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Abstract Detail

Society for Economic Botany/BSA Economic Botany Section

De Gezelle, Jillian M. [1], Mahady, Gail [2].

Phytoestrogen Use in Q'eqchi Maya Fertility Regulation and Reproductive Ethnomedicine in Southern Belize.

Introduction: The Q'eqchi Maya of Belize have an extensive traditional pharmacopoeia of plants used for reproductive health and fertility regulation. Such plants provide compelling leads for compounds with novel hormone-mimicking bioactivity. These plant-based medicines have wide-reaching therapeutic potential including protection from reproductive cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, as well as the treatment of menopausal symptoms and infertility. Objectives: This study was conducted in conjunction with the Belize Indigenous Training Institute (BITI) in the hopes of comprehensively documenting traditional treatments for reproductive health, and revitalizing traditional Maya medicine in Belize. BITI shares an interest in further validating Q'eqchi traditional wisdom through verification of medicinal qualities of their plant medicines. Methodology: Semi-structured interviews, forest and home garden interviews, photo elicitation, and plant collections were used to collect data with 32 Q'eqchi adults over 18 months of fieldwork in Belize between 2007 and 2010. Ten plant species were collected to assay for estrogenic activity. A total of thirteen methanol extracts were tested using a reporter gene assay at the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research. Results: The Belizean Q'eqchi utilize at least 70 plant species in 35 families for 47 conditions related to reproductive health. The highest numbers of species were used to treat heavy menstruation, for use as contraception, to treat infertility, for use during pregnancy, and for treating menopause. In addition to medicinal plants, healers use massage, prayer, and ritual in their ethnomedical treatments. Of the 13 extracts assayed, 11 displayed estrogenic activity and 2 were cytotoxic. Discussion: Traditional Q'eqchi medicine maintains the use of hormone-mimicking plants for the treatment of reproductive ailments and for fertility regulation. However, there has been an accelerated loss of women's traditional knowledge in particular, due to several cultural, socioeconomic, and geographic factors. Validation of the efficacy of these plants will aid in returning prestige to this rich system of traditional medicine and revitalizing endangered healing traditions in Belize.

Broader Impacts:

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1 - The New York Botanical Garden, Institute of Economic Botany, Bronx, NY, 10458, USA
2 - University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Pharmacy Practice, 833 S Wood Street, Chicago, IL, 60612, USA

Traditional Medicine
Doctrine of Signatures
Reproductive Health

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 02
Location: Maryland Room/Chase Park Plaza
Date: Monday, July 11th, 2011
Time: 8:15 AM
Number: 02002
Abstract ID:747

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