ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Five cultivated fruit trees are among the most popular medical plant species that Q’eqchi’ Maya horticultural villagers of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala grow in their dooryards. Participant-observation with informal interviews and 31 semi-structured interviews amidst walking homegarden tours inform findings. Beyond their apparent nutritional, ornamental, and shade values, Q’eqchi’ use bitter orange, Citrus x aurantium, for headaches, gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, cough, and fever. Prevalent home garden tree Citrus x latifolia treats fever, throat, cough, and heart problems; Mangifera indica treats fever and kidney pain; Persea americana helps gastrointestinal and skin problems, body pain, evil eye, and has abortive properties; and Psidium guajava remedies gastrointestinal problems, amoebas, and bites. We review these species’ regional ethnomedical use and pharmacology. Outside pharmacological research supports Q’eqchi’ villagers’ cultural reasons for these phytotherapies.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Notes on Economic Plants
Maya Medicinal Fruit Trees: QeqchiHomegarden Remedies
Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, DC, USA
*Corresponding author; e-mail:
Key Words: Ethnobiology, Ethnobotany, Ethnomedicine, Indigenous peoplesCentral America,
Five cultivated fruit trees are among the most
popular medical plant species that QeqchiMaya
horticultural villagers of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala,
grow in their dooryards. Participantobservation
with informal interviews and 31 semi-structured
interviews amidst walking homegarden tours in-
form findings. Beyond their apparent nutritional,
ornamental, and shade values, Qeqchiuse bitter
orange, Citrus xaurantium, for headaches, gastroin-
testinal problems, high blood pressure, cough, and
fever. Prevalent home garden tree Citrus xlatifolia
treats fever, throat, cough, and heart problems;
Mangifera indica treats fever and kidney pain; Persea
americana helps gastrointestinal and skin problems,
body pain, evil eye, and has abortive properties; and
Psidium guajava remedies gastrointestinal problems,
amoebas, and bites. In this paper, we review the
regional ethnomedical use and pharmacology of
these species. Outside pharmacological research
supports Qeqchivillagerscultural reasons for these
Guatemala is a hotspot of biological and cultural
diversity; ecological zones range from coastal, to
highland, to lowland tropical, and over 20
Mayaamong otherethnic groups live through-
out the small country (McKillop 2004). Maya
homegardens have a long history of use and provide
biocultural resources with overlapping uses: food
and medicine are two common functions (Kumar
and Nair 2006; Mariaca Mendez 2012). Home
remediesoften homegarden medicinal
plantsare the first choice for health care, especially
in rural, impoverished areas (Quinlan 2004;
Vandebroek 2013; Weller et al. 1997).
Guatemalans regularly use medicinal plants in
home health care, as they are readily available, have
longstanding traditions of use, and are virtually free
(Adams and Hawkins 2007;Cosminsky2016).
Many Guatemalan medicinals show pharmacologi-
cal efficacy (Caceres 1996; Michel et al. 2007).
This research took place in a village of Alta
Verapaz, Guatemala, which is home to approxi-
mately 700 people, of mostly Qeqchiethnicity.
Abundant rain falls (20003000 mm annually) in
this lowland village. Evergreen rainforest grows
from limestone soil and temperatures range from
25 to 38 °C (McKillop 2004). Native palms, or-
chids, and bromeliads predominate (Standley and
Steyermark 1945).
Villagers simply call their homegarden (or door-
yard garden) area their lote,orlot.All gardened
and wild plants indeed grow around a households
lot, the rectangular parcel of land (usually 30 ×
60 m) where villagers build their house and live.
They own or rent additional plots for milpa maize
based horticultural subsistence or smallscale com-
mercial production. Homegardens are outdoor liv-
ing spaces with work and social gathering areas.
Plants of all sizes providefood, medicine, ornament,
and shade.
We conducted fieldwork here between June and
August 2016, and July 2018. This research builds
on villagewide participantobservation and infor-
mal interviewing (Bernard 2017). We sampled 26%
of the 100 village households for focused participa-
tion, and interviewed 31 consenting adult members
of those households (see Table 1for details). Five
dyads participated, two of which were interviewed
Economic Botany, XX(X), 2020, pp. 17
© 2020, by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A.
separately (two husband/wife pairs). In three dyads
(two mother/adult daughter pairs and one husband/
wife pair), the interviewees clearly indicated personal
knowledge of local plants independent from their
family member. Households were selected by strati-
fied convenience sampling according to the distance
and direction (north or south) from the central road.
We used two semistructured interview tech-
niques. Interviews were in Spanish except with
two monolingual participants interviewed with a
Qeqchitranslator. Initial openended interviews
assessed life course, cultural, and ethnobotanical
topics. Next, Thiel conducted walking homegarden
tours (Martin 2014) to elicit names and uses of
plants. She asked for the Spanish, Qeqchi,and
other names for each plant, then asked for the
plants local uses and probed for details regarding
parts, amounts, and preparations. She interviewed
31 informants between the ages of 19 and 70; 8
men and 23 women. Availability skewed the sam-
ples sex ratio: men spend daylight hours working
outside the home, while women remain near home.
The Guatemalan National Council for Protected
Areas granted permission for voucher collection.
We deposited vouchers at the University of San
Carlos Herbarium in Guatemala City.
Results and Discussion
Medicinal plant home remedies are often the
first choice for health care in rural, impoverished
areas (Quinlan 2004;Welleretal.1997)and
homegardens are uniquely situated to provide these
resources (Kumar and Nair 2006; Mariaca Mendez
2012). In this Qeqchivillage, women generally
spend waking hours around home, and men spend
more time away from home in subsistence produc-
tion or wage labor. Women may generate income
with athand resources by selling their treesfruit to
neighbors, grinding corn or making tortillas or ta-
males, or making fruit popsicles or sliced fruit to sell
to neighbors and school children. Village women
list more fruit tree uses than men do, plus more
medicinal plantspresumably the plants they
maintain in homegardens. Men list more non
fruiting tree species than women, reflecting
Qeqchilabor division in which men regularly
gather fire and construction wood, while women
prepare food. This research does not draw conclu-
sive evidence about gender differences regarding
Alta Verapaz medicinal plant cultivation and use,
although ethnobotanical domains appear gendered
elsewhere (Mariaca Méndez 2012; Quinlan et al.
