Mayan society is more than 3,000 years old. Interestingly, even in its most ancient days, it was much like our own society today. They had plentiful food and sophisticated health care.

Those in the medical professions, almost all of whom worked with herbs, described their research and findings in writing. With the advent of the Spanish conquerors and the establishment of the Catholic Church, those texts were burned by Bishop Landa, who wrote his own version of the culture of the Maya.

Today in Mexico, many in the history and medical professions are researching and experimenting to reproduce what was recommended in those texts.

Similarly, in terms of beauty and the struggle against aging, when the ancient Maya herbal healers combined various herbs and plants that produced facial benefits and other beauty enhancers, they recorded the successful results of the different combinations and uses.

Healing, thousands of years ago, was based upon faith and trust in the herbal healer. Illness was viewed as a spiritual disconnect, the lack of a spiritual and physical wholeness or the effect of succumbing to an untoward temptation.

Good health was a complex blend of mind, body, religion, ritual and science. Medical professionals generally inherited their positions and then received extensive additional education.

For example, the best of them sutured wounds with human hair; reduced fractures with bone setting; and some became skilled dental surgeons making prostheses from jade and filling deteriorating teeth with iron pyrite.

Herbal remedies were ingested in a variety of ways. Thereafter, the body and blood stream were cleansed by fasting, sweating and purging to flush the substances out of the body and reshape the newly cleansed spirit.

It’s worth noting that cleanliness was extremely important to Maya of all classes. No matter their profession or work, even the poorest sweated and bathed at least once a day. History tells us that one of the worst aspects of being conquered by the Spaniards was the way they smelled.

Rarely bathing and wearing unwashed clothes for months, they probably thought nothing of it. The Maya under their control could barely breathe.

Sweat baths, similar to saunas, were part of an important purification process for the Maya. Especially ornate baths for royalty have been unearthed by archaeologists at many Maya sites. One of the most impressive is in Guatemala.

Considering the self-described ferocity of the Spaniards, it’s amusingly ironic that the pungency of their awful odor was what the Maya found most threatening.

Needless to say, the conquerors had little interest in plants or herbal medicines. As herbal medicine became more sophisticated, plants and herbs were mixed with certain animal parts to cure specific illnesses.Pharmaceutical companies today copy some of their early mixtures.

Mind-altering substances, many of which are also used today, were not meant to cure disease but rather to relieve pain. That process was expected to restore harmony to the body.

Traditional healers lament these days that their profession is dying out. Young people believe university medical schools must be better and reject the healing knowledge of their forefathers.

Thanks in large part to the work of the Maya herbalists, modern chemists are learning more these days about herbs and how they affect the body. They are also recognising that the aging process is accelerated by the polluting chemicals of modern life. Most believe anti-oxidants can halt this process.

Given where they lived, a number of Mayan facial masques and washes are made from plants and trees of the southwest US and Central America.

One of the reasons for the emphasis on facial skin is that the ancient Maya not having diagnostic equipment, treated symptoms. An aging face, writing as one who has one, is pretty difficult to hide. Better to prevent and protect it.

Ancient beauty treatments that can be tried at home

Make an avocado face mask

Avocados were a highly revered part of the Mayan beauty regimen. Mash half a fresh ripe avocado and apply it evenly to your face. Leave it on for 20 minutes, and rinse it with tepid water. This mask is good for hydrating dry skin, and can be a helpful winter skin treatment.

Try rose hip seed oil for minor skin blemishes

Rose hip seed oil is a South American remedy for decreasing the signs of scars, aging, and uneven coloration of the skin. Find a commercial product made with the oil, or purchase it online and mix it with olive oil for a nightly facial treatment.

Mix chaparral and white sage to make a free radical fighter

Chaparral and white sage are both antioxidants that have the effect of inhibiting the growth of free radicals and destroying the ones that have already formed. To make a cleanser that works against them, mix a tablespoon of chaparral and a tablespoon of white sage. Combine them with a cup of cold water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, add one tablespoon of sunflower oil to the herbal solution, and shake thoroughly. Apply the solution with a cotton ball before bed for free radical control.

Use the renowned Mayan hair wrap

This hair mask is known throughout the world as a remedy for dry, damaged and lifeless hair. Combine half an avocado, one tablespoon of olive oil, half a banana and one egg yolk. Apply the mixture evenly to the hair, and wrap it with plastic or use a shower-cap. Allow the mixture to sit on your hair for at least an hour. Then, simply rinse, shampoo and style hair as usual. Use the entire avocado and banana when treating long hair.

Kill bacteria on your face with acacia

The herb acacia is an antibacterial and an astringent. Crush the dried herb into a powder and mix it with water to make an antibacterial wash to treat skin outbreaks. Mix with honey for a healing solution that can be applied for 20 minutes at a time.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us