Lots of medical potential in the Neotropical seasonal rain forests, fields

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Even in the swamps, even in the deserts; also in the mountains so high that almost no trees grow: in every eco-system you can find medicinal plants. After all, there were Mayan, Xinca, and other cultures thriving in Guatemala for thousands and thousands of years before the Spanish conquest.

There are many capable Guatemalan biologists who have published helpful articles and monographs on medicinal plants. We interact with biologist Armando Caceres and he has provided hospitality at his ethnobotanical research garden in the Costa Sur area of Guatemala. We recently met a local medical doctor who had an interest in local medical plants (he was sitting in the same row on a recent plane to USA). Where we at FLAAR can contribute is our experience with high-resolution digital photography to document the medical plants before they are exterminated by open pit mining, commercial plantations of modern agro-business, housing developments, and all the other unfortunate kinds of decimation of natural resources which is taking place in every country on the planet.

Crotalaria longirostrata chipilin FLAAR garden Westcott Sep 27 2015 NH-Stacck-Focus-WEB

Crotalaria longirostrata, popularly known as chipilin, has multiple uses so is commonly found in gardens throughout Guatemala. One species or variety grows to the size of a tree, and large bushes of a Crotalaria species are common along the highway leading up to Senahu, Alta Verapaz.

Our ability to do high-quality photographs is because we raise these plants in the garden surrounding our photo studio. But to have space to raise all 300 to 400 medicinal plants of the Maya and Xinka of Guatemala would require larger area, hence funding would definitely help

Our long range goals is to move forward on the medical potential of Mayan medicinal plants

To have all our information, our field experience, our unprecedented photographic archive, available to a medical association, or to a medical university, or to a pharmaceutical company so they can learn and utilize this knowledge to advance modern medical breakthroughs. Any university, institute, association, foundation, or company who funds the project will be provided the information in advance, plus will have access to learn personally from our staff about our findings.

Once the material is harvested, and available to the benefactor, it would he useful to have the photographs available for professors around the world, organized by the experienced graphic designers of the FLAAR Reports team, to offer PowerPoint format presentations, each plant, species by species. These PPT and PDF presentations can carry the logo of the sponsoring and supporting funder of the photographic rescue of medicinal plants of Guatemala.

To have available for professors, students, medical teams, bibliographies on each medicinal plant, so they can more quickly learn about each plant. These bibliographies would be delivered to the funder of the project.

To list and indicate which medical plants and which eco-systems are endangered, so these plants and eco-systems can be more thoroughly explored while they still exist (before they are obliterated by bulldozers).

And equally important, to preserve the Mayan heritage of what was available to them for several thousand years.

It is also useful to provide knowledge of what medicinal plants are in national parks, to help attract more tourists to see their remarkable flowers. Millions of tourists visit Costa Rica for plants and animals. But Guatemala is focused on the beautiful Lake Atitlan, awesome Mayan ruins, colonial Spanish architecture of Antigua Guatemala, and cultural heritage of Chichicastenango. More tourists will come, and return, to Guatemala if there are additional exciting, educational and innovative things to see and learn about. Plus, we are inspired to cooperate with other entities in Guatemala to create a monumental Mayan Medicinal Botanical Garden. There are many small private medicinal gardens that we have visited. Our concept is different: first, organized for both students and tourists but most important, organized by genus, species, plant family, and treatment usages with Mayan and Xinca names. Naturally this garden could have the world recognize the sponsoring funder.

Another potential are photo exhibits, and not just in Guatemala. The quality of photos produced by Sofia Monzon and Nicholas Hellmuth are at a level of international quality.

Plus, since Dr Hellmuth has been a professor of photography, he would enjoy helping students and interested lay people learn what equipment and what techniques result in the remarkable quality he and Sofia are able to produce. There are millions of people around the world interested in flowers and additional millions interested in photography. So the potential of this project is impressive.

Our goal is not to suggest returning to using pre-Columbian medicine; our interest is to preserve this knowledge while improving the potential of modern laboratory-based medicine. At the same time, it helps to be realistic, to comprehend that there are many aldeas and communities which are so far from any pharmacy that any slogans about modern medicine in these remote areas are wishful thinking.

In these remote areas, thousands of people, still today, depend on local plants for survival. We aspire to preserve this heritage of Mayan herbal medicine. After all, if you look at the background of modern clinical medicine, I estimate a lot came from plants of Egypt and the Middle East, Greece, Roman Empire, and Asia.

So we look forward to medical breakthroughs today from the plants of Mesoamerica of three thousand years of Mayan development in Guatemala.

unknown lavender FLAAR Westcott Sigma Sep 26-27-28 2015 NH-StackFocus-2-WEB.jpg

Two photographs of a medicinal plant in our in-house ethnobotanical research garden. The depth of field, and the visibility of the fine hair-like wisps, is due to stacked focus technology, software, and the kind of lighting we specialize in (Westcott digital fluorescent studio lights). Camera is a 36 megapixel Nikon D810

Documentation of our experience searching, and finding, medicinal plants in Mesoamerica

Here are the front covers of a sample of the medicinal plant species which we have already found. The purpose of showing these is to document that we have experience in remote eco-systems throughout Guatemala and adjacent countries.

These are only front covers: funding is needed to finish the bibliographies, tabulation of uses, list of all common names of Mayan medicinal plants (names in Q’eqchi’ and the dozen other viable Mayan languages of Guatemala).


Each of these front covers represents a chapter in a future multi-volume book on the estimated 300 to 450 medicinal plants of Guatemala.

You can also check our Bibliography on Mayan Medicinal Plants on our Maya-Art-Books site.


First posted September 28, 2015

PNYNN and Livingston reports

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We are dedicated to continue to be a source of information and education about flora and fauna of Mesoamerica today that is related to Classic Maya civilization 2000 years ago.

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