Friends of the Arboretum Lecture

"Q'eqchi' Maya Reproductive Ethnomedicine, Estrogenic Plant Use, and Women's Healing Traditions in Belize"
Jillian M. De Gezelle, Ph.D., Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Plant & Microbial Biology, NC State University

  • Thursday, March 19, 2015 – 7:30 pm9:00 pm

The Q'eqchi' Maya of Belize have an extensive pharmacopoeia of medicinal plants used traditionally for reproductive health and fertility. Ethnobotanical research with six traditional healers, three midwives, and 12 female herbalists determined that the Belizean Q'eqchi' are using more than 60 plant species for reproductive health treatments. Ten species used to treat female infertility, male infertility, menopausal symptoms, heavy menstruation, uterine fibroids, Q'eqchi' womb disorder, miscarriage prevention, female contraception, and male contraception were selected for investigation of their estrogenic activity using a reporter gene assay. Nine of the species assayed showed estrogenic activity, four also showed antiestrogenic activity, and two of the extracts were cytotoxic to the breast cancer cell line used in the assay. Women's healing traditions are being lost in the Q'eqchi' communities of Belize at an accelerated rate due to a combination of factors including: migration disrupting familial lines of knowledge transmission, perceived disapproval by biomedical authorities, women's limited mobility due to domestic obligations, and lack of confidence stemming from the devaluation of women's traditional knowledge. Q'eqchi' medicinal plant knowledge is highly gendered with women and men commonly using different plant species. Revitalizing women's healing practices is vital for maintaining the traditional knowledge needed to provide comprehensive healthcare for Belize's most remote indigenous populations.

About Jillian M. De Gezelle

Jillian De Gezelle is an ethnobotanist and Teaching Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at NC State University. Her research focuses on medicinal plants, systems of traditional medicine, and biocultural diversity conservation in the indigenous communities of Central America and the Caribbean. She joined the Plant Biology faculty at NC State in 2013 after completing her Ph.D. in plant sciences in a joint program between The New York Botanical Garden and The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Jillian currently teaches four ethnobotany courses at NC State—Medical Ethnobotany, Economic Botany, Plants and Civilization, and Plants in Folklore, Myth and Religion.

Free for Friends of the JC Raulston Arboretum members, NC State University students (with ID), and Department of Horticultural Science faculty and staff, all others $5.00.
Advance registration is not available.
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, North Carolina.
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Free parking is available at the JC Raulston Arboretum and along Beryl Road.
Please call (919) 513-7005 for more information about this lecture.