During my trip Costa Rica, where I taught my Oriental Diagnosis course, “Reading the Body”, I had the chance to enjoy the abundance of nature in this beautiful country. I learned so much. I was invited to be part of a special lecture series for the 40th Anniversary celebration of the National University of Costa Rica‘s (Heredia). More than 100 people, including medical doctors, therapists, and laypeople, attended my 3-day workshop.
First, while in Heridia, I lodged at the Bougainvillea Hotel. This is a wonderful hotel for many reasons. They have more than 10 acres of beautiful gardens that attract many birds: Hummingbirds, Blue crowned Motmots, Palm Tanagers, Tropical Kingbirds, Boat-Billed Flycatchers — among many others.
The hotel also exhibits tremendous environmental and social responsibility, and received the Certificate of Sustainable Development granted by the Costa Rican Institute of Tourism. The owners built a school on the hotel grounds; contributes to the elderly and a local shelter; and provides scholarships to local children.
Costa Rica does not have a military, so money is available for education and human well-fare, including medical care. Because of the quality of education, many foreign students from other Spanish-speaking countries study in Costa Rica.
One of the professors at my workshop invited me to visit a coffee plantation where I learned how they grow, harvest, roast and package their coffee. Tarrazú canton in the highlands is thought to produce the most desirable Arabica coffee beans in Costa Rica and in the world. I was happy to buy many bags to bring back to family and friends.
On another day, I visited the Irazu volcano, which is 3300 meters high. On the way we passed Cartago which is famous because millions of pilgrims trek each year to the majestic Basílica Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles, to pay respect to Costa Rica’s patron saint, “La Negrita.” Some walk for as many as eight straight days.
Perhaps my favorite part of the trip was visiting the Braulio Carrillo National Park. Ranging from high-altitude cloud forest to tropical lowlands rainforest, it maintains one of the highest levels of biodiversity in Costa Rica. I spent a night in the rainforest jungle, at the LaSelva Biological Station, which is recognized internationally as one of the most productive field stations in the world for tropical forest research.
While there, I saw for myself how nature is so complicated and interwoven. The guides showed me a “second forest.” They explained that when part of the forest is destroyed, even though they try to restore it with a “second forest,” even after 100 years of growth, it is not the same as the original. Not all species will return to a second forest. We must take this lesson: we believe if we return nature, we believe it will be the same. I learned from my experience in Costa Rica that this is a fallacy. We must protect what is there, for once gone, it will never be the same.
While I was there I was able to enjoy the many monkeys and different birds; so many different types of orchids; and spiders. One is very weird looking and fascinating, too. Scientists are studying the Golden Orb Spider because its silk is one of the strongest materials, natural or man-made in the world. Their silk is about 5x stronger than steel and 3x stronger than Kevlar. Some of the possible uses for this include earthquake-resistant bridges, medical sutures, and bullet-proof vests.
We can learn so much from nature, for so many applications, but particularly for natural medicine. So rather than renew them, we have to protect our rainforests.
This trip to Costa Rica has given me a life-long memory. I am grateful to my sponsors, Angeles Arenas of the U.N. and Ana Rodriguez Allen of the National University, who made this trip possible.