Making balché (Photo:

The balché is a Maya ceremonial drink that is prepared with the bark of the balché tree and a touch of melipona honey. It was used among the Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula and the Selva Lacandona.

The tree has several known names depending on the region, for example in Chiapas they know it as xbal-ché, in Campeche as palo gusano, in Yucatán as saayab and in other regions as sakiab or palo de patlaches.

It is prepared using a container (originally, jícaras were used) where virgin cenote water is poured; the bark of balché is macerated, then the crust is sumerged in the water using a stone so it rests at the bottom. Some melipona honey is added and it is left to ferment during three days.


The balché was mainly used in ceremonies such as the Nik Ché (or flowering), which was a way to make communion with the elements and spirits of nature, as well as the lords of the heavens. The deity related to this liquor is “Acan” which is the god of the wine.

In some literary texts the balché is considered to have entheogenic properties, that is, it is a vegetable drink with properties that provoke a state of modification of consciousness, used in spiritual, religious, ritualistic and shamanic contexts.

The infusion of its leaves has also been used in traditional medicine, using it to treat coughs and to clean infected wounds.