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Jan 25, 2012

Traditional healers; herbs and spiritualism

With the costs for conventional medical treatment skyrocketing, many in rural communities are turning to traditional healing. Locally, the practice is rooted with the Mayans so NICH today gathered traditional healers from the Cayo, Toledo, and Belize Districts as part of activities of the Maya Calendar. News Five’s Delahnie Bain found that there is a link between herbs and spiritualism.

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

Traditional healing; it’s an alternative form of medicine that is found primarily in villages, but as part of the 2012 Maya Calendar of events, the practice was highlighted at a forum in San Ignacio today.

Shari Williams, Communications Officer, NICH

Shari Williams

“The National 2012 along with NICH and more in particular the Institute for Social and Cultural Research decided to put this, this year on the 2012 calendar. It’s the second event this year and it’s a day to really reflect on how traditional medicines impact our Belizean identity.  We invited eleven traditional healers up here to Cahal Pech Resort to see basically the cross-linkages between our traditional medicine and our way of life.”

The healers spoke on their use of herbs and spiritualism to treat everything from the common cold to deadly illnesses. Francisco Caal has been healing Toledo residents for the past thirty years and San Ignacio resident Denby Coleman is half way there.

Francisco Caal

Francisco Caal, Mayan Traditional Healer (Via Translator)

“For all the body problems, mental problems and like external dermis problem. It’s just general because he has mentioned a lot of knowledge and plants to cure those problems and also snake bite and womens’ problems like pregnancy and how to get pregnant, family control probably and other effects like when people start to mis confidence themselves or have house problems—so how to create positive energy and bring happiness and harmony in families.”

Denby Coleman, Traditional Healer

“I’ve been using herbs for fifteen years now with positive effect in most cases. I’ve treated cancer cases, diabetics, AIDS, herpes. You name it, we have worked with them and I also want to include that my treatment, I credit everything to God because even though you might use all the herbs you want, it’s useless unless God is in it.”

The healing power of plants has also caught the attention of younger persons, who have become apprentices to the experienced healers to keep the tradition alive.

Abdel Cowo

Abdel Cowo, 22 Year Old, Apprentice to Maya Medicine

“The type of healing I am into is healing using plants so it’s having the body naturally heal itself via the use of plants.  I try to, if possible, treat the most common, which would be like coughs, colds, ear aches, sore throat, headaches, minor swelling and that would basically be what I would treat.”

Raquel Barraza, 16 Year Old, Apprentice to Maya Medicine

Raquel Barraza

“I’m learning about infections, about ladies when they are pregnant and after they’ve had their baby because they usually need herbs and so on. I’m also learning about how to massage a pregnant person and after they have their baby, I do the massage and use the — so their belly doesn’t get big and they stay in shape.”

And just as their ages differ, so do the reasons why these healers started practicing alternative medicine.

Francisco Caal

“It’s very sad he says because he was living in one of the remote areas and he was a young boy who got married and his first kid, he suffered or he experienced to lose the wife. The wife died during delivery and from that moment he promised himself it would not happen again in his family or other families. From there he started to learn to not only to take care of the health in his family but also to make the others not suffer what he passed through.”

Abdel Cowo

“I had exposure due to one of my father’s students who referred me to the camp and I attended camp at the age of ten where I learned various uses for plants and that was where I got my start to being an apprentice to a traditional healer.”

Denby Coleman

“Years ago my grandmother died from diabetes and, as a young man I noticed that when she went to the doctors, they cut her foot off. And then pretty soon they started to cut on the other side and pretty soon grandma died with no legs, but she still died with diabetes. That didn’t make any sense.”

Raquel Barraza

Denby Coleman

“I see that a lot of people are sick and the people don’t have the money to go to the hospital and things like that so then I decided to learn that so that I could help more people that are sick.”

Among the audience at today’s forum was Jamaul Roots, a Belizean/American whose grandmother was a traditional healer. He recently moved to Belize and has a strong interest in natural medicine.

Jamaul Roots

Jamaul Roots, Belizean/American

“I think these discussions need to happen in a broader, broader sense and they need to happen out in the open. Again, growing up with my grandmother these are things that seemed like superstitions to us but we’re seeing more and more in the medical field that the roots and the plants and the herbs and the flowers and the fruits that we use and have been using forever are the same things that they’re creating in the pharmaceuticals and charging us an arm and a leg for those things. So just walking around Belize, just looking at this garden you can find medicine actually there. And I think it’s going to be important for Belizeans to recognize the wealth of medicines that already exists here.”

According to NICH Communications Officer, Shari Williams, the forum was a precursor to a bigger event to be held with healers from across the country. Delahnie Bain for News Five.

While many turn to the traditional healers as a first option, the Q’eqchi Healers Association says it often refers patients to medical professionals.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Traditional healers; herbs and spiritualism”

  1. Belize Cow says:

    How do you tell a fake traditional healer from one that actually received “proper” training? Any man/woman on the street can give you two leaves to boil. I think that’s where we should be careful so that no harm and more good is done.

  2. Earl Grey says:

    How does THE OBEAH MAN fit into the story???????

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