Rapé is a shamanic alternative medicinal practice that has been used in the Amazon Basin for centuries and makes up an essential part of the history and culture in the area. The practice involves inhaling a combination of different powdered plants and a large portion of nicotiana rustica, twenty times stronger than the nicotine found in traditional cigarettes. Due to its potency rapé may cause hallucinations and other types of visual stimulations. Some of the other plants often employed by rapé include: cinnamon, banana peel, tonka beans, clover, and mint. It may also be mixed with mind altering plants such as coca, jurema, and anadenanthera.
Indigenous people such as the Kaxinawa, Nu-nu, and Katukina have used rapé for medicinal, ritual, and recreational purposes. Ceremonies in which rapé is used include female rights of passage, healing ceremonies, cashiri drinking festivals. However, some tribes apply rapé on a daily basis after meals. The first recorded use of rapé can be found in Inka documents who used it in an attempt to cure sundry diseases and “purge the head” of sickness.
The ritual itself varies from tribe to tribe but generally consists of inhalation through a pipe made of bone or bamboo and is supervised by group members with higher knowledge of the medicinal plants involved. What follows is a mind opening high that allows for intense focus and relaxation. Many shaman claim to use rapé to re-align their energy channels and by doing so create a more intense connection with the world.
As one goes through the ceremony there is the opportunity to direct your attention to a specific part of the mind you’d like to spiritually heal. Whether it’s stress from work, relationships, and financial issues rapé is considered a very good way to keep your mind alert and conscious of oneself.
Rapé can be found around the world but the blend made in Brasil is internationally regarded as one of the best for its potency. This is mirrored by the tobacco industry, one of Brasil’s economic power houses that has been a dominate export since 2010.
It’s often difficult, for people from countries where cigarettes are common, to understand how rapé is used for medicinal or spiritual purposes. Tobacco comes in a variety of forms in other parts of the world, people smoke it, chew it, and pack it but it’s almost always for recreational purposes. For the indigenous people of the Amazon Basin rapé takes on a whole new level of cultural significance.