Projects Abroad | Healthcare

Ecuador: Amazonian Traditional Medicine, Herbalism & Ethnobotany

Tena, Ecuador


Location: Tena, Ecuador

Duration: Minimum 1 month (flexible for min. 2 weeks depending on intern’s qualifications), Maximum 1 year

Start Dates: Project is ongoing, and you can join at any time, depending upon availability

Cost: $450 for the 1st week + $250 for each additional week (2 month minimum is recommended) – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details


  • Traditional medicine placement, including living with a host family that practices traditional healing
  • Flexible placement, tailored according to your interests and abilities.
  • Option to collaborate part-time in a health clinic, hospital, or governmental public health assistance organization working alongside local doctors and support staff to compare traditional versus mainstream public health practices.
  • Opportunity to experience the unique interculturality of the Ecuadorian health sector
  • Increase your herbalism, plant medicine, and other medical speciality skills.
  • Hands-on experience in the fields of Plant Medicine, Herbalism, Ethnobotany, and Public Health, along with the opportunity to learn about agriculture, indigenous rights, women’s empowerment, grant writing, online marketing/media and more.
  • Numerous research & dissertation opportunities available with partner organizations and universities, if requested.
  • Participate in and help develop cultural exchange events including ecotourism, medicinal plant remedy workshop, farm to table Amazonian forest foods meals, and guayusa tea ceremonies.
  • Keywords: traditional medicine internship, herbalism, ethnobotany, clinic, midwifery, hospital placement, flexible serious internship, public health, medicine, emergency medicine, traditional healing, indigenous rights, agroforestry, biodiversity, sustainable development, research, community development, economic development, climate change, women’s empowerment.
Costs Explained


The Amazon rainforest is home to the most biodiverse ecosystem in the world, with over 40,000 plant species and 2.5 million insect species! Also incredible is that 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from the rainforest, yet only 1% of the materials with potential have been tested – the Amazon is an idyllic place to be studying and learning about natural healing methodologies and herbalism due to the vast amount of plants and indigenous knowledge. For this internship, interns will work in the Napo province, centered around the main city of Tena, about 4 hours East of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. This province has a wide range of natural healers, herbalists, and shamans that are working hard to preserve their traditions. The main indigenous group in the region, the Kichwa nation, are known for their use of Plant Medicine and Traditional Healing methodologies. Yet even with such vast knowledge, there is disproportionate access to healthcare – whether traditional or pubic – and a lack of educational resources for prevention.

So, for those interested in a holistic view of the health system, there is an option to spend time supporting staff at a local hospital, rural health clinic, or public health organization, including assisting to promote health education and traditional medicine practices within a local community.

Because you live with local families that also practice traditional medicine, interns forge meaningful connections to the people and plants of the Amazon, gain global health perspectives, and practice their skills alongside experts. In addition to engaging in unique Amazonian activities such as swimming in waterfalls, making chocolate from fresh-picked cacao, and trekking in the virgin rainforest, our immersion program offers the chance to become part of an Ecuadorian family and community, dive deep into language learning (Spanish and Kichwa!), and create your own community-based projects.

This is an opportunity for motivated, enthusiastic, and adventurous interns to immerse themselves in the field of Traditional Medicine, Ethnobotany, and Herbalism, in the most biodiverse place in the world – the Amazon rainforest. It is a unique opportunity to see and be a part of the changes that are occurring as Western and traditional medicine come together. If desired, you could also participate in research and innovative projects to continue to analyze this union and cultural significance.

Daily Life

During your internship, you will first have a 3-day orientation to start learning about the culture, people, geography, and what it means to be an intern abroad. After this, it is guaranteed that no day will be the same, as you will move in with your indigenous host family. Perhaps you will be getting up at 6am every morning to drink guayusa with your host Grandmother and talk about your dreams, while preparing green plantain for breakfast. The host family immersion is a crucial part to your hands-on knowledge sharing. While immersing into their home and community, you’ll begin collaborating and learning in your internship as well.

