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Ancient Mayan Use of Lemongrass

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)is also known as “fever grass” to Mayan healers today. Rosita Arvigo writes that she has learned from Mayan healers not to be afraid of fevers. She says they are Mother Nature’s way of fighting off invading organisms. On page 67 of her book, Rainforest Home Remedies, she writes, “Fever fights off infection, invaders, and viruses by raising …

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Mayan Health Use of Basil

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Earaches for children are an age-old problem. Traditional healer Rosita Arvigo learned from Mayan healers to gather fresh leaves of either oregano, thyme, or basil. She warms the herbal leaves over a low flame until the leaves are limp but not burned. When cool, she then squeezes out a few aromatic drops. She then adds a bit …

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The Heart of Mayan Medicine: Plants

Anthropologists wrote this 500-page book on Mayan herbal remedies. Anthropologists Brent and Eloise Berlin with Mayan colleagues cataloged the Mayan medical uses of plants. Their 500-page book on treatments for just gastrointestinal ailments alone was published by Princeton University in 2015. The authors said Mayan knowledge of health and plants could fill 11 more volumes of this size. The Berlins …

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An Exotic Flower Shown as a Mayan Headdress

Flowers from the pseudobombax tree are pictured as part of a Mayan headdress. Photos by K.C. Nixon/Justin and Barbara Kerr. The unique flower of the pseudobombax tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum) was the inspiration for a headdress worn by Mayan nobles as depicted in Mayan art. The unique flower of the pseudobombax tree was written in the Mayan codices as k’uy-nik. Paintings of …

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The Sacred Ceiba Tree as Art

A Mayan artist used the thorn-studded ceiba tree trunk as inspiration for this ceramic pot. Photos by Justin and Barbara Kerr/Charles Zidar The ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) was believed by the Mayan to stand at earth’s center. They thought it was the sacred world tree or the axis of the earth and that it held an energy connection between the Earth, the …

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The Codices: Mayan Written Records

Plates 10 and 11 of the Dresden Maya Codex.  Photo credit: Lacambalam – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 The written record of the Mayan people is called a codex. The Mayans made their version of paper from the inner bark of wild fig trees, amate (Ficus glabrata). Mayan codices were made by coating the bark surface with lime and then folding …

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The Gumbo Limbo Tree and Its Cousin

Like frankincense trees, the gumbo limbo tree has a reddish, peeling bark. Photo by Ryan Sholin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 The gumbo limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) is from the same family as our frankincense varieties: Burceracea. I wonder if it shares any of the same benefits as frankincense. Just like the frankincense tree, the gumbo limbo exudes a …

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The Mayan Gumbo Limbo Tree

The gumbo limbo tree was used and admired by the Mayan people. Photo by Louise Wolff (darina) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 The gumbo limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) grows from southern Florida, through Mexico and Central America, in the Caribbean, and throughout Venezuela and Brazil. Mayans believed the gumbo limbo predicted the coming of rain when the tree blossomed. …

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Basic Laws of Mayan Medicine (Continued)

Greenery in Maya Land. Photo by Bruno Girin (https://flic.kr/p/3vYmW,  CC BY-SA 2.0) Continued from last week’s blogpost… Third Principle: The Mayan people recognized the natural cycles of plants and their powerful properties. They treated all plants with respect. Fourth Principle: Healing is a cooperative approach, with healer, patient, spirits, and plants working together. Especially important was prayer. Mayan healers believed that …

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The Six Laws of Mayan Medicine

The lush jungle of the Mayan rainforest. Photo by Bruno Girin. (CC BY-SA 2.0) We have to ask, did the Mayans have essential oils? It is doubtful, as no distilleries have been discovered. But I believe the Mayans were too savvy not to have figured out enfleurage: how to lock the aromatic power of plants into animal fat or vegetable …