Maya Medical Plant Trail
While European medicine was still in its infancy, the Maya were performing complex brain surgery, suturing wounds with human hair, encasing fractured limbs in casts, using advanced dental techniques and successfully treating a wide range of physical and mental conditions.
In the rainforests of Belize, they catalogued some 1500 different medicinal plants and herbs and were masters at mixing effective remedies that are still in use today. In fact, Maya medicinal plants are still the preferred remedy in many villages throughout Belize, due to their effectiveness and low cost.
The Chaa Creek Medicinal Plant Trail has been supplying local curanderos, or healers, with raw material for years and is an important link in the centuries old Maya healing tradition and rainforest pharmacopeia. It also provides a unique opportunity to take part in this living tradition of healing based on the concept of mind/body balance.
Due to the destruction of the vast Maya libraries and tens of thousands of codices, or books, during the Spanish conquest of the 15th century, much of the Maya medical practices and pharmacopeia are lost forever. At best we can piece together a bare outline of this incredible body of knowledge from the fragments that remain.
As with most esoteric Maya disciplines, medicine and healing were closely associated with the spirit world and was practiced by priests, or shaman, who combined religion and science to affect their cures. Women were also highly respected curers and midwives.
The Maya belief system centred on concepts of cycles and balance, and this was especially true for health, which was maintained by a balanced diet, mind and relationship with the natural and spiritual worlds. As with some Eastern approaches to health, the Maya believe in a universal life-force known to them as ch’ulel. Ch’ulel is essentially a spiritual force permeating and driving everything that exists, and a principal goal of a healer is to balance ch’ulel in the body and align it with the natural and spiritual world.
As with all things Mayan, research continues to reveal new information and the fascinating world of Maya healing continues to unfold.
The Chaa Creek Maya Medicinal Plant Trail is a great introduction and continually growing resource for people interested in Maya medicine, or indeed any form of natural healing. A new Maya Medicne Centre has recently been opened at the head of the trail to help familiarise visitors and students with traditional Maya curing and plants and to give an apprecialtion of the Maya attitudes torwards health and well being.
With the approach of the Winter Solstice of 2012, much attention from around the world is being focussed on the Maya, and Chaa Creek is comitted to countering sensationalism and misinformation with authentic Maya research and accurate representation of the history, culture and beliefs of this fascinating and egigmatic ancient race.