2016;Voeks2007; Wayland 2001). Our observa-
tions warrant further research.
Five fruit trees were among these Alta Verapaz
villagersmost frequently mentioned homegarden
medicines (Table 2). While variation in medicinal
plant cultivation and use is a village norm, there are
several species that villagers identify easily, species of
common knowledge. Each plant hereinlisted in
order of prevalenceis reported in at least three
(12%) sampled village homegardens.
Seven interviews (27%) indicated a tea of
infused Citrus xaurantium (bitter orange) leaves
to cool and treat stomachache, colic, vomiting,
diarrhea, cough, fever, and high blood pressure.
Stomach complaints and fever are the most com-
mon uses, and informants may add other plants
(especially Citrus xlatifolia Tanaka ex Q. Jiménez
and Cymbopogon citratus [DC.] Stapf, Poaceae) to
improve the effect. One informant applies the leaves
directly to the forehead to treat headaches.
Variable Mean Median Minimum Maximum SD
Participant ages 35.1 31.5 19 70 12.5
IDs per species 1.64 1 1 7 1.19
Plants per participant 4.03 3 0 11 3.21
Proportion 1 0
Sex 0.74 (23) (8)
Interview language 0.935 Spanish (29) Qeqchi(2)
Household near road 0.5 Yes (13) No (13)
Interviewed individually 0.774 Yes (24) No (7)
Household member 0.677 heads Head (21) Head (7) Adult (2) Adult (1)
Latin name and
Spanish name Qeqchi
plant part
Illnesses treated locally Homegardens
reporting as
Homegardens in
which present
Citrus xaurantium L.,
Naranja Chiin Bitter orange Leaves Headache,
intestinal cramps,
high blood
diarrhea, cough,
Citrus xlatifolia Yu.
Tanaka, Rutacaeae
Leaves Fever, sore throat,
cough, heart problems
4 8 AT017
Mangifera indica L.,
Mango Mank Mango Leaves,
Fever, kidney pain, unknown 4 13 AT013
Persea americana
Mill., Lauraceae
Aguacate o Avocado Leaves,
bark, pit
Diarrhea, ulcers, skin problems,
evil eye, stomachache, abortive
4 20 AT001
Psidium guajava L.,
Guayaba Pata Guava Leaves,
Bites, stomachache, amoebas 3 9 AT025
Elsewhere in Guatemala, Qeqchiin Izabal in-
fuse C. xaurantium leaves to drink and apply
directly for night sweats and insomnia (Michel
et al. 2006). Guatemalan Caribs drink a leaf decoc-
tion for flatulence, the pericarp for vomiting and
diarrhea, the bud for cardiac weaknessand ner-
vousness, and eat the fruit for fever (Girón et al.
1991:184). Countrywide, Guatemalans use bitter
orange leaves, flowers, peel, and bark for many
digestive, respiratory, nervous, and cardiac symp-
toms (Caceres 1996). Belizean Maya use C. x
aurantium leaf infusions topically for fever, and as
tea for gastrointestinal problems, colds, influenza,
fever, and blood clots, and with other plants for
various digestive, circulatory, and nervous system
ailments (Balick and Arvigo 2015).
Yucatec Maya drink the leaf infusion for various
forms of upset stomach, apply the infusion for
rheumatism, and decoct bark tea for diarrhea
(Anderson 2003). Haitians treat fever, flu, irregular
heartbeat, and emotional shock with C. xaurantium
leaf tea, use leaves topically for headaches, and fruit
topically to promote circulation, e.g., for bruises
(Paul and Cox 1995).
Knowledge of C. aurantiums pharmacology re-
mains limited; however, biological assays find
gastroprotective and antiulcer properties
(Karthikeyan and Karthikeyan 2014), supporting
C. aurantiums traditional use for gastrointestinal
problems, especially gastritis and ulcers. The whole
plant contains volatile oils and alkaloids including
synephrine, which shows activity against depres-
sion, and flavonoids with antianxiety, sedative, and
tranquilizing effects. The essential oil is antifungal
against Candida albicans, Lentinus lepideus, Lenzites
trabea, Polyporus versicolor,P. cyclopium,and
Trichoderma viride; antibacterial against Pseudomo-
nas aeruginosa,Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococ-
cus pyogenes (Carvalho-Freitas and Costa 2002); and
an effective smooth muscle relaxant (Karthikeyan
and Karthikeyan 2014).
In four homegarden interviews (15%), villagers
report that Citrus xlatifolia (limón, lime) leaf tea and
fruit juice are useful for fever, sore throat, and
cough. One informant mentioned the leaf tea for
heart issues. Villagers often combine the leaves with
other plants, including C. x aurantium,Mangifera
indica L., Psidium guajava L., and Cymbopogon
citratus.C. xlatifolia has had multiple names (e.g.,
formerly C. latifolia Yu Tanaka, C. aurantiifolia
Swingle, synonym C. × aurantiifolia subsp. Latifolia
[Yu.Tanaka] S.Ríos, D.Rivera and Obón). We in-
clude C. aurantiifolia (etc.) reports here if authors
identify it by C. xlatifolias common names; limón
(Spanish), lamunx (Qeqchi), or Persian lime
Highland Maya use limón (or limón persa) fruit
for fevers, stomachache, appetite loss, ear infections,
and rheumatism (Orellana 1997). Indigenous and
Ladino Guatemalans use limón juice and dried pul-
verized fruit for respiratory and digestive problems,
fevers, hepatitis, rheumatism, and pain (Caceres
1996). Local Caribs use the leaf infusion for fever
(Girón et al. 1991).
