During my trek through Belize in August I was introduced to the fascinating plant Jackass Bitters, what more or less seems like a cure-all in the Mayan rainforest. Sure enough as it's name indicates, this plant is quite bitter, and contains a potent anti-parasitic bitter compound called sesquiterpene dialdehyde. During my adventure, I was fortunate enough to meet with a Mayan healer, Aurora Garcia, who walked me through a medicinal plant trail and taught me about a variety of herbs including this one. She shared that their culture has used Jackass Bitters as a tonic at the start of every year to ensure good health. "For 7 days drink a freshly prepared cup of tea made from 1 leaf." It has been used in Mayan medicine internally for parasites, digestion, diabetes, malaria, and high blood pressure; externally as an insect repellent by rubbing the leaves all over exposed skin. I gave this a go since I forgot my bug spray on on of our hikes, and sure enough it seemed to work! Meeting with Aurora was so centering and amazing, as I read a book about her great Uncle, Don Elijio Panti, a famous Mayan Healer. Learning about healing traditions through oral teaching and stories is incredibly powerful, especially knowing that it is knowledge that has been passed on for centuries...the mysteries of the forest medicine are revealed to those those who work with it day in and day out.
I look forward to returning to the lush forest filled with medicinal plants, beautiful Mayan culture, and the solid, centering rocks of the rivers. I first read about Belize in the book Sastun, my first exposure to medicinal plants of Belize back in 2010 before my first trip. I was excited to finally meet this plant, as I have heard about it for quite some time, yet did not encounter it on my first visit to Ix Chel Farm. Cheers to the many more adventures yet to come, plants to meet, and culture to soak in!