Master Plant Diets and true intentions for healing: Why is the shamanic dieting a path worth exploring?

Let’s talk about Traditional Master Plants Diets. What are they? What do they entail? Could such a procedure be part of your healing strategy? I am delighted to share with you what I have learned as a student of the plants in the Shipibo tradition, and what I understood as I had the honor to witness indigenous healers helping and teaching people. 

A Master Plant Diet (dieta – Spanish), is an intensive process of (re)connection, reconfiguration, remembering, and reclaiming. This is a healing process visitors of the Amazon can experience under the guidance of a healer – a curandero. Coming from the Western world, we have become accustomed to using the word “shaman” when referring to these healers, even though the words “shamanism” and “shaman” come from the indigenous cultures of Siberia. With this mention, you will find these words here and there, when we talk about the healing ways of these peoples of Amazonia, specifically, the Shipibos. 

When plants and people come together

A Traditional Master Plant Dieta represents a merging between human consciousness and a plant spirit. The curandero – shaman, establishes a link between the two consciousnesses, and the labor of love begins. This is a serious undertaking, as the person embarking on this journey, the dieter, needs to disconnect from people, distractions, entertainment, and the outside world, so he/she can reconnect to themselves in a way that is not achievable in the world we regard as civilized. 

True intentions: why journey with plants?

From the civilized to the sacred the road is as long as from the head to the heart. People go to the Amazon for reasons as varied as themselves. In my years of working with plants and people, I noticed three primary types of reasons why people choose to travel to the jungle to sit with Ayahuasca and work with Master Plants. 


If I had a nickel for every time I heard a visitor in the jungle say, “I don’t have anything to heal or work on, I am just curious”… Yes, curiosity is as powerful of incentive as any, it seems, mostly when there is something behind it. A longing, an emptiness, a knowing there should be more to life, some existential confusion that like an itch that can’t be scratched continues to build up tension until we make that leap of faith, without even realizing it, and we book that jungle retreat. 


People struggle with physical, emotional, and/or spiritual sickness. They use conventional medications and ask physicians for help. They find no way out of the pain, and coming to the indigenous healers is their last resort. Depending on where they are on the skepticism spectrum, these seekers discover in the vibrant jungle more than they could have ever imagined. Some see the root of their dis-ease and their unhealthy beliefs or for the first time come near old emotional wounds that kept hurting. The vast majority of the people whose processes in the jungle I witnessed, left completely brightened. I am not saying that the jungle is for everyone, but those who feel the calling and are ready to put in the work, could experience the surprise of a lifetime. 


This one can go hand-in-hand with our second reason. So many of us are stuck in addiction or live empty lives, feeling the weight of unlived years on our shoulders, so many feel lost and unworthy, scared and alienated. And sometimes there is a call to action. Do we choose to depart? The jungle and her plant medicines await. We have no idea what is in store for us, but at this point, the discomfort of the status quo is greater than the fear of the unknown. 

Do you notice what lies behind all three motives? There is a constriction, a tightness that keeps us small. This smallness doesn’t need to be obvious, it could be an energy roaming free in the usually unexplored spaces of our being. At the edge of what looks like a successful life, at sundown, when the laptop and phone can no longer provide companionship and diversion, what awakens is the reality of “I need more”. This is no superficial desire, but a core urgency. We need meaning. We need nourishment for the soul. We don’t know what we need, but its lack has the loudest voice. The noise of Western life tries to dim the music of the soul. “Go to the jungle”, people say, “you’ll hear your music there”. Some went and heard only whispers. Others went and heard the full songs of life. Unforgettable. 

When entertaining the thought of a Master Plant Dieta, having as clear intentions as possible is paramount. As with any other healing process, self-honesty determines the outcome. Interestingly, self-honesty is both a prerequisite and a result when you work with plants. Let’s delve into the mysteries of plant dieting even more, by clarifying some aspects.

Some hows and whys

  • these dietas represent complex and profound holistic treatments with plants and trees that do not alter consciousness. Dieters can also drink Ayahuasca during their diets, however, the dieting process is remarkably strong enough by itself.

It has been my experience that drinking Ayahuasca and dieting plants are two different types of processes. I would like to share with you one example, without any intention to reduce the intricacies of the plant medicine world to this particular case. Let’s say that we have been battling addiction for a while and decide to give plant medicines a chance. By “plant medicines” I am referring to both psychedelic powerhouses, such as Ayahuasca, and also to non-psychedelic plants, the jungle gems healers open diets with: Pinion Blanco, Oje, Ajo Sacha, Bobinsana, Coca, Marosa, and so many more, wonders of nature. When the intention is to heal the addiction, and we drink Ayahuasca, it is possible to see the trauma behind the addiction and to work on the pain that we are desperately trying to alleviate. Ayahuasca can make us understand how the addiction took over our lives and she can connect us to the reality of who we are outside this pain loop. Ayahuasca shows us the truth. And the truth is an essential component of healing however, there are situations when we need more. When we struggle with substance addiction, one extraordinary plant ally is Oje, a tree. I will over-simplify what Oje does here. He (yes, not “it”, as I experienced him as a very gentle masculine energy) dissolves the emotional, mental, and spiritual attachments, and in doing so he releases us from the stories of fear, doubt, and suffering. It is as if this tree cuts cords that keep us locked in the cycle of self-abuse. Moreover, Oje is an amazing body purifier, therefore he deeply cleans the energy of alcohol and drugs from our being. Together, Ayahuasca and Oje represent a wise strategy for overcoming addiction. 