Among Belizean Qeqchi,Zarger(2002)listsC.
xaurantiifolia leaves as a tea but does not specify
medicinal applications. Balick and Arvigo (2015)
report Belizean Maya medicinal use of C. x
aurantiifolia for cough, colds, congested blood,
and high blood pressure (Balick and Arvigo 2015).
Yucatec Maya consider C. xaurantiifolia to be
cooling and use the leaf tea for stomach upset and
the fruit with honey for catarrh (Anderson 2003).
Dominicans use the leaves and roots for fevers
(Quinlan 2004).
Pharmacological research finds C. xlatifolia as
antimicrobial against various microbes that produce
fever, cough, and sore throat. Leaf extracts attack
Grampositive and Gramnegative bacteria com-
parably to standard antibiotics tobramycin,
gentamicin sulphate, ofloxacin, and ciprofloxa-
cin screened under similar conditions. Palmitic
acid in the essential oil is active against Myco-
bacterium tuberculosis, including multidrugresis-
tant M. tuberculosis strains. The fruit extract is fun-
gicidal against pneumoniacausing Aspergilus niger
and Candida albicans, causing mouth and throat
thrush infections (Al-Snafi 2016). Limeshighan-
tioxidant flavones protect cell damage, particularly
from oxidation associated with respiratory and di-
gestive problems, hepatitis, and rheumatism
(Urbando-Rivera et al. 2005); and Citrus flavo-
noids, which are antiinflammatoryespecially in
the circulatory system (Benavente-Garcia et al.
1997)thus should reduce fever and improve car-
diovascular health. Consistent with QeqchiC. x
latifolia leaf tea for heart issues, experiments with
ingested fruit extract significantly decreases blood
pressure and heart rate in rodents, reduces systolic,
diastolic, and mean blood pressures, heart rate,
triglycerides associated with strokes, and LDL cho-
lesterol associated with coronary artery disease (Al-
Snafi 2016).
Mangifera indica (mango) grows in 13 (50%) of
the sampled homegardens. Villagers eat the mango
fruit or sell it to local shops. One woman sells sliced
mango with condiments to schoolchildren during
breaks. Four participants (15%) mentioned the
leaves and bark as medicinal. Two informants use
the leaves for fever; one also said the bark is useful
for kidney pain. The other two informants that
mentioned Mangifera as a medicine did not know
what conditions it could treat.
The ChortiMaya and Ladinos in Eastern Gua-
temala use M. indica seed, bark, and tender shoots
for digestive problems, and the seed, tender shoots,
and leaves for respiratory illnesses (Kufer et al.
2005:1133). Guatemalan Caribs and Panamanians
use the leaf and bud tea as a tonic and for coughs
and bronchitis (Girón et al. 1991; Lewis and Elvin-
Lewis 2003). Yucatec Maya make M. indica leaf
infusions to wash and to drink for scorpion stings
(Anderson 2003). In Belize, M. indica leaves treat
bruises, cough, mucus, and menstrual cramps
(Balick and Arvigo 2015). In Dominica, M. indica
leaf tea is a remedy for loose bowels (Quinlan
Mango bark and leaves are pharmacologically
active. The bark extract has antiinflammatory
and analgesic effects in rodent tests (Ojewole
2005), consistent with its Alta Verapaz fever use.
Mangiferina major constituent responsible for
Mangiferas medicinal effecthas proved effective
for its antioxidant, antitumor, antiallergic, antibac-
terial, antiparasitic, antifungal, antidiabetic, and an-
tiviral properties in multiple trials (Shah et al. 2010;
Wauthoz et al. 2007).
Four village residents (15%) report Persea amer-
icana (avocado) as a medicinal homegarden plant,
although it is present in 20 (77%) homegardens
sampled in this research. The remaining 16 infor-
mants mention it only for food. Villagers use
P. americana leaves for body pain, diarrhea, ulcers,
granos (skin bumps/pimples), and evil eye. They use
P. americana bark for stomachaches and the pit as
an abortive.
Literature from Guatemala, and elsewhere, indi-
cates similar P. americana medicinal uses. Eastern
Guatemalan Qeqchiuse the seed as an abortive
(Michel et al. 2006). Guatemalan Caribs use the leaf
tea for urinary and bronchial infection, to detoxify,
and for cardiac weakness (Girón et al. 1991).
Guatemalans nationwide use P. americana seed,
bark, and leaf tea for skin bumps, bruises, rheuma-
tism, malaria, tumors, gastrointestinal trouble, and
parasites (Caceres 1996), headaches (Caceres 1996;
Orellana 1997), and the leaves and pit for wounds
(Orellana 1997). P. americana leaf tea is a treatment
for cough and colds and an external application for
bruises in Belize (Balick and Arvigo 2015). Domin-
icans infuse the leaves to treat loose bowels and
indigestion (Quinlan 2004).
Pharmacologically, aqueous extract of
P. americana leaves causes significant, dose depen-
dent analgesic and antiinflammatory activity
(Ngbolua et al. 2019). It is antibacterial against
several diseases including diarrheaproducing
Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria,
and antiviral against Herpes simplex virus1and
human adenovirus type 3 acute respiratory disease.
The aqueous leaf extract produces significant anti-
ulcer activity in rats. Avocados are among the
worlds most potent antioxidant fruit, and tests on
the seed show similar antioxidant, free radical scav-
enging activity (Ngbolua et al. 2019). Biochemical
findings match local applications for pain, gastroin-
testinal and dermatological healing, plus the gener-
alized illness of evil eye.
Villagers report using Psidium guajava (guava)
leaves and bark for medicine in three homegarden
interviews (12%). Two informants indicate the in-
fused leaves as medicinalfor dabbing on insect bites,
and in an unspecified tonic ingredient with the
leaves of three other plants. A third informant indi-
cates a cooled bark decoction to treat stomachache
and amoebas. Nine homegarden interviewees men-
tion P. guajavas edible fruit while three identified
the plant as medicinal.
