Coronavirus : Ancestral plants are reborn in southeastern Mexico to combat the pandemic

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SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS – With care and using an ancient and organic wisdom, Tzeltal and Tzotzil women from the state of Chiapas, in the southeast of Mexico, recover the use of medicinal plants to treat respiratory diseases in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

These women, migrants from indigenous peoples in the region and members of the At’el Antsetik (Working Women) collective, have dedicated themselves for several years to preserving the ancient techniques of herbalism, through the oral rescue of practices in their respective communities and their perfection with continuous technical training.

The garden “is a space where planting continues and the compañeras bring a lot of experience from the field. They are migrants from a very young age but they also bring that experience, that knowledge, from their towns, from their parents, from their grandparents, that is why we meet to continue strengthening the culture, “said Lucia Hernández Vázquez, tzotzil and coordinator of At’el Antsetik this Wednesday.


The application of this ancestral knowledge and the rescue of plants have made the outlook for the orchard users during this pandemic not so bleak, helping them to prevent and mitigate, they say, the devastating effects of the disease that in Mexico now totals more than 40,000 deaths and more than 370,000 cases.

“The blessed mother earth is so beautiful that we do not even have to make an effort to sow medicinal plants, it is enough where it grew, it gives its flower, there the seed is watered and it grows again,” said proud Antonia López Méndez, healer and promoter. health, while harvesting the coriander and calendula seed along with the rest of the women.

Mexican indigenous people burned several vehicles this Saturday and attacked two houses of municipal authorities when protesting against the fumigation measures in San Andrés Larraínzar, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapa.

Antonia says that before focusing on the production of native medicinal plants typical of the Altos de Chiapas, they rescued their cultural identity.

And through a modern brainstorm, the group managed to establish that stomach and respiratory problems were the most frequent ailments in the region.

Then they dipped into their memories to remember how their grandparents did to relieve pain when they were children.

Although Chiapas is one of the states with the largest indigenous presence, many of its inhabitants distrust, or are unaware of, the benefits of medicinal plants.

According to the healer, if everyone believed in the healing power of plants, “it would be known that they have the cure in their backyard and in the fields.”

“There are still many people who do not know, have not experienced and doubt its power,” said the woman.

In the Chiapas mountains, residents take action.

Antonia said that for five years they have focused on promoting self-care practices to prevent diseases, mainly those related to the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal problems and muscle pain.

From the transmission of ancestral knowledge, more than 70 plants have been recovered to treat respiratory problems, which, although they do not cure COVID-19, do strengthen the immune system against this virus and other diseases, favoring that it does not manifest itself in its forms. serious, they say.


While transplanting the fennel sprouts, María López Mesa, a housewife and Tzeltal indigenous, relates that life in the city and with six children is complicated.

But with the assistance and help of all, they have managed to cope with health care with plants and food they harvest from the garden, a 400-square-meter property that was loaned to them and that they will return in August.

“My children have not been seriously ill. I have six children and thank God until now they have not been sick with anything serious just from cough and flu but we give them those herbs and we make lemon tea with honey, ginger, garlic and with that it is taken from them, “said Mari, as her companions know her affectionately.

It is a camp in Mexico City.


The panorama that indigenous people live in Chiapas is complex. The natives are facing the pandemic in silence because the fear of contagion is generating discrimination among the inhabitants themselves.

Being a carrier of this virus can be a cause of exile, losing its properties and, what is worse, the sense of belonging.

In addition, there is a latent fear and resistance to receiving medical attention, especially in government institutions, for fear of getting it in these hospital centers.

That is why in Chiapas towns many resort to medicinal plants that they know and have cured their ancestors.

According to Antonia, several survivors of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus have explained how they have freed the first symptoms using herbs, chilies, posh (corn alcohol) and temazcal baths.

In conclusion, the woman mixes her ancestral knowledge with the popular beliefs that abound in Chiapas.

“In the hospital they connect you or they give you serum, that is cold and because the virus quickly eliminates the human being, is what I understand. And talking to the people who get out of it, many times they prefer to stay at home, where they know they will help them. (they will pamper) and they will prepare hot tea “, he explained.

In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in the Colombian Caribbean, indigenous communities organize so that the coronavirus does not reach the mountainous massif that they call the “heart of the world”.


Resorting to nature and ancient wisdom to protect themselves from disease is not exclusive to Mexico, as other peoples in Latin America carry out these practices.

In Ecuador, for example, a mixture of challua caspi bark, another of curi, llushtunda, musuwaska, ayahuasca, chuchuguaza, sacha garlic and ginger, which is boiled for 20 minutes or fermented in sugar cane liquor, is a remedy. natural protection for the population of Arajuno.

There are also those who believe that plant consumption will help to cope with this pandemic.

However, Rodrigo Henríquez, a researcher at the University of the Americas (UDLA), pointed out in a recent interview with Efe that there is “insufficient evidence”, neither for nor against, about the usefulness of these natural remedies to combat COVID -19.

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