the way of the 12 plants
The Way of the 12 Plants is a healing center in the Amazon Jungle dedicated to healing, rejuvenation and awakening through a series of plant diets.
A plant diet is a holistic healing modality in which one drinks a daily tincture of a specific plant, or tree, for a continuous 7 day period. In addition to taking this daily tincture, throughout this period the individual will also be put on rigid dietary restrictions: no salt, no sugar, no oil, no dairy, no spices, and no meat of any kind. The dieter will only be given a fruit drink in the morning and a small bowl of steamed vegetables (or fruit plate) in the evening.
Through the combination of the dietary restrictions coupled with the daily ingestion of the plant tincture, the innate medicinal properties and healing potential of the plant are able to work their way into the body, mind, and spirit of the dieter.
This is the idea of ‘dieting’ a plant: when we ‘diet’ a plant, we allow our body, mind and spirit to open fully to the natural medicine within the plant.
Throughout the 7 day period of the plant diet, the individual will stay in a private tambo (a small jungle cabin) on our property. This is a time for reflection, meditation, or light reading. It is also a time for rest and relaxation. The medicine of the plants is very powerful and they may produce very strong physical and emotional reactions as they perform their healing and cleansing work within the body.
For more information regarding plant diets please see our in depth FAQ section below.
What is a plant diet?
A plant diet is a healing protocol in which the individual drinks a daily tincture of a specific plant, or tree, for an extended period of time. In addition to their daily plant tincture, during this period the person will be put on a very strict diet: no salt, no sugar, no oil, no dairy, no spices, no physical contact with others, and no meat of any kind.
The dieter will be given a fruit smoothie in the morning and a bowl of steamed vegetables in the evening.
Through the combination of the restrictive diet and the daily ingestion of the plant tincture, as well as the individual remaining in relative isolation throughout the 7 day period, the medicinal properties and healing potential of the plant are able to work their way into the body, mind, and spirit of the dieter.
Why are the dietary restrictions, particularly the absence of salt, so important for a successful plant diet?
Plants require certain conditions in order to function optimally. The various dietary restrictions, such as the absence of meat and sugar, are necessary for the plant to perform its healing and form part of the core shamanic techniques involved in the process of dieting. The absence of all salt from the diet, in particular, is crucial for the diet to be effective as its extended absence allows the body to become open and receptive to the energy of the plants.
What specific plants are used in the diet?
The signature plant of the entire process is Tobacco. In the Upper Peruvian Amazon, Tobacco is considered to be a Master Plant, one of the most revered plants in the entire jungle for its healing and life enhancing properties. Tobacco serves as the base for all diets. Each individual diet is a combination of tobacco with another plant or tree. Some of the plants used in this path in concert with Tobacco include Mururé, Piñon Colorado, or Huacapurana. We also on occasion use trees from North America as well, depending on the unique circumstances of each individual.
You mentioned tobacco, but isn't tobacco bad for you?
Unfortunately, in America and other industrialized countries throughout the world, tobacco is in fact implicated in a series of serious physiological problems. However, the wild tobacco of the Amazon, nicotina rustica, is a very revered healing plant and regarded as sacred by tribes throughout the jungle, much like the American Indians along the Virginia coast considered it to be when they first encountered English explorers in the 17th century. The tobacco used here has virtually nothing in common with the Americanized processed tobacco of commercial cigarettes.
What kind of person would benefit from visiting our center?
This is a difficult question to answer in a precise way because each and every person brings a unique biography and life experience. What we can do is briefly outline some general categories of individuals that may benefit from working with us.
1. Those who have been suffering in any number of ways — either psychologically, emotionally, or physically — and want the suffering to finally end.
2. Those who are looking to further develop their spirituality, their connection to the natural world and to the biosphere, and to themselves as human beings.
3. Those who are interested in living a unique evolutionary experience in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
4. Artists, writers, etc. - creative people of all kinds that are interested in finding their voice and honing their vision of the world.
5. Those who are looking to wean their way off psychotropic medications and have not been able to do so within the predominant neoliberal model of health care.
6. For certain people, our center could potentially serve as an alternative to a traditional rehabilitation center for drug or alcohol dependency (although this option would require several steps prior to acceptance).
Is there Ayahuasca involved?
Although we have great respect for Ayahuasca and have worked with it many times, we do not use Ayahuasca at this clinic. If you are interested in working with Ayahuasca, we can recommend another center in the Iquitos area that specializes in Ayahuasca ceremonies.
How does the process work?
Every day, you will be visited in your room around midday when you will be given your specific plant tincture. At that time you can speak freely about your experience, your dreams, or any questions, concerns or insights that you may be experiencing during the diet. After you have been given your tincture, you will be encouraged to rest in your room, or to engage in some reading or meditation. In addition to your daily plant tincture, you will be brought a morning fruit drink and a dinner of steamed vegetables or a bowl of fruit each evening.
How many diets should I do?
Ideally, you should work through one diet, and then decide if you would like to continue with more. In certain cases, consecutive diets are definitely appropriate: for example, if you are looking to detoxify from something specific, like a drug addiction, then up to three or four consecutive diets will likely be most beneficial. Whether you are seeking to resolve a specific health issue, or evolve psychologically and/or spiritually, do take advantage of the free consultation that we offer via Skype or email.
Is there vomiting or any discomfort involved in the dieting process?
There is no way to answer this question categorically, as each individual brings a unique biography, emotional sensitivity, and psychological make-up to the dieting process. Generally, however, the answer is ‘yes!’ There may be some slight physical discomfort and a few emotional ups and downs during the process.