One Belizean Qeqchicommunitysonly
P. guajava use is fruiteating (Zarger 2002), while
Balick and Arvigo (2015) found Belizean Qeqchi
and Mopan Maya use P. guajava internally and
externally. They apply guava leaf infusion externally
for pain, to prevent measles and chickenpox scabs,
and for sores and itching, and decoct the P. guajava
bark tea for an external wash to treat skin wounds
and athletes foot. Internally, they drink the bark tea
for all manner of stomach upset: dysentery, diar-
rhea, vomiting, stomach discomfort, and pain.
Guatemalan Caribs use P. guajava leaf tea for
diarrhea (Girón et al. 1991). Guatemalan
highlanders drink P. guajava leaf and bark infusion
for diarrhea, dysentery, and intestinal cramps; gargle
the infusion for oral health; and apply or wash with
it for mensand womensgenital discomfort and
itching and to disinfect wounds and treat sores on
the skin (Orellana 1997). Caceres (1996) cites the
above uses across Guatemala, adding that the leaf
and bark tea treat intestinal parasites and amoebas.
The Yucatec Maya similarly use P. guajava leaves for
wash to treat measles and granos (skin problems/
sores), and the bark for diarrhea (Anderson 2003).
In Dominica, P. guajava leaf tea is a treatment for
upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea
(Quinlan 2004).
Pharmacological literature on P. guajava supports
Qeqchitherapeutic applications, especially to treat
diarrhea and dysentery due to its significant anti-
spasmodic and antibacterial properties. P. guajava
leaf aqueous extract is an effective antioxidant, an-
tibiotic, and has antiallergic agents that attenuate
T cell responses in mice. Experiments find that,
applied topically, guavaleafinfusion reduces infec-
tion, speeds wound healing, and reduces pain and
swelling. It similarly heals acne through its antibi-
otic effect on Propionibacterium acnes and anti
inflammatory effect on the sores (Gutierrez et al.
We presented five trees that Guatemalan
QeqchiMaya villagers use for their edible fruits
and as home remedies. The regional crosscultural
ethnobotanical literature reports similar uses of
these plants, and pharmacological literature points
to the efficacy of these treatments for a variety of
ailments. Our hope is that documenting this infor-
mation contributes to preserving useful ethnobo-
tanical knowledge for Alta Verapaz Qeqchi.
Grants were from the Society for Economic
Botany, the Society of Ethnobiology, and the
Garden Club of America/Missouri Botanical
Garden. Many thanks to Lic. J. Morales, Dr.
A. Medinaceli, and Alta Verapaz villagers.
Washington State Universitys Institutional Re-
view Board granted approval for this research.
We followed the Code of Ethics of the Inter-
national Society of Ethnobiology (2006)andthe
Society for Latin American Ethnobiology (SOLAE
2015). We followed local customs to obtain
permission for research, a process Medinaceli
(2018) discusses further. We obtained free, prior,
and informed consent for each interview.
Literature Cited
Adams, W. and J.P. Hawkins. 2007. Health care in
Maya Guatemala. Norman: University of
Al-Snafi, A. E. 2016. Nutritional value and phar-
macological importance of citrus species grown
in Iraq. IOSR Journal of Pharmacy 6:76108.
Anderson, E. N. 2003. Those who bring the
flowers. San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico:
Balick, M. and R. Arvigo. 2015. Messages from the
gods. Oxford: Oxford University.
Benavente-García, O., J. Castillo, F. R. Marin, A.
Ortuño, and J. A. Del Río. 1997. Uses and
properties of citrus flavonoids. Journal of Agri-
cultural and Food Chemistry 45:45054515.
Bernard, H. R. 2017. Research methods in anthro-
pology, 6th. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and
Caceres, A. 1996. Plantas de uso medicinal en
Guatemala. Guatemala City: Editorial
Carvalho-Freitas, M. I. R. and M. Costa. 2002.
Anxiolytic and sedative effects of extracts and
essential oil from Citrus aurantium L. Biological
and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 25:16291633.
Cosminsky, S. 2016. Midwives and mothers. Aus-
tin: University of Texas.
Girón, L. M., V. Freire, A. Alonzo, and A. Cáceres.
1991. Ethnobotanical survey of the medicinal
flora used by the Caribs of Guatemala. Journal
of Ethnopharmacology 34:173187.
Gutiérrez, R. M. P., S. Mitchell, and R. V. Solis.
2008. Psidium guajava. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 117:127.
International Society of Ethnobiology. 2006. ISE
Code of Ethics.
ofethics/ (25 February 2020).
Karthikeyan, V. and J. Karthikeyan. 2014. Citrus
aurantium (bitter orange). International Journal
of Drug Discovery and Herbal Research 4:766
Kufer, J., H. Förther, E. Pöll, and M. Heinrich.
2005. Historical and modern medicinal plant
usesThe example of the ChortiMaya and
Ladinos in Eastern Guatemala. Journal of Phar-
macy and Pharmacology 57:11271152.
Kumar, B. M. and P. K. R Nair. 2006. Tropical
homegardens. Dordrecht, Netherlands:
Lewis, W. and M. P. F. Elvin-Lewis. 2003. Medical
botany, 2nd.Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley
and Sons.
Mariaca Méndez, R., ed. 2012. El huerto familiar
del sureste de Mexico. Mexico: Secretaría de
Recursos Naturales /ECOSUR.
Martin, G. J. 2014. Ethnobotany. Dordrecht,
Netherlands: Springer.
McKillop, H. I. 2004. The Ancient Maya. Santa
Barbara, California: ABCCLIO.
Medinaceli, A. 2018. Taking an early step in eth-
nobiological research. Ethnobiology Letters 9:
Michel, J. L., G. B. Mahady, M. Veliz, D. D.
Soejarto, and A. Caceres. 2006. Symptoms, at-
titudes and treatment choices surrounding men-
opause among the Qeqchi Maya of Livingston,
Guatemala. Social Science & Medicine 63:732
Michel, J. L., R. E. Duarte, J. L. Bolton, Y. Huang,
A. Caceres, M. Veliz, and G. B. Mahady. 2007.
Medical potential of plants used by the Qeqchi
Maya of Livingston, Guatemala for the treat-
ment of womens health complaints. Journal of
Ethnopharmacology 114:92101.
