Curative flora loses ground in Yucatan Peninsula, even though it’s just as effective as patent medicines.
MERIDA, Yucatan.- Used as a medicinal source in human or animal food, Yucatan Peninsula’s flora loses ground because of the new generation’s lack of interest in preserving this knowledge. Of 2,400 local species, fully one third of the regional flora can be used for medicinal purposes and be just as effective as conventional pharmaceuticals.
According to Juan Tun Garrido, director of the Autonomous University of Yucatan Herbarium, the consumption of herbs or fruits has decreased despite their nutritional properties.
The herbarium works with the taxonomic definition of regional plants and studies their ecological impact to analyze and promote their use in activities as diverse as construction, interior decoration or arts and crafts.
“We are currently working on the preservation of the Yucatan Peninsula native germoplasm, preserving the knowledge for using and exploiting it efficiently.” He noted.
Mayan people frequently use plants, especially for medicinal purposes.
“Many of these practices are still common in rural communities, but lamentably the new generations are not acquainted with this information, which we have to maintain as cultural heritage from our Mayan forefathers,” said Tun Garrido.
From an economic point of view, knowing how to use these plants can be economically prudent, since they are as effective as patent medicine in treating numerous diseases.
Sore throat, fever or kidney pain can be treated with plants, with the same active ingredients of allopathic medicine, as shown by analysis of their chemical profile.
“While it may not be true that plants can cure cancer, some plants can be used as palliatives for the pain and discomfort caused by the disease,” he said.
“To us the best way to reverse this trend is to teach children to know plants by their common names, to recognize them and to know their use and effect”.
He once cured a chronic sore throat by following a Mayan elder’s advice for preparing a wild fruit tea. The malaise eventually disappeared because the fruit was rich in iodine.
“There is also a plant that secretes a resin which not only eases itch or pain by its analgesic effects on scratches or wounds, but also helps in healing because of its antiseptic properties.”
There is a lot of concern from traditional doctors towards this knowledge transmission, since there is no interest from children and young people to follow these precepts.
Traditional Mayan medicine is not limited to native plants; it includes some introduced ones like epazote, basil, ruda, the bugambilia, the citric and their hybrids that help to cure stomach ailments, ease pain or cure a sore throat and fever.
Another topic relates to edible plants such as the bonete, a fruit with a flavor similar to papaya, or the po’ox, a fruit from the annonas family, which can only be found in remote locations in the forest.
The piñuela, an acidic fruit and the black sapote or tahuch are rarely consumed nowadays.
“One of the most consumed foods is the Chaya, after becoming popularized by traditional restaurants. It can be used not only to enhance traditional dishes, but also to prepare refreshing drinks with diuretic properties.
The “Pithaya” commonly known as “Dragon Fruit” is currently popular because of its delicious flavor.
Many veterinarians feel it is vital to preserve the local grass used for feeding cattle, since it carries more nutrients than foreign species. It causes less environmental damage and is also useful in controlling cattle parasites.
Other plants that can be used to feed cattle are “uaxim”, a fruit named “pixoy” and a species of grass called “tamarindo Xiu”. All three grow in the wild and are rich in nutrients.
One of the main challenges for the School of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry at UADY is creating an interest in students in helping the local rural communities rediscover the great knowledge inherited from their ancestors.
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