Amate as a medicinal plant

Some Ficus trees have medicinal properties, but the Ficus species are best known for the bark paper which is still produced today in several areas in Mexico. So this page introduces the fig trees for bark paper. We will cover medicinal uses in future projects.

Other trees besides amate are also suitable for bark paper

Lopez reports that Trema macrantha, jonote, also can produce paper. This tree also occurs in Guatemala and is used to make cordage (Parker 2008:928). Poulsenia armata is used to make bark paper by the Lacandon Maya of Lowland Chiapas (probably based on Fredrick 2004:24). A PhD dissertation lists Chichicastle, Urera species, as another potential source Maya 2011:143). If this is Chichicaste, it’s one of the most poisonous plants to bump into when hiking through the forests or fields of Mesoamerica.

Robles (2011:Cuadro-Anexo 2, page 216) gives a list of five Ficus species and eight other species, citing Lopez 2004 and AMACUP 1998. In addition to the fig trees the list includes

  • Brosimum alicastrum Swartz.
  • Morus celtidifolia H.B.K
  • Myriocarpa cordifolia Liebm.
  • Sapium aucuparium Jacq.
  • Trema macrantha (L.) Blume
  • Ulmus mexicana (Liebm) Planch
  • Urera caracasana (Jacq.)Griseb.
  • Her Cuardo 24 (page 76) gives additional plants “with fiber”
  • Heliocarpus donnell-smithii (E. Ex.)
  • Heliocarpus appendiculatus (E.ex.)
  • Sapium oligoneuron (R)
  • Triumfetta sp.(E. Ex.)
  • Trichospermum mexicanum (E. Ex.)

So far, not one single study of amate paper focuses on the Maya areas of Guatemala, Belize, or Honduras. A few studies do mention bark paper made by the Maya of Lowland Chiapas (the Lacandon Maya), but that is as close to Guatemala as anyone comes (The Lacandon live a few kilometers on the Mexican side of the Usumacinta River). So there is not yet (at least none that I have found) which lists which trees of Guatemala can produce amate paper.

So I made a tabulation of the Mexican trees and checked in the comprehensive “Trees of Guatemala” by Tracey Parker to see which of these trees could be found in Guatemala.

Altogether I have harvested the names of eight Ficus trees. But since the names of trees change every few years as new information is known about their DNA, its tough to know which names are just synonyms.

Scientific name

Local name

 

Other uses

Synonyms

Ficus calyculata

 

Not in Parker 2008

   

Ficus cotinifolia

 

Parker 2008:559

Also as medicine

 

Ficus goldmanii

amate

Parker 2008:560

   

Ficus involuta

 

Not in Parker 2008

   

Ficus padifolia

 

Not in Parker 2008

   

Ficus pertusa

Amate, cush, matapalo, capulin

Parker 2008:563

 

Ficus ligustrino

Ficus petiolaris

amate amarillo

Not in Parker 2008

   

Ficus tolucensis

 

Not in Parker 2008

   
         

Brosimum alicastrum

Ramon, breadnut

Parker 2008:554

Edible fruit and seeds

 

Morus celtidifolia

 

Parker 2008:566

Edible fruit, mora

 

Myriocarpa cordifolia

 

Other species in Guatemala: P 2008:935

 

Poulsenia armata

 

Parker 2008:566,  usable for bark paper

 

Sapium aucuparium

 

Other species in Guatemala: P 2008:290

 

Trema macrantha

jonote

Another species in Parker 2008:928, for cordage

 

Ulmus mexicana

Duraznillo, Mescal, Muyaul

Parker 2008:929

medicinal

 

Urera caracasana

chichicaste

Parker 2008:937

No useful info on any uses

 

Ulmus mexicana and Trema macrantha are in the same family Ulmaceae.

Brosimum alicastrum, Poulsenia armata,and Morus celtidifolia are in the same family as Ficus: Moraceae.

Myriocarpa longipes is called Chichicaste, same name as Urera caracasana. Both are in the same family: Urticaceae.

It is hardly a coincidence that Sapium trees are also called Amate and even matapalo, though Parker suggests these are erroneous. But if they share enough features to Ficus to make cloth, I wold no be surprised that local people would give them a similar name.

What is definitely needed is for a botanist or ethnobotanist to make a list of all Guatemalan species which are potentially usable to make bark paper, but which are not common in Mexico. Then do the same for Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and the rest of Mesoamerica, since this bark can also be used to make cloth-like material for clothing.

Our long range goal at FLAAR Mesoamerica is to assist local villages harvest Maya-related plants

Rather than chopping down all the trees to plant foreign teak or Brazilian rubber or African palm oil trees, it would be nice to save more of the seasonal rain forest by careful harvesting of indigenous natural products.

The production and sale of bark paper to tourists in Mexico is a “million-dollar industry.” There is zero harvest of bark paper anywhere that I have seen in Guatemala. Yet there are a dozen trees in Guatemala whose bark could be used.

An essential first step, before submitting a grant proposal, is to do initial research and prepare a project plan. So a first step is to make a list of the pertinent trees which potentially can produce bark paper. It turns out that none of the local trees are really used to make paper. At most some local people elsewhere in Central America may make cordage out of one or two of these trees.

So there is significant opportunity in Guatemala

 

A Bibliography is available on our Maya bibliography web site

 

More FREE DOWNLOADS

706082 D PES 2014 solvent eco solvent printers full exhibitor list Part I
Articles by FLAAR Reports for REVUE Magazine

If you wish to donate your library on pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and related topics, FLAAR will be glad to receive your library and find a good home for it. Contact:

[email protected]

FOODS OF THE MAYA ROOT CROPS

Q’eqchi’-Spanish-English Dictionary Segments

2012 Prophecies of the end Mayan calendar

3D Scanning Equipment Reviews For Field Work

GigaPan Epic Pro System

Bibliography Mayan dye colorants

TECHNOLOGY, BOOK REVIEWS on Digital Imaging, especially 3D

Private Museums of Mayan Archaeology

Ixchel

Suchitepequez

Agriculture, diet, food

Maya Vase Rollouts

Minerals & Stones Pre-columbian Mesoamerica

Maya ethnohistory

Mayan languages of Guatemala

Museums of Mayan Archaeology

Carlos Pellicer, Tabasco

Lectures on Maya topics Now available

Travel / Hotels

Guatemala City

Chichicastenango

Baja Verapaz

Additional links of our FLAAR sites

Archaeology of Iran

Visit other FLAAR sites

Flora and fauna

Educational Books