A new centre is currently being created at Chaa Creek, for the many holiday-makers and school groups that visit annually to learn about the fascinating power of the plants of the surrounding rainforest and in memory of Don Elijio Panti, one of the great tradional healers of Belize.
Currently visitors can enjoy a guided or self-guided walk through the forest, along the ‘Medicine Trail‘, discovering plants and herbs used in traditional Maya medicine. The trail includes vines that store drinking water, plants that helps abate malaria, aid diabetics, cleanse the blood, plus many more. All of the plants along the trail occur naturally there, none were planted, revealling the diversity of the rainforest. In fact, Tropical forests contain as many as 280 tree species per hectare, however, each species is relatively scarce and in need of conservation.
The centre, due to be finished at the end of April, will provide an insight not only into the healing plants found in the rainforest, but also into the wisdom of the traditional maya healers or Doctor-Priests, some of whom are still practicing in Belize today. The centre will also highlight the amazing story of Dr. Rosita Arvigo who was apprenticed for a decade to Don Elijio Panti. Don Elijio was probably the last Maya shaman or h’men, meaning “he who knows”. Rosita continues his work today in the local area through her own practice and educational work.
Visitors will learn about the use that modern science has made of rainforest plants in the race to find cures for cancer and AIDs. Information will be provided about conserving the rainforest and about the uses that can be made today of the plants or weeds growing by the side of the road or in many back gardens in Belize.
Marigold or in Spanish ‘Flor de muerto’ is a herb which can be found growing wild in patures, old fields or in back yards in Belize. Marigold is a stimulant and perspiration producer. It has been used as a healing herb for hundreds of years, being made into a drink to relieve fever, infant colic, gastric pains, flatulence and headaches. A decoction applied directly to the sink is used to bathe sores, abscesses, cuts, wounds and other skin conditions. Garinagu people make a mixture of orange peel and marigold flowers to get rid of evil spirits.
More information about healing plants can be found in “Rainforest Remedies: One Hundred Healing Herbs of Belize” by Rosita Arvigo and Michael Balick.
Our Belize Adventure Journal:
Kate Wright and Jessica Gill, interns from England have been staying at Chaa Creek and learning about the healing herbs of Belize as they work on this project. The first stage of the project was renovating the hut which will become the new Maya Medicine Information Centre.
“My first impression of Chaa Creek was waking up in the morning to smell the gorgeous, rich aroma of the jungle. I felt instantly relaxed and refreshed after our long plane journey from England. We took a canoe to explore the river and after paddling furiously upstream we dangled our toes in the cool green water and watched the clouds roll by as we dawdled back down river to Chaa Creek. Kate has an artist’s eye for a picture and got lots of intriguing shots of the birds and flowers that line the banks and even a herd of pale cows that greeted us as they came for their afternoon drink. That evening we strolled down to the romantically-lit resturant to sample the food for the first time. By the time we were feasting on our desserts of rich choclate brownies and vanilla icecream we knew we had arrived in paradise.
We have been working hard to redecorate the hut which will become an interprative centre for guests and the many school groups who visit the medicine trail each year. As a teacher I am really excitied to be creating something which will inform children about the value of conserving the Rainforest and the healing plants it contains. This week we have chosen a pastel colours for the display boards and had lots of fun redecorating.” Jess