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A lesser known plant medicine: Rapeh (AKA Hapé, Rapé, Hapeh)

I recently attended a women's spiritual retreat - it was the perfect mixture of connecting with others while allowing for ample inner work and reflection. I had the opportunity to experience Rapeh in ceremony. I have been hearing more about this medicine in the past few months (especially since Michael Pollan's experience with Rapeh on Netflix's "How to change your mind") and was equally intrigued and trepidatious.


Rapeh is a preparation of powdered medicinal herbs with a tobacco base that is taken through the nose. In ceremony, or with the help of a friend, a pipe is inserted into the nostril of the receiver. The giver will blow into the pipe allowing the Rapeh to penetrate into the sinus cavity.

How did this practice begin? It is thought to have originated in the pre-Columbian days and was first observed in Brazilian indigenous tribes. It has been and still is used widely throughout many indigenous tribes. This is certainly another tradition and practice that we are borrowing - and therefore it is important to treat this medicine and ceremony with profound respect. From the indigenous point of view, rapeh is a sacred shamanic medicine and should be treated as such. Traditionally, it has been used for a myriad of purpose's by integrating different plants with the tobacco base, for example: to induce visions, enhance the senses, cultivate healing, etc.

This is the key to all plant medicines: they do their magic in the moment, it is up to us to create longevity from their lessons

My Experience

I gathered with 4 other women and the person who performed our ceremony. For the first half of my ceremony, I was instructed to focus on an intention of something I wanted to release. While focusing on this intention, the powder was blown into my sinus cavity. I felt a deep stinging throughout half of my face - and immediately felt a powerful energetic presence in my core. My body then started to move in waves as I felt energy moving through my spine. Next, a profound emotional release was felt and I began to shake and cry. It was deep catharsis. It felt as though something was being released that had been present for many many years. A stuck, dense, energy.

The second half of my ceremony (and the other nostril), was reserved for setting an intention of something I wanted to invite or bring into my life. I experienced a similar physical sensation, however, instead of tears and release, I felt grounded and joyous. An intense and automatic smile spread over my face that I felt I had no control over. In that moment, I knew what I had invited in was accessible to me and would be present in my life. For the next several hours, I felt content, grounded, and significantly lighter.

Recommendations if you feel called to Rapeh:

  • Partake in this ceremony free of other substances. You want to be clear in order to fully experience the medicine.

  • Make sure the person curating your experience is well versed in the medicine and ceremony. If I hadn't felt totally comfortable and connected with the person administering the medicine, I am positive I wouldn't have allowed such a powerful release in my body. In addition, it is important that the person doesn't give you too much medicine - which could lead to nausea or vomiting.

  • Be respectful of the medicine, and its origins.

  • Have a spit cup ready! You will experience a post nasal drip from the medicine. You will want to spit the medicine out, rather than swallowing it - as if it gets into your digestive track it could cause nausea and vomiting

  • Integration! Journal and process your experience. Get the most our of your experience by finding a way to integrate the lessons into your every day life. This is the key to all plant medicines: they do their magic in the moment, it is up to us to create longevity from their lessons.

Have you done Rapeh? Would love to hear about your experience!

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