Photos: In Brazil’s Amazonas, plants used to counter COVID-19 symptoms

Far from lab coat and face mask territory, a group of indigenous healers with feather and leaf headdresses is working its way up the Amazon river, looking for medicinal plants to treat the new coronavirus among the Satere Mawe, an ethnic group of about 13,000 people who live mainly in the Andira-Marau indigenous reserve in Brazil’s Amazonas state. While Brazil tends to its swelling numbers of Covid-19 cases with an an overburdened medical system, this indigenous tribe has turned to what it knows best in this time of crisis –knowledge passed down the ages.

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST 7 Photos
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Satere-Mawe indigenous leader Valdiney Satere, 43, collects caferana, a native plant of the Amazon rainforest to treat people showing symptoms of the coronavirus in his community Wakiru, a rural area in the Brazil’s Amazonas state, on May 17. Indigenous healers in the tribe have turned to age-old wisdom in fighting the pandemic. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Satere-Mawe indigenous leader Valdiney Satere, 43, collects caferana, a native plant of the Amazon rainforest to treat people showing symptoms of the coronavirus in his community Wakiru, a rural area in the Brazil’s Amazonas state, on May 17. Indigenous healers in the tribe have turned to age-old wisdom in fighting the pandemic. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Satere-Mawe indigenous leader Andre Satere (R) and others on an expedition to collect medicinal plants. In this small motor boat, five men from the Satere Mawe tribe are trying to help their people survive without using the saturated state health system in Amazonas, which despite its remoteness is one of the places hit hardest by the pandemic in Brazil. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Satere-Mawe indigenous leader Andre Satere (R) and others on an expedition to collect medicinal plants. In this small motor boat, five men from the Satere Mawe tribe are trying to help their people survive without using the saturated state health system in Amazonas, which despite its remoteness is one of the places hit hardest by the pandemic in Brazil. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Andre Satere looks out for medicinal herbs such as carapanauba, caferana and saratudo-- all native plants of the Amazon rainforest. “We’ve been treating our symptoms with our own traditional remedies, the way our ancestors taught us,” Andre Satere told AFP. Villagers who suspect they have had the new coronavirus say the traditional remedies work. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Andre Satere looks out for medicinal herbs such as carapanauba, caferana and saratudo-- all native plants of the Amazon rainforest. “We’ve been treating our symptoms with our own traditional remedies, the way our ancestors taught us,” Andre Satere told AFP. Villagers who suspect they have had the new coronavirus say the traditional remedies work. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Andre Satere collects carapanauba, a native plant of the Amazon rainforest used as a medicinal herb to treat people showing symptoms of the coronavirus. “We’ve each used the knowledge handed down to us to gather treatments and test them, using each one against a different symptom of the disease,” Andre said. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Andre Satere collects carapanauba, a native plant of the Amazon rainforest used as a medicinal herb to treat people showing symptoms of the coronavirus. “We’ve each used the knowledge handed down to us to gather treatments and test them, using each one against a different symptom of the disease,” Andre said. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Priscila Tavares Batista, 36 lies in a hammock with her son Jone Tavares, 2, after being treated with medicinal herbs for symptoms of COVID-19, in the Wakiru community. The virus has infected 40 indigenous groups with 537 positive cases and 102 deaths according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association, AFP reported on May 19. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Priscila Tavares Batista, 36 lies in a hammock with her son Jone Tavares, 2, after being treated with medicinal herbs for symptoms of COVID-19, in the Wakiru community. The virus has infected 40 indigenous groups with 537 positive cases and 102 deaths according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association, AFP reported on May 19. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Satere-Mawe indigenous people prepare medicinal herbs to treat people with symptoms of COVID-19 in the Wakiru community. The virus has raised fear among the region’s indigenous peoples, who have a tragic history of being decimated by diseases brought in from the outside world. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Satere-Mawe indigenous people prepare medicinal herbs to treat people with symptoms of COVID-19 in the Wakiru community. The virus has raised fear among the region’s indigenous peoples, who have a tragic history of being decimated by diseases brought in from the outside world. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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Priscila Tavares Batista in a bed covered by a mosquito net with her son after being treated with medicinal herbs. Andre Satere’s group and others have moved closer to state capital Manaus in recent decades, but aren’t relying on the city’s health services. “They’ve been forced to choose who gets care and who doesn’t -- and we don’t,” he said. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

Priscila Tavares Batista in a bed covered by a mosquito net with her son after being treated with medicinal herbs. Andre Satere’s group and others have moved closer to state capital Manaus in recent decades, but aren’t relying on the city’s health services. “They’ve been forced to choose who gets care and who doesn’t -- and we don’t,” he said. (Ricardo Oliveira / AFP)

UPDATED ON MAY 22, 2020 10:34 AM IST
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