protect or strengthen it. Indigenous people believe that tobacco works as an amplifier of our intent.

Amazonian people also use mapacho as an offering. A pinch of its shredded leaves can be placed at the base of a tree as a ritual to invoke the tree’s help. Moreover, some people offer a pouch of mapacho to the shaman or curandero to ask for their help. Natives consider Mapacho as food for the spirits.

Mapacho ceremony consists of drinking tobacco distilled tea. This practice triggers intense purges and bodily sensations such as feeling cold or cold sweating. Natives and shamans follow this practice searching for visions and teachings from Mapacho. 

Health Risks

In western society, tobacco use causes many fatal diseases. Tobacco is a dangerous plant. Tobacco is one of the most dangerous and addictive substances. Smoking industrial-packed cigarettes can cause many illnesses, including numerous fatal forms of cancer. Even reducing unaltered tobacco is not safe. Consuming tobacco in other forms, such as vaping, is also harmful. It also causes lung inflammation, impairs their ability to fight off infections and increases the risk of nicotine overdose. The nicotine used as a form of medicine, such as chewing gum, patches or sprays, can have serious side effects and lead to overdose. Industrial tobacco offers a weakened version of a powerful plant teacher that must be handled with respect and prudence.

Commercial cigarettes contain a different species of plant, Nicotiana tabacum. They are laden with cancer-creating chemical additives that constitute up to 20 per cent of the cigarette’s dry weight. They are smoked without intention and setting. Smoking in this context is undeniably harmful.

The traditional use of Mapacho suggests approaching it with an intention and respect for its power as protector, cleanser and amplifier of intentions.


Amazonian cultures use the same word, kambi, when referring to medicine and poisonImplying that things are not good or bad; the use we give them transforms them into medicine or poison.

Mapacho's Therapeutic Potential

Natives believe that mapacho when used with an intention and in ceremonies, brings clarity, strength and protection. Indigenous people use mapacho to ground the body’s energy and clean our physical and energetic bodies from blockages and traumatic imprints.

Due to its MAOi component, Mapacho has antidepressant properties and can help relieve mental and physical tension.

The effects of Mapacho are unique. It can induce a state of relaxation and calmness while gently stimulating the body and mind.   


Benefits research


Research has shown that tobacco can act as a painkiller. Amazonian people use tobacco powder plasters or wet tobacco leaves to treat pain in the body. Tobacco is used to treat snake and ant bites. Additionally, tobacco has been proven effective in enhancing attention and focus as it increases blood flow in the brain. It releases glutamate, which strengthens connections between neurons. It releases noradrenaline, which focuses attention, and it activates areas in the brain thought to boost cognition. Nicotine activates the central nervous system; therefore, it can produce hallucinatory states when consumed in large doses.