Adriana Ayales hails from the Costa Rican rainforest where, immersed in the shamanic energy of the jungle, she cultivated a spiritual herbal craft. Her practice led her to New York City, and she brought the soul of the rainforest with her. Last year, she opened her herbal apothecary Anima Mundi Herbals in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she sources fresh, medicinal botanicals directly from native people within Central and South America.
I spoke with Adriana about her experience growing up within the powerful energy of the rainforest, how her herbal practice relates to her spirituality, and why modern medicine falls short.
What was it about your experiences growing up in the Costa Rican rainforest that gave you the understanding that food is medicine? Is that the kind of approach you might associate with shamanism?
Naturally, the rainforest contains a lot of soul and spirit within itself. Most people that are born and immersed in this world, and are even slightly aware of the energetics of the jungle, feel the powerful intuitive movement that it evokes. It is of no surprise to see the shamanic world so alive and integrated into tribal communities. As many say, the jungle is the womb of the earth – here you find an aliveness that is unparalleled to other landscapes. As a young girl I was quite aware of these worlds, and although these realities frightened me at that time, I started to cultivate this energy. Over the years I slowly immersed myself into the healing world.
In your experience, how do people who live in the rainforest relate to plants and food differently than people in New York City?
There is a lot more connection to the basic ways of life. Many people there are a lot more directly connected to food, the land, and the tradition of food preparation. The grandmother recipe, or the family tradition on how to prepare something, is still very present, even in younger generations. For some reason in NYC it is so much easier to eat somewhere than to buy and make food. Perhaps the tiny kitchen spaces make it difficult to get into it as a daily routine, unless you are blessed with a huge kitchen in this big city! In the jungle areas, you get a lot more space, a lot more inspiration, and nature permeating your home space.
Do you see your approach to herbalism as an extension of a spiritual practice?
Ancient medical traditions focused on the mind and heart, as well as the body. What does modern medicine lose by eliminating this psychospiritual approach to healing?
In my opinion, it loses the majority of what this is all about. The physical element of herbal healing is perhaps only half of what it is actually is doing. I believe that the yoga of herbalism has to integrate mind, body, and spirit in order to be a balanced formula. Nature is alive and so much more dynamic and ever-present than we can actually fathom within our third-dimensional experience as humans. It is so vast and ancient that our work is to awaken the memory of our source and abilities as children of Nature. Herbalists approach healing like a gardener, whereas the modern western doctor approaches healing like a mechanic. In preventive/alternative healing, you deal with the whole, not just replacing a part and expecting the engine to run smoothly.
What led you to practice your craft in New York City?
It was a sweet “mistake”! I came here to work for part of the summer at a retreat center and never left. I never thought I would end up in New York. I constantly thought of it as a terrible place to live full time, but then ended up staying in Brooklyn and making medicines from the apartment. I regularly saw clients in my home office and had the place covered in herbs from the rainforest. I would have friends come over and help me package orders and doing custom formulas for clients. Then I started making staple formulas that most of of can benefit from. Shortly after, I rented a kitchen and converted it into an herbal laboratory. Since then it has been a rollercoaster ride of agony and ecstasy on how to build a business that provides a true form of alternative healthcare.