Chankalá, the Mayan antidote against poisonous bites

The plant has several uses: its seeds can even be used as buckshot for rifles due to its hardness!

MERIDA, Yuc.- On our way to the Yaxchilán archaeologic zone, in the state of Chiapas near the city of Palenque, we passed through a town named Chankalá. We have always wondered about the origin of this name until we found the answer in a book written by Giovanni Francesco Mayoli, (aka Ricardo Osado).  In his “Description of names and virtues of indigenous herbs from Yucatan and the diseases they apply to” he says:

“This plant’s root is known to be good for curing spider and poisonous insect’s bites, by applying to the infected wound each hour, until the infection disappears.”

This is useful knowledge in the tropics, where one is more likely to be bitten by insects.

It turns out this species grows just as well in Yucatan as it does in Chiapas. This beautiful bush with banana-like leaves can easily grow not only in the garden, but also as a potted plant.  It can grow up to 2 meters tall.


It originally comes from Central America where it is cultivated as food. Its root can be boiled like a potato, but it has to cook longer, which is why it’s not common in local markets.


Its extremely hard black seeds can also be used as beads for necklaces or even as old rifle shot.


Its freshly cut leaves were used over burns to refresh and dissipate the heat from burned skin. The seeds are used to make rattles or “maracas”. Stems and leaves are used as livestock food.  In addition to all that, the leaves of Chankalá can also be used to wrap tamales.


Víctor Lizama/SIPSE (Translation TYT/News)




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