Ngbolua, K., G. B. Ngiala, C. I. Liyongo, C. M.
Ashande, G. L. Lufuluabo, J. Mukiza, and P. T.
Mpiana. 2019. A minireview on the phyto-
chemistry and pharmacology of the medicinal
plant species Persea americana Mill. (Lauraceae).
Discovery Phytomedicine 6:102111.
Ojewole, J. A. 2005. Antiinflammatory, analgesic
and hypoglycemic effects of Mangifera indica
Linn. (Anacardiaceae) stembark aqueous ex-
tract. Methods and Findings in Experimental
and Clinical Pharmacology 27:547554.
Orellana, R. 1997. Salud familiar y plantas
medicinales en la Sierra de las Minas. Guatemala
City: Fundacion Defensores de la Naturaleza.
Paul, A. and P. A. Cox. 1995. An ethnobotanical
survey of the uses for Citrus aurantium
(Rutaceae) in Haiti. Economic Botany 49(3):
Quinlan, M. B. 2004. From the bush. Belmont,
California: Wadsworth.
Quinlan, M. B., R. J. Quinlan, S. K. Council, and
J. W. Roulette. 2016. Childrens acquisition of
ethnobotanical knowledge in a Caribbean horti-
cultural village. Journal of Ethnobiology 36:
Shah, K. A., M. B. Patel, R. J. Patel, and P. K.
Parmar. 2010. Mangifera indica (mango). Phar-
macognosy Reviews 4:42.
SOLAE, Sociedad Latinoamericana de
Etnobiología. 2015. Código de Ética. Revista
Etnobiologia. 14:56.
Standley, P. C. and J. A. Steyermark. 1945. The
vegetation of Guatemala, a brief review. Plants
and plant sciences in Latin America, 275278.
Waltham, Massachusetts: Chronica Botanica.
Urbando-Rivera, J., A. Navarro-Ocaña, and M. A.
Valdivia-López. 2005. Mexican lime peel. Food
Chemistry 89:5761.
Vandebroek, I. 2013. Intercultural health and eth-
nobotany. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 148:
Voeks, R. A. 2007. Are women reservoirs of tradi-
tional plant knowledge? Singapore Journal of
Tropical Geography 28:720.
Damme, and P. Duez. 2007.
Ethnopharmacology of Mangifera indica L. bark
and pharmacological studies of its main C
glucosylxanthone, mangiferin. International
Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sci-
ences 1:112119.
Wayland, C. 2001. Gendering local knowledge.
Medical Anthropology Quarterly 15:171188.
Weller, S. C., T. R. Ruebush, and R. E. Klein.
1997. Predicting treatment-seeking behavior in
Guatemala. Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Zarger, R. K. 2002. Childrens ethnoecological
knowledge. Doctoral Dissertation, Department
of Anthropology. Athens,Georgia: University of
... This Q'eqchi' community's most frequently grown herbaceous medicinal plants are Cymbopogon winterianus, Neurolaena lobata, and Ruta chalepensis (Table 1; see Thiel and Quinlan [2020] for common homegarden medicinal trees). Inter-household variation in homegarden medicinal content and plant-sharing is the norm in this village (Thiel and Quinlan 2022). ...
... Villagers incorporate new plants and knowledge of their uses into ILK, likely because of their increasing integration into local market economies and globally interconnected agriculture (Maass 2008, Wilson 1995. We found a similar pattern among native and introduced medicinal trees in this village (Thiel and Quinlan 2020). That R. chalepensis has a Q'eqchi' name may indicate that villagers have incorporated its use into local ethnomedicine longer or more completely than C. winterianus, which lacks a name of Q'eqchi' origin. ...
Full-text available
We report on the top three ethnopharmacological herbs growing among a lowland Guatemalan Q’eqchi’ community’s homegardens. In a gardening culture characterized by pragmatic species distribution and sharing, these few herbaceous species recur in multiple households’ dooryard gardens. Our aim in reporting on the most predominant ethnobotanical herbs gardened in a Maya Q’eqchi’ village’s dooryards is to valorize the capacities of local pharmacological traditions. Thirty-one walking homegarden interviews and participant-observation inform this research with village residents. Té de limón (Cymbopogon winterianus, for cough, fever), Qa’mank/Tres punta (Neurolaena lobata, for diabetes, fever, headache, gastrointestinal ills, evil eye), and Ruda (Ruta chalepensis, for children’s vomiting, weepiness, evil eye) are the prevalent non-woody Q’eqchi’ homegarden herbs here. Regional ethnomedical and extant pharmacology research mutually support the efficacy and continued practicality of these Q’eqchi’ plant uses. Ethnopharmacological research of Maya Q’eqchi’ medicinals documents local knowledge for conservation and calls for their cultural and biomedical respect as prominent, accessible, therapeutic species.
... The National Council for Protected Areas of Guatemala granted permission for voucher collection. Berlin 1973or Hunn 1975 (Thiel and Quinlan 2020). Santa Lucía villagers use plants for various and overlapping purposes. ...
... Santa Lucía villagers use plants for various and overlapping purposes. For example, they consume Citrus aurantium L., Citrus latifolia Tan., Psidium guajava L., Persea americana Mill., and Mangifera indica L. fruits, and also use various parts of these plants for medicine (Thiel and Quinlan 2020). Villagers in 20 homegardens mention using avocado (Persea americana) as a food, but in four homegardens, villagers also report using it medicinally. ...
