A team of researchers led by Iandra Holzmann has discovered that the rare, nearly extinct tree Bourreria huanita that grows in Mesoamerica and was used ritually by the Mexica and Maya cultures has medicinal properties that exhibit sedative, antidepressant and hypnotic activities in mice. According to these scientists, “Ethnobotanical surveys conducted in Guatemala have shown that the infusion of dried flowers is popularly used as a tranquilizer, to cure heart diseases and high blood pressure, as an analgesic, and as an antiseptic, mainly for skin complaints.” The innovative and inspiring pollen analysis research conducted by Cameron L. McNeil indicates that “the white fragrant flowers of this tree were associated with the dead and used by the Mexica of highland Mexico as offerings in temples, in sacred gardens, as medicine, in cacao beverages, and as garlands to adorn individuals for sacred rites.” She goes on to characterize ancient use of this species in the following way: “Bourreria is also tied to blood in many of its medicinal uses, and the plant may have been used to heal the wounds of autosacrifice.” In addition, McNeil also asserts: “Current evidence indicates that Bourreria is the most important ritual flower of the Maya to have been forgotten or lost in the time since the conquest.”
Bourreria huanita is an endangered species that is extremely difficult to propagate. This tree is one of perhaps two in all of Honduras and is located in an inner patio in the San Miguel Cathedral in Tegucigalpa. Esthela Calderón says that she spoke to the people who clean the enclosed area where this ancient Esquisúchil is protected. They told her that they won’t sweep the area in the very early hours at dawn during the months when the tree is in bloom because the intense fragrance of the flowers causes dizziness. Thanks to conservationists, more of these trees survive in Guatemala, especially in Ciudad Antigua.