Practitioners and researchers seek to preserve medicinal plants in Yucatán
Specialists of the Center for Scientific Research of Yucatan (CICY) along with doctors of traditional Mayan communities developed a plan to install orchards featuring the main varieties of plants that are considered medicinal for their study and conservation.
The researcher and project manager, Rafael Duran Garcia, said in an interview with Notimex, the project has been operating for several years now, under the name of “Mayab medicinal gardens network” (“Red de jardines medicinales del Mayab”).
“The idea of these gardens is that medicinal plants which are still a fundamental element in the life of the Maya indigenous communities and could provide solutions to many problems and challenges in the health sector, are preserved and studied,” Durán García said .
He went on: “Since the idea of the gardens was generated, it was clear that without the participation of the people, without the involvement of traditional herbalist doctors, the conservation of medicinal flora would be impossible.”
These gardens allow documentation of plants’ properties that traditional doctors use everyday to address health issues in Yucatán’s rural communities, which species are used, how they are used, what kind of conditions they serve and how to prepare them.
“At the same time, protocols of plant’s propagation are being studied in these gardens, as well as the different processes to multiply preparation materials, and how to keep them available for traditional indigenous doctors to use anytime,” said Duran Garcia.
“We are interested in the subsistence of traditional medicine because they offer other forms of healing, it allows us to look at illness from a different perspective, it showcases a totally different concept of disease and health, differing fron the Western society point of view, it is much more holistic, and traditional doctors do not focus only on the symptoms,” he continued.
The researcher insisted that traditional medicine has tremendous value, “unfortunately it has not been sufficiently appreciated, and the national health system should incorporate it into the health schemes for the treatment of a variety of diseases that are considered public health issues, such as diabetes.”
Durán declared that nowadays, diabetes is defeating the national health system, due to the strong economic demand both in terms of hospitalization and medication, and also for the great labor and social problems this chronic degenerative disease is causing.
He added that, medicinal plants are used for many primary care ailments, since many of the rural communities in Yucatán and the rest of Mexico, have no access to patent medicine, hospital or clinics.
“All these people have to be provided with health services in some way or another, and it is then that medicinal plants, traditional doctors and midwives become central in millions of people’s lives,” he said.
Currently, the network already involves more than 30 traditional healers, including doctors and midwives, it features 18 gardens, where 266 species are being documented and preserved, which means about 40 percent of the medicinal plants used and preserved in the Yucatan peninsula.
“Plants have played a vital role in the lives of many generations of Mexicans for centuries, but their importance is not properly recognized, they are seen more as something folkloric, cultural, traditional or “alternative”, scientists are not giving them the value they truly have, we must learn from our ancient cultures and accept their teachings as fundamental” . Durán García concluded.