A member of Nucleo Menino Deus (AM), Ordilena Ferreira de Miranda has developed a solid career as a professional scientist in the area of botany, and for 16 years has worked in the Biodiversity coordination of the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA), one of the leading research centers of the nation. As part of her doctorate in physiology and plant biochemistry, studying at the Luiz de Queiroz School of Higher Agricultural Education (ESALQ), of Universidade de São Paulo (USP), in Piracicaba, she presented the thesis “Assessment of the morphological, anatomical and phytochemical variation of Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) C.v. Morton and Psychotria viridis Ruiz & Pav in different environments, alkaloid content and cytotoxicity of the Ayahuasca tea”. The study investigated a form of dehydration of the Mariri and the Chacrona, with the intent to facilitate the transportation of the plants, seeking to attend to the irmandade of the UDV who reside in other countries. In the following interview, she tells how the research question was born and how a form of dehydration can benefit the work with the Mariri in our religion.
Blog – How did the idea to develop a form of dehydration of the Mariri and the Chacrona arise?
Ordilena Ferreira de Miranda – In 2015, I was invited to participate in a mensagem of the Mariri in the city of Presidente Figueiredo, AM, in which members of Nucleo Santa Fe (USA) participated. There were youth, adults and the elderly participating in the mensagem, and two persons caught my attention. One was the father of mestre Tai, brother Timothy, who at the time was more than 70 years old, and also a woman of approximately 23 years of age. I observed the joy and disposition of those brothers. Brother Timothy didn’t make it to the Mariri plantation, but he was happy to be in the forest. As for the woman, she carried a bundle of Mariri, smiling. I noted some adult brothers and sisters offering to carry the bundle in her place, but she refused to give it over. In that moment, I perceived how much in Brazil, principally in Amazonia, we merit a goodness without equal. I thought that we should find a way to share this benefit with our brothers outside Brazil.
I shared my thought with M. Júlio Alves (of Nucleo Menino Deus) and Counselor Carlos Memória da Paz (Nucleo m. Vicente Marques). M. Alves told me of the need that our foreign brothers and sisters had. In fact, during that mensagem we marked some Mariri plants that, later, were used in this study. With enthusiasm, I raised the subject with M. Roberto Evangelista, who at the time was the General Assistant Mestre, who was happy with the idea and authorized me to begin the process of writing the project
The project took shape, and during the writing process, I learned that M. Aloísio, of the Center of Planters and Caretakers of Mariri and Chacrona, in Roraima, had already realized an empirical dehydration of Mariri and that M. Júlio Alves had thought to give continuity to this work. So, I invited M. Aloísio, M. Alves and M. Evandro (who had invited me to participate in the mensagem of Mariri) to be partners in the study.
With the base team of the project forming, we began the research in the National Research Institute of Amazonia (INPA). One year after our having begun the study, the project was transformed into my doctoral thesis and was developed in the Luiz de Queiroz School of Higher Agricultural Education, in partnership with the University of Campinas while also maintaining the partnership with the INPA.
Blog – How does the dehydration process work?
Ordilena – Dehydration is the most common and fundamental process of plant preservation. It’s used all over the world, principally for condiment herbs and medicinal plants. However, each species of plant has its requirements during the process, in accordance with the target product and the type of use. Depending on the parameters applied, dehydration can favor the exacerbated loss of the bioactive composition or make it available to attend to its intended use.
Specifically, for the dehydration step of Mariri and Chacrona, we seek to standardize parameters of dehydration with physical and phytochemical quality. These parameters are specific to each species. If realized within the correct parameters, the dehydration can attend to the legislation on transportation of plant materials, minimize the transportation cost by up to 75% through the weight reduction of the product, make possible the access to the Mariri and the Chacrona during the entire year in all regions and avoid microbiological contaminants.
Blog – Isn’t it possible to send the Mariri and the Chacrona to other nations in their natural states?
Ordilena – The transportation of plants between nations and different biomes must respond to multiple established norms and rules established by the environmental and phytosanitation laws that make impossible the shipment in natura of Mariri and Chacrona, as well as of many other plants. On top of this, the environmental characteristics of the majority of other nations where the UDV already has nucleos are not favorable to the cultivation of Chacrona and Mariri. In these cases, dehydration is fundamental to legalize the shipment of our Sacred Plants to prepare the Vegetal in North America, Europe and Oceania.
Blog – How was the study held and where?
Ordilena – The study has been developed over 5 years. We use plants collected in two regions that possess environmental characteristics distinct to the Western Brazilian Amazon. The first harvest area is located in Presidente Figueiredo, AM. The second is in the Center of Planters and Caretakers of Mariri and Chacrona, in the state of Roraima.
For the results obtained up to this date, we’ve realized diverse analyses. Some focused on the relationship of the plants with the environment and how the environment influenced their characteristics and the production of the active compounds of the Mariri and the Chacrona, Other analyses focused on anatomy, describing the structures and the internal modifications that the environment brings upon the plants. We also investigated the location of storage of the active compounds in the branch of the Mariri and in the leaf of the Chacrona; we quantified the production of the active ingredients and evaluated their cytotoxicity, and this permitted us to verify the safety of the consumption of the tea prepared from plants in natura and those that were dehydrated. The cytotoxicity is an important step of this research, wherein we exposed human cells in vitro to samples of the Vegetal with different compositions of their active compounds, and even with elevated quantities of the active compounds the Vegetal prepared with dehydrated plants was proven safe for human use.
Blog – What other possibilities does this research open?
Ordilena – The results show how our Sacred Plants have a direct relationship with the hydraulic characteristics of the environment. This data can be used to assist in the activities of the plantations, giving better conditions to the production of the bioactive composition (the DMT in the Chacrona and the Harmines, the Harmalines and the Tetrahydroharmines of the Mariri) thus making possible plants with a greater phytochemical quality.
As well as this, understanding the characteristics of the environment, as well as the season in which the harvest is done affecting the quantity of active ingredients of the plants, opens the possibility for a harvest calendar with basis on the regions and the seasons of the year. And knowing the location of the active ingredients in the plants permits us to better make use of these active ingredients at the moment of preparing the Hoasca Tea.
However, the greatest differential of this work is its contribution to the expansion of the UDV, benefiting those who are already our brothers and sisters and those who are still to come with the possibility of preparing the Hoasca Tea in their nucleos, in any region around the planet, and living, where they are, the ritual of preparation of the Vegetal and the production of our sacrament.
To read the article “Assessment of environmental condition and drying process of the plants on the concentration of alkaloids and cytotoxicity of traditional Ayahuasca Tea”, click here.
To read the article “Influence of environment on the leaf morpho-anatomy and histochemical of the ayahuasca leaf: Populations cultivated in extra-Amazonian regions”, based on Ordilena’s research, click here.