Visiting a Brazilian Amazon Family with a Backyard Pharmacy

Day 3 Off Grid With Kids in the Brazilian Amazon On the morning of our third day, our guide escorted us an hour down river to visit a family who lives off the land and the river.



Nazaré and her children came out to greet us when we arrived.


The two older boys showed us around.



Lemongrass – used in cooking, also aids in digestion and treats high blood pressure.


The family grows cassava (arrowroot, manioc, tapioca). Its tuberous roots are higher in calories than potatoes and are a staple here in Brazil. Cassava should NEVER be eaten raw, it is only safe for consumption after peeling and heating to remove the toxic compounds.


Huge grasshopper


Capuacu  – This fruit is an important source of food in the Amazon and has so many health benefits it is referred to as “a pharmacy in a fruit”.  The large seed pod is filled with a creamy white pulp and beans similar to cocoa beans. The pulp has a chocolate like taste and is popular for breakfast. It is used commercially in jams, juices, supplements, and lotions. Capuacu is said to cure abdominal pains and is used in childbirth – it energizes like caffeine but is caffeine free – it is packed full of anti-oxidants and boosts the immune system – it is great for the skin – it helps treat diabetes – it battles respiratory problems and cancer causing free radicals – it helps hydrate – and it supposedly can treat erectile dysfunction.


Alfonso climbed up to grab us an ice-cream bean pod (inga bean).


It’s a delicious snack in a natural wrapper . The white pulp can be eaten raw and the seeds can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The leaves of the tree cure headaches and the bark is used to treat dysentery.



Urucum (Achiote) – The hairy pods of this tree have seeds (annatto) that are ground and used as a spice, food additive, and food colorant. The indigenous people used/use the red paste in the pods as face and body paint and the leaves of the tree are used medically to control fevers, treat dysentery, and purify the blood.



Remember the warning about not eating raw cassava? Here is the family’s cassava roasting oven.


The cassava is ground down to a coarse flour and made into farofa by mixing it with butter, salt, spices, and sometimes sausage or bacon and eggs. Farofa is always served as a condiment for feijoada (a black bean, beef and pork stew).




The family’s stove/grill


In the kitchen there is no running water; they use river water.



The family brings in extra money by selling crafts to visitors.


We couldn’t resist purchasing this mask with piranha teeth to remind us of our fishing adventure the day before.


My son trying out a mini blowgun – we picked up a few as gifts for relatives.


The river provides fish, transportation, and water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.


Nazaré has 14 children; a few have already grown and left home. She had two other children who died and our guide explained that water born diseases cause many more deaths in this region than malaria. There are no roads, no ambulances, no hospitals close by. There is a doctor who visits the area around once a month, but the locals mostly rely on natural medicines. Nazaré’s children do attend a school two hours away by boat, but the day of our visit was a Brazilian holiday. Because of the long boat commute, school is dependent upon the weather. Also, boys in the area as young as 10 contract their services out to fish or work construction; so I wonder how many actually graduate.



Beautiful happy kids. Nazaré asked me to send pictures to the guide so he can print them out for her.




The boys grabbed their raggedy soccer ball and entertained us with their brotherly competition.


Nazaré smiling at her soccer playing boys. When using money and possessions as standards of wealth, Nazaré is poor and yet she is a vibrant, strong woman providing a life for her children that may not have many creature comforts but is so obviously full of love.

“Today be thankful and think how rich you are. Your family is priceless, your time is gold, and your health is wealth.” ~ Anon

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