Shaman's Pharmacy student Emily Howard with wild Emerald Boa. Photo by Zoe Gardner

The Shaman’s Pharmacy (Amazon Field Immersion Course)

The Shaman’s Pharmacy Field Course is currently ON HOLD.

Most of the photos and stories in this section of our website document our 2010 The Shaman’s Pharmacy Amazon Field Immersion Course, which was the first year this course moved outside of the classroom and into the jungle. We welcome you to click on some of the icons running down the right side of this page to learn more about individual student's experiences. The class was led by Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham, we had fifteen students from the Five Colleges area, plus graduate student and co-teacher Zoe Gardner, plus Zoe Helene. We stayed at ExplorNapo Lodge on the Rio Sucusari in Peru, and dove deeply into medicinal plant knowledge, the great Amazon rainforest, the Rio Sucusari and the Rio Napo. Through course work at the lodge, and in the company of native guides of exceptional knowledge and ability, we enjoyed a stunning ten days. The students learned in a way impossible to achieve in a classroom setting in a college building. If you really want to learn about the Amazon, the only legitimate way is to go there. In The Shaman’s Pharmacy, we do exactly that. This is both a course and a transformative life experience. Many thanks to Mark Roessler, Managing Editor of The Valley Advocate, for helping to spread the word in the Pioneer Valley in his story, The Adventures of Black Vulture and Little Bear.

About the Course

Amazon Shamanic Medicine provides a unique, intensive exploration of the plant-based medicines of Amazon rainforest, a body of knowledge derived from shamans who are considered among the most capable of natural healers alive today. Examples of medicinal plants covered include Sangre de grado, Catuba, San Pedro Cactus, and Ayahuasca. The course involves three two-hour class sessions, and eight days of travel and participation in studies and rainforest activities, in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

The major portion of time in Amazonia is held at ExplorNapo, a lodge and learning facility set in primary rainforest along the Rio Napo in Peru. The course is taught and led by Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist with over 30 years of field experience. The ExplorNapo facilities include capable and experienced Amazon guides, boats for venturing deeper up rivers and into the forest, a medicinal plant garden developed by botanist Dr. James Duke, and easy access to the Canopy Walkway operated by Amazon Center for Tropical Studies.

Facilities during time in Amazonia included excellent food, basic but good sleeping facilities, showers and sanitary facilities. ExplorNapo has beautiful grounds, direct access to the Sucusari River, and a large open pavilion for classes. For more information about ExplorNapo, read Chris' Fox News column, Exploring Nature's Medicine in the Amazon.


The Syllabus includes:

An introductory two-hour class is held at UMass prior to the trip and focuses on on issues of Environmental Sustainability, including the most current information on rainforest deforestation, and The Problems Facing Amazonia including logging, fishing, mineral exploration, oil drilling and other extractive industries.

An eight-day study trip in the Peruvian Amazon, traveling up the Rio Napo from Iquitos to the Rio Sucusari. Learning time exceeding 30 hours include:

  • Study of a broad range of medicinal plants in their natural setting,
  • Trips up rivers and into the forest to better understand the Amazon rainforest,
  • Time with guides and medicinal plant experts who will impart some of their knowledge of the forest and its medicines,
  • Visits to the Canopy Walkway, which offers a spectacular vantage point to study the forest,
  • Presentations by Chris Kilham on the role of Shamans in native culture.

The class will finish at U Mass with a two-hour, post-Amazon wrap-up session.

All attending students will be required to write a paper of at least ten pages in length on specified topics to be determined.

Please note: Although the use of psychoactive plants is endemic throughout Amazonia are no such use of plants on the trip or during any part of this course in compliance with basic safety guidelines.

A U-Mass course expedition will take 16 students to the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon
By Alissa Creamer, The Mass Collegian, November 2009

It is Kilham’s belief that many people want to find a solution to the environmental destruction of Amazonia, and that by showing students the effects of healing experiences and taking them into the rainforest to research medicinal plant life.

“Sharing this experience with the students is kind of a way to open them up to a world.” – Chris Kilham, The Mass Collegian, November 2009

“The Shaman’s Pharmacy showed me it is possible to create a global economy where all parties thrive. I now understand how medicinal plant trade can empower native people to live well and coexistence with the land they steward.”Rachel Carlevale, The Shaman’s Pharmacy 2010

Medicine Hunter, students travel to Amazon
With Mike Nikitas, Comcast

Fresh off an expedition to the Amazon, Medicine Hunter Chris Kilham detailed his findings on Mike Nikitas' morning show. With him was student Tim West, who was one of a handful of students who traveled to the Amazon with Chris, an ethnobotany professor at UMass Amherst. Chris and Tim share video, shot by his wife, Zoe Helene, from their trip. It is Kilham’s belief that many people want to find a solution to the environmental destruction of Amazonia, and that by showing students the effects of healing experiences and taking them into the rainforest to research medicinal plant life.

“The Shaman's Pharmacy was an epic adventure, and one of the most profound learning experiences of my life. Meeting the Amazon Jungle is a rare opportunity few enjoy: meeting the Amazon Jungle via Chris Kilham and Peruvian Shamans was life-changing.” - Tim West, Shaman’s Pharmacy 2010

Medicine Hunter Eats Amazonian Grubs
With Chris Kilham, Fox News Heatlh, 2010

The Medicine Hunter, Chris Kilham, finds a few brave students from The Shaman's Pharmacy class to eat grubs in the Amazon with him. Also, for the record: Elly also ate a live grub!

“We took 15 students. It was basically nine days in the Amazon -- three credit course in medical plants -- and the idea was introduce them to the Amazon rain forest, the river, the wildlife and medical plants that are used by the native people there.” - Chris Kilham, The Shaman's Pharmacy

Visit The Shaman’s Pharmacy Gallery to see class photos, and to read what some of the students had to say about the experience.

“The Shaman's Pharmacy is a life-changing, soul-enlivening, awe-inspiring, deep jungle experience of a lifetime, with the forest, the rivers, amazing guides, strange places, shamans, the works. It is a bath in pure green energy, in the most astonishingly alive place on earth.” - Chris Kilham