Holistic by its very nature, Maya medicine is classified as a medico-religious healing tradition, taking into account not only the physical ills of the body but the effects of the spirit – attitudes toward life and living, emotions such as grief, depression, anger, fright, etc., and recognizing how intertwined they are.
Fundamental to the medicine of the Maya is the concept of “Life force” or “ch’ulel” and is the First of the Six Principles of Maya Medicine. This Life Energy is everywhere and permeates everything – mountains, rivers, houses, plants, people – and is said to be from a divine, spiritual source. It has this in common with Eastern healing traditions where it is known as qi (or chi), ki and even prana. Ch’ulel binds everyone and everything together. It is a main goal for the Maya healer to balance the flow of ch’ulel in the body. Maya healers also maintain that praying directs ch’ulel to where it is needed.
The Second Principle is that there is no separation between the Body and the Soul, between the physical and spiritual realms. Ch’ulel means everything is inter-woven and inter-connected, that the physical and spiritual are only different ends of a continuum. It also means that medicine is actually all around us! Within this continuum are also spirits who can help in healing.
The Third Principle is the recognition of natural cycles and the veneration of plants. Maya healers talk with (as opposed to just talking to) plants, as do many herbalists in other traditions. The healer is chosen by certain plants and they develop a very special relationship. These particular plants then especially aid the healer in treating the sick, particularly in difficult cases.MAYAN-HEALER.jpgThe Fourth Principle recognizes that healing is an integrative, comprehensive approach, with everybody, including the healer, the patient, spirits, plants, etc. working together to bring about the healing. There is no single component more important than the other, and especially important is prayer.
The Fifth Principle is the Status of the Blood. As in Traditional Chinese Medicine for example, the use of pulses to determine imbalance is a central factor in diagnosis and treatment. It also helps distinguish between illnesses that are of physical versus spiritual (emotional) in origin and determines the consequent direction of treatment.
The Sixth Principle is that of Hot and Cold, which applies equally to illnesses, foods and plants. Fevers, diarrhea and vomiting are example of “hot” diseases –  while cramps, constipation and paralysis are examples of “cold” ones. Hot foods can be garlic, onions, pepper and ginger while cold foods would include cheese, for example. But the concept of Hot and Cold is most important in choosing plants to treat with, inasmuch as “hot” plants treat “cold” illnesses and vice-versa.
Maya healers maintain that many illnesses are a result of quick temperature changes, such as drinking “cold” drinks with “hot” foods. This can cause a shock to the system and result in gastro-intestinal problems.
Using these six primary principles and other techniques like cupping called ventosa (literally, “pulling out the wind”), use of the sastun (a stone or crystal that marks a healer as a h’men,  and is used by him or her to communicate with the Maya spirits), spirit guides, ritual and ceremony, incense, amulets, dream visions and soul retrieval by shamanic journeying.

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