The Mayan civilization of Central America was very advanced in its use of herbs for medicine and religion. Most of the herbs the Mayans used were from the Central American region. It has been found that they did have a large amount of trade and had access to trade from all the way into the deserts of what is now Mexico, parts deep in the Central American jungles, and around the coastal areas. The Mayans were also very skilled cultivators and had extensive knowledge of growing seasons and plant cultivation techniques.

mayan, temple, central america

In the Mayan culture, sickness and misfortune was believed to be caused by bad spirits. Many of the treatments involved cleansing and banishing the sickness away. Herbs were a main tool in these treatments and rituals.

The Mayans were known to use a variety of herbal plants in daily life and for medicine such as chili peppers. Chili peppers can be used to rid the body of intestinal worms and parasites, which are very common in that part of the world. They are also useful in many cold and flu remedies and are believed to ward off evil spirits.

Cacao or the cocoa plant was also used by the Mayans. Archaeologists have found cacao in jars that have been dug up in old Mayan ruins. They have also found references of its use in hieroglyphics.

Tobacco has been found in the history of the Mayans and a good amount of snuff tubes have also been found. It is believed that the tubes were used in rituals and that the tobacco was used in doses so high that they could even induce visions and mind altering experiences.

The Mayans were also known to use mind altering religious substances such as psilocybin mushrooms. There have been many hieroglyphics and statues found with mushrooms on them. There are also records from some of the first Spanish priests of the use of the mushrooms (which they tried to stop).

Morning glory seeds have also been found to be used by the Mayans. Morning glory seeds contain chemicals that are related to LSD and can produce visions and mind-altering experiences.

I don’t think there is a lot of real hard evidence that the Mayans used Peyote, but it is believed they did have trade routes that extended in to the area the peyote grows. Being connoisseurs of herbs and medicines, it would reason that the Mayans would have had Peyote when the opportunity arose.

The history and knowledge we know about the Mayan culture comes from archaeological finds and clues, and a little bit comes from early records about the culture and religion noted by some of the first Spanish priests. Much of the knowledge of herbal use has been lost because the Mayans civilization seemed to deteriorate and collapse at some period. The little that was left of the culture spread out into small tribes and villages. When the Spanish came to the area, the Mayans were made to give up their beliefs and convert to Christianity. In doing so, the old ways and religions had to be done in secret or the people would be punished and icons destroyed.

The Mayan history and records we have today are small and full of speculation. It is sad to think about the treasures of centuries of herbal knowledge that were lost when the Mayan civilization collapsed, then was repressed, and now modernized and lost forever.