  • Traditional Master Plants Diets require commitment and patience. The willingness to follow the guidelines and to temporarily renounce comfort and the things one likes, is necessary for the process to unfold. The shaman opens the diet, and the plant intelligence connects with the person. Visitors at the beginning of their plant medicine exploration usually choose 10 days or 2-week-long retreats, where they sit with Ayahuasca and also diet. There are also people with serious health conditions who choose to start their plant journey with anywhere between 3 and 6 months of dieting. Plant medicine apprentices spend longer periods dieting in the jungle, up to one year or more, immersed in the dieting process. My Shipibo teacher says that through dieting one can connect to the good mysteries and the light. 
  • Plant dieting in the jungle is a radical healing process that is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually challenging and demanding. There are clear food restrictions that dieters must follow. The diet food is purposely bland, and it mostly consists of grilled fish, rice, lentils, green peas, beans, pasta, quinoa – all boiled, grilled or boiled potatoes, sometimes egg whites, apples, and bananas. Sweet potatoes, avocados, and salads could also be served, as other kinds of fruit or soups too, as restrictions in different retreat centers may vary. The dieter cannot eat salt, sugar, spices, processed foods, red meat, dairy, lemon, oil, or vinegar. That is ubiquitous. 
  • For dieters, sexual abstinence during dieta is a must. For a proper plant medicine treatment, refraining from sexual activity is also important in the days preceding and following the closing of the diet. One perspective is that sexual energy is life energy that leaves the body during sexual intercourse; as we diet, we need to preserve that energy and channel it to replenish and heal. Another perspective, more mystical this time, is that dieting is a contract between the human and the plant consciousness. From the plant ally we receive healing, wisdom, and safety, and we need to give something in return. The sexual and food limitations, as well as the social restrictions that we’ll talk about in a moment, are part of the working relationship that we establish with the plant spirit. We show this immense intelligence respect by disconnecting from what pleasures the senses. Moreover, there is so much we can learn about ourselves when we abstain from food and sexual intimacy. 
  • Social restrictions, the last type of limitations we are discussing today, is more of a suggestion for the short-term dieter. Usually, the more we diet, the stronger we feel the pull of the jungle and inner silence. A short-term dieter is a person dieting for less than three weeks or a month. However, even in this case, a certain reclusiveness is beneficial. As with any other thing in life, how much attention and energy we put into our plant diets determines how much healing and teaching come out. Therefore, contemplation, meditation, and journaling are wonderful ways to spend time while dieting. There is gold in disengaging from distraction and entertainment, and just showing up for ourselves even when things become more uncomfortable. 

What happens during dieting? 

My Shipibo teacher says that the plants we diet connect us to the Divine. In my Ayahuasca nights, I saw plant consciousness as worlds. Each plant as an endless stream of light, love, patience, and wisdom. The many plants that heal and teach are facets of the one divinity, guiding humankind with boundless commitment, helping those of us who come to them to discover who we are. I can say that dieting takes us home to the place we never knew we left. 

Plant diets help us untangle the complicated threads of trauma and alienation, that create waves of emotional upheaval, mental overwhelm, and spiritual congestion, all leading, in the end, to blockages and the physical symptoms of dis-ease. What is not seen always spills into the tangible. Through plant diets we can retrace our steps. Are we in pain? Do we feel lost? Do we feel too much or too little? Dieting can show us where we are and how we got here. And in doing that, instead of being the blind followers of a personal life story that often has more to do with family and transgenerational trauma than it has to do with us, we take a step back and become the ones who see, the observers. Plants help us take our power back and connect us with timeless wisdom. Of course, these healing plants are not the only way to achieve this. But they are indeed a phenomenal way.


Master plant dieting is a process potent enough to completely alter the course of one’s life. Truly responsive and immersive, the dieta is a gift that keeps on giving weeks, months, and even years after its ending. If you are thinking about doing a plant diet, take enough time to reflect. Ask yourself, “Is traditional dieting from me?”, “What are my reasons for wanting to diet?”, “How much am I willing to give to this process?”, “How much am I willing to give to myself?”. Two weeks of plant dieting, with adequate preparation and integration afterward, can open your life beyond belief. Trust your gut instinct, slow down, and search for healers and centers that feel right, ask for recommendations from people who already worked with plant medicines. Your safety always comes first, but more about this at a later time. For now, I leave you with this: If you are curious about plant medicine, you are, in fact, curious about yourself. Peace!

About the author

Manuela Raiz fell in love with the world of plants 11 years ago. In 2015 she received the blessing from the plants and began her apprenticeship in the Shipibo tradition. Manuela answered the calling to learn from and work with these ever-loving plant teachers and allies. She created SoulCenteredMedicines, a space where plant wisdom meets our core need to feel whole.

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