For the Maya, illnesses were a product of instability, a lack of balance between body and soul; in order to heal, the patient must reestablish a natural order, aligning his physical body with the universe and Earth’s energy.
To be able to do this, the patient needed to consult with a priest or a healer, who made a diagnosis and prescribed treatment; usually infusions and baths with herbs, massages, and rituals, to help the sick one to recover his harmony…not that far away from the medical principles that we know today.
Traditional Maya medicine is based on natural elements, not only from plants with medicinal properties but also from animal and mineral elements. The knowledge is passed orally from generation to generation; the grandparents show their children and grandchildren how to grow medicinal plants and how to use the ones from the region, preparing them in infusions and tonics.
There are no books or written works from the Maya; if they did exist they were probably destroyed during the Spanish conquest. However, this tradition is kept alive by the Maya healers who live mainly in the smaller communities, custodians of this ancient use of plants and remedies, passed down through the generations.
There are no written herbalist guides nor traditional Maya medicine guides. However, various government institutions and the Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán (CICY) are working on a collection of recipes, planting recommendations, and compilation of plant care.
For each illness or ailment, the Maya use specific elements. Some of the most common are: orange blossom as a diuretic, and a few drops in water can reduce nervous anxiety. Corn silk tea helps the kidneys. Honey, and in some cases bee stings, are useful for different treatments; as well as aloe vera and breadnut tree (ramón), among others.
Here’s a traditional recipe for cough: onion syrup. Chop one medium-sized white or red onion. Add two tablespoons of honey or brown sugar. The onion will become moist and a syrup will be formed. After 15 minutes the first spoonful can be taken. For chronic bronchitis, add three chopped cloves of garlic to the syrup.
The traditional Maya doctors have an enormous service vocation and desire to help people and communities; an effective alternative that you might like to try. It’s easy to find them in the towns of Yucatán and in Mérida.
One of them is Don Asterio Asterio Cen Dzul, founder of the “Liga de Comunidades Mayas A.C.,” that offers medical treatment with plants for muscular pains, massages and more. More info Facebook Sembrando futuros.
Try this alternative and let us know your experience.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Born in Mérida, Violeta is a communicologist dedicated to writing and creating content on tourism, fashion, and entrepreneurship. She has recently started working as an English-Spanish translator.
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