Amazonian Traditional Medicine and Ethnobotany interns will collaborate at the intersection of contemporary and traditional medicine as it is used, shared, implemented, and recounted in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Interns will learn alongside local healers and specialists to gain an understanding of the role of traditional healing practices, including primary plant species and their uses. This internship provides the opportunity to practice traditional herbalism while learning from the local knowledge of indigenous peoples. There is ample opportunity to do your own research alongside your internship. Some sample activities include:

  • Identifying local primary medicinal plants and understanding their importance in traditional medicine
  • Establishing working relationships with alternative healthcare providers and specialists
  • Shadowing healers and shamans to gain a holistic understanding of local medicine traditions
  • Studying the practices of medicinal plant-based midwifery women’s association, and support their goal to preserve their culture
  • Shadowing and contributing to work in the chakra (traditional-planted agroforestry farm or garden) to plant and harvest
  • Working to create and clear trails in medicinal plant gardens or chakras
  • Guide visitors to learn about medicinal plant practices and support other community and eco tourism projects
  • Do research with the local association of natural healers.

Your main internships can be combined with us supporting you to network with communities, women’s groups, and shamans to create an independent project researching traditional plant medicine and practices.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accom.

The best airport to fly into is Quito (UIO, Mariscal Sucre International Airport) as it is only 4 hours from the project. You will be put in contact with the director of the program upon applying and they can give easy to follow instructions to get to the project Headquarters from Quito or Guayaquil International airport.

You will stay for the first 3 nights in the town of Tena for orientation (accommodation is provided), and then will spend the rest of their time living with a local host family. This is an amazing opportunity to integrate fully with the local community, culture, and learn Spanish. Host families also provide 3 meals per day, bedding, mosquito net, and a place to do your laundry.

Fundraising Help


We recommend that interns commit to 8 weeks on the ground in Ecuador, have an intermediate level of Spanish proficiency (or a strong motivation to learn quickly before and upon arriving!), and bring knowledge in their area of research if looking to do a personal project. Interns are expected to finance their own travel costs.

For those interns looking to do their own research or fieldwork for university – we offer the knowledge and time of our network, technical knowledge and informational databases, access to communities, NGOs, government agencies, and consultants, and pre- and post-research support.

Further requirements include:

  • Minimum 2 weeks commitment (40 hours/week), recommended 8-12 weeks.
  • Industry professionals, graduate/undergraduate students majoring in pre-medicine, global health, public health, community development, or a related field.
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary flights & visas
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$450 USD for the 1st week, $250 USD* for each week thereafter.

* Currency conversions are approximate. Use for up to date currency conversion rates
** All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee
*** Places are confirmed with a 1 week deposit.

What’s Included:
  • Accommodation and 3 meals a day with a local Host Family. This includes a private room, shared bathroom, all bedding, and place to do laundry.
  • A pre-departure orientation (general and specific information about Ecuador, logistics and a Skype meeting)
  • 3-day in-country introduction and orientation that addresses risk management, culture shock symptoms and remedies, cross-cultural adaptation skills, intro to history/culture/politics of the Ecuador and the Amazon, team-building amongst interns and staff, setting a vision and goals for your experience, and more;
  • 1:1 coaching/check-ins every 3 weeks to track goals, check in on health, support with challenges, and providing feedback;
  • 24/7 emergency support;
  • Thorough vetted network of doctors, therapists, Spanish tutors, organizations, etc. in the country;
  • Space for learning and reflection with other foreigners having a similar experience;
  • Re-entry training;
  • Alumni group and future references.

Additionally you will need about $15/day for food for the first three days of training. You will also need to pay for your own transportations and any other activities you want to do.

What’s not included:
  • Food during the first 4 days of orientation
  • Transportation from the airport to location is not included
  • Flights, insurance, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations.

Full assistance will be provided in getting all these arranged if you choose our Premium Support.

Premium Support Upgrade

We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators. We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

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Past Participants Say

Emily Dryden
Emily Dryden
Nomad Rating
Project Impact
Extra Activities
"On April 1, 2018, I set off on my first ever trip outside of the U.S. I knew I would be placed with an internship in Tena, Ecuador, and live with a host family but did not know much else. After three days of orientation with the program, I was assigned to live and work with the family and community just 10 minutes outside the city of Tena. My fami...
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Elizabeth Moyer
Elizabeth Moyer
United States
Nomad Rating
Project Impact
Extra Activities
Google is a saint. I remember sitting down in my living room, stressed out about all the pressure I felt to pursue more schooling after I just finished sixteen years straight of intense schooling and focus. Why did I feel like I needed to go back?! It was my time to continue doing something I love - traveling. But not just to pin another place on m...
Read More