Jonotla, whose name means “the place where the jonote tree abounds,” is the new home of the Himalayan Institute Mexico. The HIM staff found it quite fitting to discover that the jonote is an important tree known for its healing properties.
When a bit of the dappled, light bark of the jonote is scraped away, a sticky, green paste is revealed. This paste is applied as a topical ointment to skin rashes, burns, cuts, and bruises. In a society of hard laborers, it is an instant first aid treatment for people working in the field. The heartwood of the tree has also been used traditionally to make containers for storing crops and food.
The jonote is only one of dozens of local plants whose traditional uses and medicinal benefits are still employed today. In Mexico, the majority of traditional herbs are wildcrafted—harvested from the forest and fields, rather than cultivated in nurseries and on farms. However, as the demand for Mexican herbs increases, those herbs which are typically harvested from the wild are becoming depleted, and in some cases are now in danger of extinction. The preservation of these plant populations, as well as the indigenous knowledge and culture surrounding the herbs, depend in large part on bringing these plants into cultivation.
Talkampa is one group that is dedicated to protecting medicinal plants, the natural environment, and the culture and practitioners of traditional medicine. Based in Cuetzalan, a town about 45 minutes from Jonotla, this group of 28 healers provides traditional treatments for physical and mental illnesses, which include herbs, physical therapy, massage and prayer. HIM staff and project supporters met with members of the cooperative to learn about their practices and the important medicinal plants of the area.
Cooperation and the mutual exchange of knowledge with groups such as Talkampa help to preserve indigenous wisdom and culture. And the Energy Farming program will help to preserve the traditional plants by growing and replicating them on its farm in Jonotla. With time, it is hoped that the sustainable cultivation of such plants will provide an environmentally and economically sound enterprise for local farmers, as well as support traditional curanderos, like those at Talkampa. Where better to do this than under the canopies of the jonotes?