YAXCABA, Yucatán (El Universal) – Due to transculturation and the use of new technologies, the traditional practice of Mayan doctors could disappear in a few years, since even the new ethnic generations do not show much interest in learning this knowledge, which has been inherited for generations.
“It is unfortunate that the traditional medicine of the locality is disappearing, so it is important that the authorities rescue this knowledge so that there is more interest in this ancestral practice” considers Lucely Dorantes Cob, who is an herbalist doctor and director of the Herbalist Center of the municipality of Yaxcabá, in the east of the state.
“Until a few years ago” Dorantes says, “there were about 130 Mayan healers working in Yucatán, but in recent years that number has fallen, because some of them have already died”.
Today, the herbalist center has a register of 40 certified Mayan healers, most of whom are older adults and only three of whom are under 35.
“That is why we have set up a network where we exchange information, with the support of the Yucatan Ministry of Health and the Institute for the Development of Mayan Culture (Indemaya), seeking to promote and continue teaching traditional Mayan medicine,” says Leydi Lucely.
According to this female Mayan healer, it is necessary to seek out the new generations of Yucatán, the young people in municipalities and rural communities to take an interest in learning about medicinal plants and natural cures.
“The new generations hardly believe [in this medicine] and that’s why it’s urgent to find mechanisms to attract them to this instruction, this learning, because otherwise, as the years go by, it will be lost.” she warns.
Among other things, Dorantes Cob explains that to make traditional Mayan medicine more attractive and innovative, the Yaxcabá Herbalist Center offers 50 medicines to cure more than 100 types of illnesses, in addition to natural treatments based on creams, ointments, syrups, soaps and shampoos, which are obtained from the same botanical garden.
Lucely Dorantes Cob’s profession is qualified as a naturopathic doctor, with a broader medical training and is even known in the eastern, southern and central regions of the state for her expertise in herbalism, as well as in the production of medicines based on Mayan herbs, for the cure of different diseases.
The 25-year-old Mayan “doctor” recalls that she did not plan to devote herself to traditional medicine when she was a child, but started out as “a kind of premonition or feeling”. Motivated by her grandfather, she finally became interested in learning card reading, knowledge of plants and their healing attributes, among other disciplines.
Some time later, this young woman began to study nursing, first aid and left her career in business management to focus on Mayan medicine. Now she is a neuropathic doctor, midwife, and a traditional Mayan doctor or “ix mem” (wrongly refered to by many as “witch doctor”) as Mayan ethnic groups usually identify them.
Lucely Dorantes Cob, remembers how her grandfather used to tell her, how his father and grand father followed the advice and knowledge of the “medicine men” in order to help the Mayan people, many of them, very vulnerable since they lived in remote communities, where even basic medical services were difficult to reach.
“A single plant can cure you, if it is fresh,” she says, while explaining that she is in charge of preparing and mixing the herbs, and prepare the doses. She also reveals that she´s had the necessity to cure herself in many cases.
Lucely assures that among the conditions she treats the most are nervous related, colitis, fluid retention, kidney problems, headaches, vomiting and arthritis.
The woman is the director of the Jardin Botanico Medicina Herbolaria Yaxcaba, located on a 40-hectare reserve, where some 200 species of plants are grown, from which they obtain enough to make medicines.
“Today, all kinds of people are looking for alternative medicine, because it not only heals the physical, but also the mind and spirit,” says the young healer, although she acknowledges that many people use traditional medicine as a business, which generates distrust among the people who come for this type of care.
The herbal center
In the Jardin Botanico in Yaxcaba, they have around 200 plants with curative properties, and in part of the botanical garden another 160 varieties of plants that serve for different types of medicine.
They have created a line of around 50 products, including soaps, creams, syrups, capsules, teas, baths, tinctures (the plant soaked in alcohol), shampooes with aloe vera and ointments, among others.
The Mayan doctor assures that some plants that are difficult to obtain such as belladonna, which she takes special care of and – she points out – it is a plant that can help cure some types of cancer that are not advanced or aggressive.
The Yaxcabá Herbalist Center was founded in 1993 and was intended to bring together Mayan healers such as her grandfather, who was a traditional Mayan healer, until the day he died.
Lucely proudly boasts that people from New York, Canada and Russia have come to take courses in naturopathic medicine in Yaxcaba, and have bought her products. She has also received students from Spain and Brazil, as well as from Oaxaca and Puebla.
As a way of preserving the knowledge in naturist and Mayan medicine that she inherited from her grandparents, she is currently teaching her sister and another of his relatives, who have shown interest in learning everything about this type of medicine.
“It is necessary that this knowledge continues to be transmitted from generation to generation and that traditional Mayan medicine is not forgotten,” she concludes.
The Yucatan Times