Why do rational women put their health in the hands of witch doctors?

Womb cleanses, healing drums and crystals… why do rational, successful career women put their health in the hands of WITCH DOCTORS?

Womb cleanses, healing drums and a ‘magic’ hot chocolate that helps ‘open the heart’. They sound like hokum and, on the balance of evidence, probably are.

So why are an increasing number of rational career women, including teachers, lawyers and doctors, turning to such bizarre practices in an effort to boost their health and wellbeing?

The rituals are all used in shamanism, an ancient form of healing which has been practised for thousands of years.

And far from only being found in Amazonian rainforests, modern-day shamans reside in airy city centre studios, hotel spas – and are even available via Skype.

So why are an increasing number of rational career women, including teachers, lawyers and doctors, turning to such bizarre practices in an effort to boost their health and wellbeing?

Advocates claim sessions with a shaman can help with anything from IBS to boosting business ventures, dealing with grief and even the side effects of cancer treatment. 

Predictably, actress Gwyneth Paltrow has been vocal about the benefits of shamanism, describing her Los Angeles-based healer, Shaman Durek, as her ‘light in shining armour’.

Durek’s belief is that women feel drained because they are divine givers – be it as a mother, partner, friend, woman in the workplace or indeed just a woman in the world – and they give until nothing is left.

While pilgrimages to South America have led to a soaring interest in shamanism, some rituals practised there have recently hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In August, a coroner urged the Foreign Office to produce guidance on travelling to take part in tribal rituals abroad following the death of Henry Miller, 19, from Bristol.

I dumped friends – it made me feel great! 

Bridget Crotty, who works in banking, attended her first full moon shamanic circle in London last month. ‘I went because there were things in my life I wanted to get rid of, including friendships, but I wanted to do it in a positive and spiritual way,’ says the 39-year-old.

Bridget Crotty, who works in banking, attended her first full moon shamanic circle in London last month

The three-hour session cost £25 and there were 20 women there. ‘The shaman explained how letting go of old emotions was the key to moving on,’ says Bridget, above. ‘I wrote down my feelings about people I no longer wanted in my life. Then the drumming started, I was asked to wrap the piece of paper with all of the things I wanted to let go of around a stick and put it in a fire, before a 15-minute guided mediation session.

‘I felt really good about myself afterwards and it has made me look at how I conduct my personal life. It was a

He died in the Colombian rainforest after reacting to ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic tea which he drank during a shamanic ceremony. Retreats in East Sussex and South Wales offer such rituals.

Shamans first came from the Tungus tribe in Siberia about 2,000 years ago – the word itself means ‘spiritual healer’ or ‘one who sees in the dark’ – and their ‘magic’ has been practised across the world, in various forms, ever since.

Today, as people look for something deeper and more meaningful than a quick fix or taking a pill, shamanism is enjoying a resurgence.

Jo Bowlby, who has been touted as the secret shaman to Britain’s rich and famous, says that despite their success, many of her clients do not feel at peace in their ‘overburdened world’.

‘Today’s world is so fast, it’s easy to lose yourself in the demands of everyday life,’ she explains. ‘We are constantly being overstimulated, looking at smartphones every ten seconds. Finding stillness is becoming increasingly hard.’

Make your own: Sleepy Tea 

This spice-infused tea is a great natural remedy to help you sleep better. Drink before bedtime and the natural sedatives, nutmeg and cinnamon, will help you relax. Makes 4-5 cups.


l 1 litre water

l 2 cinnamon sticks

l 1 tsp cloves

l ¼ tsp grated nutmeg

l 1 inch fresh ginger, sliced

l 5 fresh bay leaves

l Squeeze of honey


1. Put ingredients into a saucepan and bring to boil.

2. Turn heat to low, leave to infuse for an hour, then strain.

3. When ready to drink, squeeze some honey into the warm liquid and stir.

Many of her clients, she says, are at the top of their game after spending years striving to enjoy such success. But she adds: ‘The top can feel very lonely. The pressures can spark anxiety, insecurity and feelings of isolation. They feel lost.’

Yet rather than resort to being given medication by a GP, modern women, and some men too, are turning to shamanism. Bowlby adds that everyone can benefit – ‘how to see the world from different perspectives, to see its magic, to find stillness in the mayhem’. Her clients typically follow a course of six to ten 75-minute sessions that cost £250 for the first one and £200 thereafter. They involve meditation, hands-on healing and visualisation techniques.

Natasha Saltzer, whose East Sussex practice attracts doctors and teachers, claims to help clients suffering with a broad range of medical issues, from depression to the side effects of cancer treatment.

She uses an ‘extraction healing method’ – playing a hand-held circular drum over the client’s body to ‘help remove toxins from chemotherapy and radiotherapy’.


Suffering with dry, parched skin? Buy yourself a houseplant.

Research by Dr Tijana Blanusa, chief scientist at the Royal Horticultural Society, has found that certain shrubs and flowers can counter skin dryness caused by central heating during the winter months.

This is because of the process of transpiration, where plants lose water through their leaves into the air.

‘Plants with high transpiration rates are able to provide good humidity benefits,’ says Dr Blanusa. ‘A plant like peace lily can transpire 100ml of water in a day. That’s the equivalent of a small teacup evaporated in a day. Ivy also performed well, but there are likely to be many other species whose characteristics lend themselves to the job.’

Glastonbury-based Jen McCarty, who works with lawyers and business owners, claims she can help with addictions to food, work, money and alcohol. She believes addictions are triggered by past events, which means healing our ‘inner child’.

For Sarah Holdway, 36, a bespoke jewellery maker from Hull, a shamanic ceremony was the only thing that helped her get over the trauma of several miscarriages. She says: ‘I’d tried counselling but I never quite felt over each of the losses.’

The shaman said Sarah needed a ‘womb cleanse’ and asked her to pick seven crystals for each baby she had lost. ‘There was a massage bed which she asked me to lie down on and then she placed a basket over my womb,’ says Sarah.

‘She guided me through a meditation while she was drumming and singing. I felt able to start talking about each loss and say goodbye properly. I felt empowered.’

CCS Foot Care Cream 

In rave reviews, users say this has banished their dry skin and cracked heels, often after one use. It contains urea, which is found naturally in the body and helps to break down keratin, a tough protein in skin and nails.

£7.99 for 175ml, Boots 

Rebecca Lownie, 52, believes visiting a shaman each month for two years gave her events business the direction it so desperately needed. Her sessions included drinking a raw chocolate drink that is said to ‘open the heart’ and release blocked and negative energy.

However, Dr Sarah Burnett, a London-based GP, says: ‘A shaman may well help people feel better, but with a disease or infection patients shouldn’t avoid conventional treatment.’

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