People visit the little Caribbean nation of Belize for many reasons; from the excellent scuba diving to exploring Maya temples. But a new breed of traveler is looking to find better health and therapeutic remedies in the many medicinal plants of Belize, according to a naturalist guide at Chaa Creek.
Miguel Choco, one of Chaa Creek’s senior licensed naturalist guides, said that the while eco resort’s Rainforest Medicine Trail attracts more visitors each year, there had been a definite surge in guests seeking natural remedies recently.
“We’ve been surprised by the number of people who are specifically asking about the medicinal plant trail,” Mr Choco said, “Usually, when people come here and learn about it they become curious and want to check it out. But this year we’re getting more people asking about the medicinal plant trail as soon as they arrive. It’s keeping our guides busy,” he added.
Mr Choco said that Belizeans have been using natural remedies sourced from the forest pharmacopeia for thousands of years, and that the practice continues today.
“You see it more in the villages, but even in the towns and Belize City there are people and shops selling herbal medicine, and things like jackass bitters have always been popular,” he said.
Mr Choco said The Rainforest Plant Trail was originally started by Dr Rosita Arvigo to provide a source of materials for herbal remedies before being acquired by Chaa Creek and has been expanded over the years by other Belizean traditional healers. Dr Arvigo was an apprentice of Don Elijio Panti, Belize’s most well-known Maya healer who passed away in 1996 at the age of 103.
“One of the original reasons for maintaining the medicinal plant trail was to preserve the ancient knowledge of these plants and their uses, and to keep a source of material for natural herbal remedies, sort of like a bush pharmacy” Mr Choco said, “Our guests were always very interested in the tours we offer, and now it seems like more and more people are including the plant trail in their travel plans.”
Brion Young, assistant manager of the Belize Natural History Centre at Chaa Creek confirmed that more visitors are enquiring about natural remedies and the uses of medicinal plants. “We’re definitely seeing more interest in natural cures and ancient Maya healing practices. The Maya had a more holistic approach to medicine and believed that the body and mind had to be balanced for health and wellbeing, and it seems like western medicine has been moving in that direction for some time now.
“I think that there’s been more of a drive to reconnect with nature and this interest in natural cures is part of that. Certainly many people come to Belize and Chaa Creek to immerse themselves in the natural world and you see how immediately relaxed they become after a few days in the rainforest, canoeing the rivers or just hanging out surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle.
“There’s a lot to be said for natural cures and the use of medicinal plants. After all, they’ve been around for thousands of years and people still use them today, so there must be something to it.
“And sometimes, the best cure in the world is to just get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, turn off the TV and computer and just breathe fresh air and relax. I see how that works every day,” Mr Young said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek is an award winning eco resort set within a 365 acre private nature reserve in Belize.