Full-text available
Q’eqchi’ Maya villagers in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, grow informal homegardens alongside field–based horticultural subsistence activities. Villagers cultivate 200 + homegarden plants that serve many functions including provisioning food and medicine. Semi–structured “plant walk” interviews with 31 informants and follow–up interviews with nine villagers informed on the presence of cultivated medicinal plants and residents’ knowledge of plant names and uses. This research analyzes garden ethnobotanical data ethnographically to understand factors differentiating local herbal remedy availability and use. Hypotheses test medicinal plant presence in dooryard gardens in relation to socio–demographic and acculturation variables. Results show a high degree of intra–village sharing and variation in medicinal plant cultivation. Significant predictors of medicinal plants in homegardens are (1) distance from the main road (p = 0.012) and (2) presence of paid work within the home (p = 0.002) as opposed to paid work outside the home (wage labor). Home medicinal plant cultivation reflects Maya cultural esteem for collectivism (sharing) and site–specific ecological fit. By cultivating a variety of medicinal plants and sharing with kin and neighbors, villagers treat local illnesses in ecologically and culturally advantageous ways. Los maya q’eqchi’ de una aldea de Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, cultivan y manejan huertos familiares informales (con más de 200 plantas) junto con actividades agrícolas de subsistencia. Las entrevistas semiestructuradas—con 31 informantes en base a “caminatas botánicas” en los huertos, más nueve sin caminatas—reportaron la presencia de plantas medicinales cultivadas y el conocimiento sobre los nombres locales y usos específicos de las plantas. Este estudio analiza los datos etnobotánicos de los huertos para entender los factores que diferencian la disponibilidad y el uso de plantas medicinales locales. Se pone a prueba la hipótesis de que la presencia de plantas medicinales en huertos familiares se correlacionará con variables sociodemográficas y de aculturación. Los resultados indican un alto grado de intercambio de plantas medicinales dentro de la aldea y mucha variación en el cultivo de las mismas. Los predictores significativos de plantas medicinales en los huertos familiares son (1) la distancia del huerto familiar a la carretera principal (p = 0.012) y (2) la presencia de trabajo remunerado dentro del hogar (p = 0.002) en lugar de trabajo remunerado fuera del hogar (trabajo asalariado). En general, el cultivo casero de plantas medicinales refleja conceptos culturales mayas de colectivismo (el intercambio) y adecuaciones ecológicas específicas al sitio. Al cultivar una gran variedad de plantas medicinales y al compartirlas con vecinos y familiares, los aldeanos contribuyen a sus necesidades de salud de maneras ecológica y culturalmente adecuadas.
... Our objective is to document modern practice, including frequency of use, origin of plants (with a focus on garden vs. in the wild), social aspects of use, current diversity in modes of remedies, and which plants were employed. We focused on the potential role of gardens since Creole gardens traditionally provided both foods and medicines (Carney 2020), especially because, worldwide, gardens offer an important source of herbal provision (e.g., Thiel and Quinlan 2020). The issue of species in use was approached at the discretion of interviewees, with the goal of estimating the relative importance of the most commonly used species. ...
Current Use of Local Folk Medicine (Rimèd Razyé) in the French Lesser Antilles: Diversity Patterns and Links Between Food and Health. Folk medicine is an important component of culture, often with regional implications. In recent decades, renewed worldwide interest in the subject has developed. In this study, we investigated current use and forms of the Caribbean traditional medicine known as Rimèd Razyé, with an exploratory approach, in order to document current status, i.e., without testing theoretical ethnobotanical corpus. We proceeded through direct or phone interviews with randomly recruited volunteers spanning a broad range of population, and produce a listing of the most common species with current use based on gathered answers. Our limited sample size (35 interviews) provides tentative evidence that Rimèd Razyé is still widely adopted and practiced in the French Lesser Antilles (islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique). We also document integration of new exotic plants in the set of remedies, suggesting potential evolution from the original set of practices, and discuss the parallel risk of loss of specific practices such as leaf baths, since leaf baths were more widely adopted a few decades ago when interviewees were children. We report the current non–exhaustive use of 52 plant species, including fairly recent introductions (i.e., non–traditional plants), most of which were reported by only a few interviewees. Principal Component Analyses of interview results were conducted to provide a descriptive overview of how diversity of practices or plants relate to current uses. We discuss our results in the light of the recent and modern global trend that considers food and medicine as intertwined.
... Various economic tree and plant species are planted and tended in contemporary Maya communities, including many with medical uses recorded in ethnographic research (Abramiuk et al. 2011;Anderson 1995;Atran et al. 2004;Avilez-López et al. 2020;Balick and Arvigo 2015;Barrera Marín et al. 1976;Berlin et al. 1974;Blanco and Thiagarajan 2017;Laughlin 1993a, 1993b;Casagrande 2002;Castañeda Medinilla and Watson, Schnell, Morell-Hart, Scherer, and Dussol 12 Aceituno de García 1978;Cook 2016;Hanks 1990;Kashanipour and McGee 2004;Kufer et al. 2005;Pérez-Nicolás et al. 2017;Redfield 1950;Thiel and Quinlan 2020;Walshe-Roussel et al. 2019). In some cases, the Maya even set aside parts of the forest as reserves that included medicinal plants (Anderson 1995:141). ...
Full-text available
Botanical residues recovered from excavations in the Southeast Marketplace of Piedras Negras provide information about the healing and medical activities of the site's Classic period (a.d. 350-900) inhabitants, and point towards the intersection between commerce and medicine for the ancient Maya. The plants were likely exchanged at the market then used on-site for the purposes of healing. The botanical remains are complemented by both architectural and bioarchaeological evidence for healing at this locus, including a high concentration of sweatbaths and evidence for palliative tooth extraction. With the aid of ethnohistory, we identify health care practices potentially associated with the plant remains. However, we expand on basic understandings of "healing" with a critical look at how some medicinal plants may have been ritually invoked, even when never directly ingested or applied topically.
... The West has not always taken the effectiveness of ethnomedicines seriously, and has waged, "extensive and impassioned debate…about whether botanical medicines are efficacious" (Etkin and Elisabetsky 2006:7), and about the effectiveness of ethnomedicines beyond the placebo effect (Thompson et al.2009). For the audience inclined to dismiss local remedies as purely symbolic or bunk, it is convenient to point to the growing body of results that demonstrate bioscientific therapeutic actions of traditional plant remedies (e.g., Flores and Quinlan 2014, Pieroni et al 2002, Quave and Pieroni 2015, Quinlan 2004, Thiel and Quinlan 2020. Although identifying bioactive phytochemicals does indicate that a plant is likely effective, lack of literature on a plant, or researcher failure to identify its active chemicals does not indicate that a plant is ineffective (Moerman 2007). ...
