Did you grow up reading My Weekly Reader in school? The publication began in 1928 and continues to flourish today. John Easterling, has fond memories of My Weekly Reader—and one particular article he read when he was ten years old, about the treasures to be found in Peru. That article planted the seed of his life’s goal. It would be many years until he would begin his Peru adventures, but as I sit here with my cup of Amazon Rainforest Treasure Tea, I am grateful that he did.
John grew up in North Carolina; his family still resides near Charlotte. He graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Environmental Science. At 24, following his dream, he sold his ‘74 Chevy Bel Air and bought a plane ticket to Ecuador.
The gold promised in that article so many years ago proved to be elusive. So he developed a business around the beautiful indigenous textiles and ceramics. John would purchase these from the artisans, fly back to the US, sell them, and purchase another ticket to return to South America. It was a satisfying cycle of business and adventure. Later, this expanded to include gems and minerals from the Amazon. In 1985 he opened Raiders of the Lost Art in Gainesville, Florida (which still flourishes today under another owner). Along the way, John amassed a “world class collection of blowguns.”
An adventure in the early 70s would change his life in a magical way.
“I had Rocky Mountain spotted fever [from a tick bite] and hepatitis. [My body] was extremely compromised; I had a near-death experience in a hospital in North Carolina. [With a slow recovery,] I was about sixty percent of where I really needed to be.” The doctors said they really couldn’t do much more than keep him alive.
By now known as Amazon John, there was no keeping him in the Carolina’s! Though still not fully recovered, he returned to the Amazon. “I was on a riverbank with my dugout canoe – sweating, chilled, and exhausted with a low-grade jungle fever, when the Shipibo Indians found me. They took me into their village.” Off the Shipibo went into the jungle, when they returned, they made him a tea (the very tea I continue sipping as I write). By the next morning his fever had broken and he was feeling better. “I had no idea how this experience would change my life!” John continues. After about ten days of using these Rainforest herbs, John realized he was feeling amazingly good—in fact, he reminisces, “I realized I felt better than I ever had. I was grounded, my energy was flowing, and both my mental acuity and humanness were at a whole new level of invigoration and life force.” Not only that, he noticed he was breathing easier and standing taller.
“Being newly charged, I began to hear the call of those treasure sirens again,” as he brings forth his quiet, full-on smile. “A couple of days further upriver, I stepped out of the dugout canoe into a double canopy forest.” Then and there, he became aware of something he had never noticed before. It was the powerful, clear energy coming from the forest itself. “I felt that magical moment of discovering a treasure that I wasn’t even aware I was looking for. I felt an awakening, and I realized I was standing in the highest concentration of life-energy on our planet.” There are an estimated 200,000 species of plants in the Amazon rainforest, only three percent of which has been thoroughly studied. “Plants are the treasure I have been searching for all these years. They offer amazing healing qualities and they are easily renewable.”
With his newfound health he came to realize that the herbal botanicals of the Amazon could benefit the entire world. He returned home to build a green home in Jupiter, Florida, which is where the distribution center for Amazon Herbs is now located. “This was as far away from Miami [airport, which is the jumping-off point for travel to South America,] as I could get and still have a reasonable drive.” (He drives a green electric car, too.)
Amazon John has set up several organizations to help protect the delicate Rainforest eco-system. Of the estimated original 4 billion acres of Rainforest, only about 2.7 billion remain. Over the last 50 years, more than half of the world’s tropical forests have been destroyed—and they continue to be lost at the rate of over 39 million acres per year. Over 90 different Amazonian tribes are thought to have disappeared since 1900.
The Amazon Herb Company empowers and defends Native Land Rights. Porvenir is a small Indigenous community that was established over 70 years ago when two families settled there. However, until 2003, the residents did not have legal ownership of the 13,000 acres of land sustaining them (this is equivalent in size to Washington DC). With the help of Amazon Herb Company, this community of 200 Shipibo now enjoys the security of owning this land they love.
A reserve has been established near Yarinacocha District in Peru, to protect it from the invasion of logging and other outside development. This beautiful place is home to a lush Camu Camu plantation with over 28,000 trees that are harvested twice a year for its incredible concentration of vitamin C (as well as iron, niacin, riboflavin, and phosphorous). This immune-booster, grown in the Amazon Herb Orchards, is certified organic by the USDA. The harvest is gathered by the local Indigenous peoples. In their prayer rituals before and after the harvest, they honor the gifts from the earth. In this way, they continue to manage their land, their resources, their culture, and most importantly their future.
One more treasure that Amazon John has brought about is the partnering with the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research Foundation (ACEER), represented in Peru by Aura Murrieta. ACEER is a partnership of education in the villages of the Rio Ucayali, Rio Pisqui, and Rio Caco regions. It was begun in 1991 in Iquitos, Peru, as a comprehensive environmental education program that provides educational materials for school children, teaching them to love their backyard.
ACEER not only improves the quality of education of the students, it also reaches out to educate the teachers and the village elders. The goal of Amazon Herbs role in this Foundation is to work with the local people to protect and conserve the resources of the Rainforest for generations to come. Remember the Rainforest produces 30% of the world’s oxygen. John has become a conduit for the people, supporting the Rainforest as an agricultural treasure, rather than a cash cow of oil and precious metals.
John enjoys sharing his love of Peru and the Rainforest with all of his friends. In 2008, when Jean-Michel Cousteau was filming his PBS Documentary, Return to the Amazon, John had the opportunity to share some of the work he is doing and the pride of the Indigenous people in their sustainable communities. He encourages his friends to come along on one of his many trips (to date, well over 200 visits).
About 20 years ago he adopted a puppy from Olivia Newton-John; the two became fast friends as they remained in touch through the dog. Along the way, as Olivia was going through breast cancer, John shared his Amazon Herbs with her—which she found helped her healing process. As she regained strength, she decided she wanted to discover the source of these products and meet the extended family of indigenous people John had talked about for several decades. They went as friends, but somewhere in the Camu Camu reserve, love blossomed; John and Olivia were married in 2008 in Peru (and had a second ceremony back in Florida). I met with the two of them recently; they continue to giggle like two delightful newlyweds, radiating happiness.
It has been well over thirty years since Amazon John Easterling began developing relationships with the Indigenous people of the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon Herb Company has been working directly with Rainforest communities to create new models of prosperity and sustainability. John sums up his discovery of the plant treasures of the Amazon Rainforest so well: “We live in a time of extraordinary opportunities. We can be a part of world healing.” There is harmony and balance in plants. Botanicals hold information and provide a unique harmony that always shines through. Peace within produces a shining glow outwardly.
What an incredible life story that began with ten-year-old John Easterling reading an article in My Weekly Reader…the hidden treasures that direct our lives are amazing.
A product in the Amazon Herb treasure chest that I look forward to exploring is Chocamaca—a chocolate that supports cardiovascular health! From this certified chocoholic – I’m all about that idea! (I’ve heard it is really good too!) You can explore Amazon Herbs products at AmazonHerbs.net.
Roberta Binder is a Writer, Editor and Photographer who works with international authors bringing their words to life – visit her website: RobertaEdits.com. As a Feng Shui Master noted for Space Clearing, Raising Chi, Earth Energy Geomancy, and Sacred Ceremony, she brings Peace and Balance to the lives of clients throughout Western North Carolina. Please explore: SacredEarthWisdom.com (now with a Facebook page SacredEarthWisdom featuring hints and tales).