Health and medicine among the ancient Maya was a complex blend of mind, body, religion, ritual and science. Important to all, medicine was practiced only by a select few, who generally inherited their positions and received extensive education. These shamans act as a medium between the physical world and spirit world. They practice sorcery for the purpose of healing, foresight, and control over natural events. Since medicine was so closely related to religion, it was essential that Maya medicine men had vast medical knowledge and skill. It is known that the Maya sutured wounds with human hair, reduced fractures, and were even skilled dental surgeons, making prostheses from jade and turquoise and filling teeth with iron pyrite.
In understanding Maya medicine, it is important to recognize that the Maya equated sickness with the captivity of one’s soul by supernatural beings, angered by some perceived misbehavior. For this reason, curing a sickness involved elements of ritual, cleansing and herbal remedy. Research of Maya ethno-medicine shows that though supernatural causes are related to illness, a large percentage of Maya medical texts are devoted to the treatment of symptoms based upon objective observations of the effects of certain plants on the human system. Herbal remedies were ingested, smoked, snorted, rubbed on the skin, and even used in the form of enemas to force rapid absorption of a substance into the blood stream. Cleansing techniques included fasting, sweating and purging flushed substances out of the body.
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... the most part, mind-altering substances were used in rituals by medicine men to achieve a higher state of consciousness or trance-like state ... In addition, as depicted in Maya pottery and carvings, ritual enemas were used for a more rapid absorption and effect of the substance ...
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“Good medicine is bitter to the taste.”