Full-text available
This chapter introduces the range of traditional topics that have provided a framework for ethnomedical inquiry. International public health research particularly embraced Arthur Kleinman's ethnomedical principle of the "explanatory model". Across the world, people have different conceptions about the body that anthropologists refer to as body image. "Ethnophysiology" is the type of ethnomedical body image that refers specifically to cultural notions about body structure and function including perceptions of internal organs and their purpose and placement. Ethnopsychiatry is a translational field that examines cultural views on mental illness, and local practices surrounding mental illnesses. In order for individuals to be recognized as ill they must be considered abnormal in the home culture. Cosmopolitan or organic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, may at first seem unaffected by culture. Medical pluralism exists in many lower‐income countries where traditional popular and folk medicine practiced alongside of biomedicine.
Ethnopharmacological relevance The prevalence of kidney disease has increased rapidly in recent years and has emerged as one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. Natural products have been suggested as valuable nephroprotective agents due to their multi-target and synergistic effects on modulating important proteins involved in kidney injury. There is a large number of plant species that have been used traditionally for kidney-related conditions in Mesoamerican medicine by different cultural groups that could provide a valuable source of nephroprotective therapeutic candidates and could lead to potential drug discovery. Aim of review This review aims to provide an overview of the currently known efficacy of plant species used traditionally in Mesoamerica by Mayan groups to treat kidney-related conditions and to analyze the phytochemical, pharmacological, molecular, toxicological, and clinical evidence to contribute to public health efforts and for directing future research. Methods Primary sources of plant use reports for traditional kidney-related disorders in Mesoamerica were searched systematically from library catalogs, theses, and scientific databases (PubMed, Google Scholar; and Science Direct), and were filtered according to usage frequency in Mayan groups and plant endemism. The database of traditional plants was further analyzed based on associations with published reports of the phytochemical, pharmacological, molecular, toxicological, and clinical evidence. Results The most reported kidney-related conditions used traditionally in Mayan medicine involve reducing renal damage (a cultural interpretation that considers an inflammatory or infectious condition), cleaning or purifying the blood and kidney, reducing kidney pain, and eliminating kidney stones. A total of 208 plants used for kidney-related problems by 10 Mayan groups were found, representing 143 native species, where only 42 have reported pharmacological activity against kidney damage, mainly approached by in vitro and in vivo models of chemical- or drug-induced nephrotoxicity, diabetes nephropathy, and renal injury produced by hypertension. Nephroprotective effects are mainly mediated by reducing oxidative stress, inflammatory response, fibrosis mechanisms, and apoptosis in the kidney. The most common nephroprotective compounds associated with traditional Mayan medicine were flavonoids, terpenoids, and phenolic acids. The most widely studied traditional plants in terms of pharmacological evidence, bioactive compounds, and mechanisms of action, are Annona muricata L., Carica papaya L., Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam., Lantana camara L., Sechium edule (Jacq.) Sw., Tagetes erecta L., and Zea mays L. Most of the plant species with reported pharmacological activity against kidney damage were considered safe in toxicological studies. Conclusion Available pharmacological reports suggest that several herbs used in traditional Mayan medicine for renal-associated diseases may have nephroprotective effects and consistent pharmacological evidence, nephroprotective compounds, and mechanisms of action in different models of kidney injury. However, more research is required to fully understand the potential of traditional Mayan medicine in drug discovery given the limited ethnobotanical studies and data available for most species with regards to identification on bioactive components, pharmacological mechanisms, and the scarce number of clinical studies.
Full-text available
This review describes an Indigenous led project by Q’eqchi’ Maya healers of Belize to strengthen and improve traditional botanical healing. Goals of the project were to conserve medicinal plant knowledge, leading to ethnobotanical studies, and to conserve the plants themselves, by creating a community ethnobotanical garden. A total of 169 medicinal species were collected in the ethnobotanical survey, which provided unique knowledge on many rainforest species of the wet lowland forest of Southern Belize, not found in neighbouring Indigenous cultures. Consensus on plant uses by the healers was high indicating a well conserved codified oral history. After horticultural experimentation by the healers, the Indigenous botanical garden provided a habitat for and conservation of 102 medicinal species including many epiphytes that were rescued from forested areas. Ethnopharmacological studies by the university partners showed a pharmacological basis for, and active principles of plants used for epilepsy and anxiety, for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, for dermatological mycoses, and for type 2 diabetes complications. Overall, the project has provided a model for Indigenous empowerment and First Nation’s science, as well as establishing this traditional medicine as an important, unified healing practice, that can safely and effectively provide primary healthcare in its cultural context.
Full-text available
Aim: To provide update knowledge on phytochemistry and pharmacology of Persea americana. Study Design: Multidisciplinary advanced bibliographic surveys, utilization of ChemBioDraw software package and dissemination of the resulted knowledge. Methodology: A literature search was conducted to get information about the phytochemistry and pharmacognosy of P. americana from various electronic databases (PubMed, PubMed Central, Science Direct, Scileo, DOAJ and Google scholar). The scientific name of this plant species was used as a keyword for the search, along with the terms phytochemistry and pharmacognosy. The chemical structures of P. americana naturally occurring compounds were drawn using ChemBioDraw Ultra 12.0 software package. Results: Findings from different studies revealed that this plant is commonly and traditionally used as an edible fruit. P. americana is reported to possess various biological virtues like antiviral, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, analgesic, antiulcer, hypertensive, antihepatotoxic, anticonvulsant, vasorelaxant and have an effect on body weight and different toxicological studies carried out demonstrated satisfactory results. These properties are due to the presence of numerous naturally occurring phytochemicals like tannins, alkaloids, phenols, saponins and flavonoids. P. americana is also rich in biologically important fatty acids like oleic acid and palmitic acid, minerals and vitamins, which makes it a healthful food. While Lutein is the most predominant carotenoid found in his fruit. Conclusion: The present review can therefore help inform future scientific research towards the development of novel drugs of relevance from P. americana for the improvement of human health and wellbeing.
