MEXICO CITY – The variety of medicinal plants to be found in Mexico is immense, totaling more than 3,000 different species, something that makes pharmacological analysis of them all difficult and provides the perfect justification for the rejection of their curative properties by established medical authorities.
Francisco Basurto, a biologist on the science faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told EFE that, despite the fact that the medicinal use of the plants has been promoted for generations, especially in rural communities, “from the point of view of Western medicine, they have always been rejected due to the lack of scientific validation” of their curative properties.
That results in a paradox, given that many long-patented medicines are derived from some of those very plants.
“The validation we have in the continuing use. We have accounts from the 16th century that tell us of the use of (these) medicinal plants,” he said. “If they have persisted for all these centuries, it means that they have validity.”
It is necessary to differentiate among the various definitions of health to understand the discrepancies between learned medical society and long-standing cultural tradition.
“The concept of health and sickness that native civilizations may have had isn’t the same as that of (modern) medicine ... There are maladies that have to do with the world view of earlier peoples, which are analogous with physical maladies but which are not recognized as such by established medicine,” he said.
In Mexican culture, it is common to find ailments that really affect one’s state of health, although “university doctors do not recognize them or know how to cure them, in any case,” he added.
Although the curative properties of some plants are well-known, most of them would need to be subjected to rigorous chemical analysis to be able to reconcile their traditional folk uses with the requirements of modern medicine.