When Mayans met Acupuncturists – April 2012
Acupuncturists Treat 1,000 Patients in Santa Cruz del Quiche, Zacualpa and San Filipe
Meetings with Remarkable Mayans
According to “Wind in the Blood,” the 1999 study done with Mayan healers in Chiapas Mexico, they call their needling technique “Jup.” Curanderos use wood, teeth, bones, and quills to stimulate specific locations on the body. Like the Chinese, Mayan’s body image includes “energy” channels with a flow that can be blocked or opened. They, also, share more than 50 identical needling points and beliefs that disease can originate from evil eyes, imbalances in cold/hot and that a lack of Ool, the Wind of Life (their equivalent of Chi) is a malefactor.
“Wind in the Blood’s” authors were careful to neither rank nor to force comparisons between the schemes. They were there to catalogue what they found. The scope of that work left little time to speculate about the commonalities. Both societies are agrarian and, of necessity, developed a cosmogony with sophisticated calendars (for planting, etc.) and created a disease classification based on the physical universe. The theory behind “1421 the Year the Chinese Discovered America,” might easily explain the congruencies. However, Gavin Menzies’ (2002) tempting history that there was actual contact with Admiral Zhang’s fleet has yet to be verified. And, absent a definitive Codex, we will have to continue to wonder even as medical anthropologists try to piece the indigenous forms back together by observation.
Mayan’s faith in needles is so profound that they routinely prefer injections over pills. Such trust in the needle’s authority makes Mayans ideal patients (and students) for the type of popular, rural medicine practiced by “Barefoot Doctors.” During Chairman Mao’s time, farmers would receive six months of training. The good news is that it takes much less time to teach more modern and limited applications.
Joan Boccino, MS, L.Ac. who organized the medical mission, sees the NADA protocol as good offering. ”We can’t train people in the complete diagnostic and treatment procedures in Chinese medicine because that normally takes years. But, we can teach some simple protocols that will allow for some local continuity of care between the larger clinical jornadas.” She went on to explain that NADA was originally developed to treat addictions but is also now commonly used to treat Post-traumatic stress disorders. It can also be helpful in the treatment of a wide variety of complaints where differential diagnosis is not possible.
NOTE: NADA is the acronym for the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association.
At the BFCP acupuncture Jornada Peter Pankin and Yefim Gamgoneishvili trained twelve health promoters to needle the five detoxifying ear points mapped from Chinese Medicine: Sympathetic, Shen Men (Heaven’s Gate), Kidney, Liver, and Lung.
Sister Ginny had immediately grasped that NADA and moxibustion could provide a cost effective remedies for Quiche’s indigenous people. They live in this rugged highland District where everyone regularly endures deadly floods, earthquakes and mudslides. Besides these threats, the Maya, like their Native Americans cousins to the North, are genetically prone to diabetes and alcoholism. The Sisters of Charity agreed that training midwives and curanderos in Traditional Chinese Medicine is safe, right and good.