One of the primary functions of any plant diet is to rid the physical body of toxins which inevitably involves a degree of ‘purging’. This will usually entail some vomiting, diarrhea, crying – and also yawning! Most dieters experience some relatively brief periods of such purging.
Dieting can be challenging at times, but it is essential to permanently expel the physical toxins from the body to achieve the higher purpose of resolving energetic blocks within the body (and its associated ‘biofield’) once and for all. Dieting is hard, but highly fulfilling work.
Are plant diets safe?
Yes, when they are administered properly by an experienced and trained practitioner — they are absolutely safe and simple.
They can, however, be dangerous if mixed with alcohol or illegal/some prescription drugs.
When inquiring about a diet, you will be asked to make a medical disclosure to ensure that a plant diet is both appropriate and 100% safe for you. It is important that you are honest and forthcoming regarding your medical history and any history of mental illness or substance abuse.
Furthermore, on arrival at the center you will be give an energetic diagnosis to ensure that there are no contra-indicated substances in your system so that your complete safety during the diet is definitively guaranteed.
How do you perform the "energetic diagnosis"?
The principal way we address the energetic field of the dieter is through the technique of medical astrology. By looking at the natal chart of the individual we are able to access considerable, reliable information that is helpful in making a suggestion of what tree or plant is to be recommended for the diet. On certain occasions, we will bring an individual to the hospital clinic in downtown Iquitos to be assessed by a doctor.
Who is a good candidate for a plant diet?
A good candidate for a plant diet is, first and foremost, anyone who wants to heal, anyone who wants to become a happier, healthier, more engaged and vital human being. Plant diets are particularly powerful for people who have struggled with addictions, physical problems, and mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. And crucially, the right plant diet(s) can facilitate a real turning point in your spiritual evolution.
I don’t believe in spirituality or “plant medicine” — am I still welcome to partake?
Of course. There is no requirement other than the desire to become a healthier human being. The Way of the 12 Plants has absolutely no affiliation to any religious group or movement: we are a non-denominational, independent healing center.
Conversely, we welcome individuals of all faiths and creeds, and all people of good will from around the world who would like to participate.
Can one plant diet heal me entirely?
There is no hard and fast answer: each and every person brings a unique set of circumstances and personal history to the diet.
The responsible answer is to affirm that healing is a multifaceted process that extends far beyond a single diet, healing is a way of life and a way of being in the world. However, it is entirely possible that one diet can in fact have a profound healing effect.
Each plant has a unique medicinal quality and healing vibration. The objective is that after sufficient dieting - and proper integration of the individual back into their personal life, their familial structure, their work in the world, etc. — then yes, a profound and deep healing will have occurred.
Is there a pre-diet requirement in the weeks leading up to the plant diet?
There should be no alcohol or drugs taken within at least 10 days prior to the start of the diet. In terms of food, there are no specific dietary requirements before the start of the plant diet. However, it would be wise not to eat fast food every night the week before the diet. The general idea is to eat healthily and responsibly always — regardless of partaking in a plant diet or not.
Am I allowed to use my phone during the diet?
Ideally you should remain focused entirely on the healing process throughout the diet and remain detached from modern day digital technologies. However, we are aware that many people need to remain in contact with the outside world for business or family reasons. Use the phone sparingly, when it is necessary for you to communicate - there is both wifi and cellular reception at the center. Otherwise switch it off, or flight mode is fine for off-line use.
What is the cost of a diet?
The price for a one week diet is 649 USD. This includes lodging, food, the plant diet, as well as 24 hour support throughout the process
We also offer a special 5 week program. Please see our "Pricing/Programs" section below for more information.
Brian Francis Culkin is a writer, theorist, film director, and the founder of The Way of the 12 Plants. He has studied extensively with Ernesto Garcia Torres, a Master shaman and tabaquero in the Amazon Jungle, completing his entire apprentice program of plant education and practice.
His books include The Meaning of Trump, Postscript on Boxing, There is No Such Thing as Boston, Conversations on Gentrification, On Heroin, Spontaneous Reflections, Hypermodernity and the End of the World, The Brian Francis Culkin Reader, The Ayahuasca Dialogues, Notes on a Method, and the forthcoming novel, Into the Jungle.
He has also written and directed three films, including the feature length documentary The Mission, and the short film, Now, Passage.
He has lived in the Amazon jungle for over 3 years studying plant medicine and the plant-based shamanism of the Upper Peruvian Amazon in both the Mestizo and Shipibo traditions.
He currently lives in Iquitos, Peru where he writes and is the founder of The Way of 12 Plants — a center for healing, research, and theory that uses Amazonian plant medicine.
For more information and a full bio, please visit his personal website here.
We are located on nearly 25 acres of lush jungle land in the small village of Padre Cocha, approximately 8 kilometers downriver from Iquitos, which is the major jungle city of the Peruvian Amazon.
We are currently in the process of caring for and sustainably developing the land in accordance with the principals of permaculture.
Brian Francis Culkin is one of the finest thinkers of his generation, bringing a depth and richness of experience from sports, business, psychology, human potential, and philosophy in the most unique way to his work.
My regard, respect, and praise for his work is of the highest level. Whenever I work along side with or converse with Brian I leave feeling lifted up, transformed, and enthusiastic to step forward into a brighter future!
Any person will be moved by his approach.
— Dr. Ronald Alexander, author of Wise Mind, Open Mind and founder of The Open Mind Training Institute