Full-text available
p class="p1">Based on my own experiences from the field, in this paper I reflect on my work in Bolivia and Guatemala, collaborating with the Tsimane’ and Q’eqchi’ peoples, respectively. The aim of this reflection is to propose a set of guidelines for an early step in ethnobiological research. I understand an early step of research to be obtaining prior, informed consent of the peoples with whom we collaborate; a step I argue should be formalized and included as part of research proposals and documents (publications) resulting from the research. This guideline is offered simply as a reference for encouraging researchers to engage with the collaborating communities in a proper, ethical, and respectful way as a first step in our fieldwork. This proposed guideline, while motivating researchers to engage in this process, also encourages them to adapt and modify the guideline to the particular local situation where the planned research will take place. The proposal responds to local customs and traditions, while also following critical ethical guidelines for ethnobiological research, as well as national and international policy relevant to our field of research. It is therefore relevant to any region and community of collaborators where research takes place.</p
Full-text available
Citrus aurantium L commonly called as bitter orange. Economically, C.aurantium is of appreciable importance as a source of edible fruit and is widely used in folk medicines. The aim of the present review is to present comprehensive information of the ethno medical information, chemical constituents, biological and pharmacological research on C. aurantium which will be presented and critically evaluated. The close connection between traditional and modern sources for ethno pharmacological uses of C.aurantium is especially for treatment against inflammation, malarial fever, diarrhoea, digestive and fever. Essential oil from the whole plant, flower and seeds has conclusively established their mode of action in treatment of various diseases and other health benefits. Strong interdisciplinary programmes that incorporate conventional and new technologies will be critical for the future development of C. aurantium as a promising source of medicinal products. In the present review, attempts on the important findings have been made on whole plant, bark, flower, seed and root of C. aurantium.
Full-text available
Subsistence horticulturalists learn considerable local ecological knowledge by early adulthood. We investigate the relationship between children’s family environments and learning of their plant environment. In a rural village in Dominica, West Indies, children of ages four through 17 (N = 51) participated in a “plant trail” along a route containing 50 core local plants marked for identification. Plants in question resulted from village adults’ freelists on members of local plant domains found via nominal group technique (i.e., trees, staple foods, vegetables, condiments, medicines, and ornamentals). Individual children’s ethnobotanical knowledge was assessed through proper plant identification with a local term. Findings indicate that children learn botanical domains differentially. They identify trees and staple crop plants early in life. As they develop, they learn other plant domains, and trees and staples decrease in proportion to total ethnobotanical knowledge. Boys retain a larger proportion of tree knowledge, as tree care is part of the masculine labor division. Children’s, especially girls’, proportion of medicinal plant knowledge grows steadily into adulthood. As predicted, children with homes in extended family compounds demonstrate more ethnobotanical knowledge than children whose neighbors are not close kin. Contrary to predictions, a father’s presence in the household is not an indicator of the children’s plant identification ability. Having younger siblings predicts learning more plants. Trees form a smaller proportion of total plant knowledge for family-compound-living children and those with lower birth order, who tend to have greater overall ethnobotanical knowledge. Ethnobotanical learning relates to gender, birth order, and extended kin access.
Full-text available
Tropical homegardens, one of the oldest forms of managed land-use systems, are considered to be an epitome of sustainability. Although these multispecies production systems have fascinated many and provided sustenance to millions, they have received relatively little scientific attention. The objective of this review is to summarize the current state of knowledge on homegardens with a view to using it as a basis for improving the homegardens as well as similar agroforestry systems. Description and inventory of local systems dominated the 'research' efforts on homegardens during the past 25 or more years. The main attributes that have been identified as contributing to the sustainability of these systems are biophysical advantages such as efficient nutrient cycling offered by multispecies composition, conservation of bio-cultural diversity, product diversification as well as nonmarket values of products and services, and social and cultural values including the opportunity for gender equality in managing the systems. With increasing emphasis on industrial models of agricultural development, fragmentation of land holdings due to demographic pressures, and, to some extent, the neglect – or, lack of appreciation – of traditional values, questions have been raised about the future of homegardens, but such concerns seem to be unfounded. Quite to the contrary, it is increasingly being recognized that understanding the scientific principles of these multispecies systems will have much to offer in the development of sustainable agroecosystems. Research on economic valuation of the tangible as well as intangible products and services, principles and mechanisms of resource sharing in mixed plant communities, and realistic valuation and appreciation of hitherto unrecognised benefits such as carbon sequestration will provide a sound basis for formulating appropriate policies for better realization and exploitation of the benefits of homegardens.
Covering a forty-year period, this comparative and longitudinal study traces the medicalization of birth in Guatemala and its effects on women’s lives and their economic and social status.
Flavonoids are a widely distributed group of polyphenolic compounds with health-related properties, which are based in their antioxidant activity. These properties have been found to include anticancer, antiviral, antiinflammatory activities, effects on capillary fragility, and an ability to inhibit human platelet aggregation. The antioxidant capacity of any flavonoid will be determined by a combination of the O-dihydroxy structure in the B-ring, the 2,3-double bond in conjugation with a 4-oxo function and the presence of both hydroxyl groups in positions 3 and 5. Flavanones, flavones, and flavonols are the flavonoids present in Citrus, and although flavones and flavonols have been found in low concentrations in Citrus tissues, in relationship to flavanones, these types of compounds have been show to be powerful antioxidants and free radical scavengers. Some Citrus flavonoids can be used directly as repellents or toxins or be used in plant improvement programs to obtain more resistant crops. In addition, some Citrus flavonoids and their derivates, in the field of food technology, are principally known for their ability to provide a bitter or sweet taste and as bitterness inhibitor. Keywords: Free radicals, antioxidant; anticarcinogenic; antiinflammatory; platelet aggregation; antiallergic; analgesic; antimicrobial; food additives