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Research Papers on the Medicinal Practices of the Aztecs

Research papers on the medicinal practices of the Aztecs focus on the early civilization and their use of nature to heal. Paper Masters custom writes projects on alternative medicine, the history of medicine and various civilization's use of nature to cure sickness and disease.

Because of the lack of a written tradition among the Aztec empire that allows a full reconstruction of their society, the understanding of their medicinal practices are primarily based on the writings of European observers and archaeological evidence.  As a result, there remains a degree of controversy regarding the exact nature of Aztec medicinal practices as well as the understanding of medicine in their culture.  Medicinal Practices of the AztecsWhile the evidence indicates that the Aztecs employed a wide variety of medicinal herbs in the treatment of disease and infirmities that have a measure of effectiveness by modern standards, the relationship between priests, religion, women and healing in Aztec society remains unclear.  Some historians and modern herbal practitioners contend that Aztec medicinal practices were incorporated into the post-Aztec Hispanic culture of Mexico and continue to be followed today. This position, however, does not conform with the anthropological understanding of the process of syncretism that occurs when cultures merge, which makes it difficult to sort the traditional Aztec practices and medical perceptions from those that developed in the years after the Spanish conquest due to the interaction of Aztec and European cultures.

Much of the direct knowledge that we have regarding Aztec medical practices comes from an illustrated treatise known as the Libellus, written in Mexico City at the Colegio de Santiago de Tlatelolco in 1554.  This was after the fall of the Aztec Empire to the Conquistadors, but sufficiently close to the event to be regarded as a contemporaneous source.  It was written by a Native American scholar at the College, and presumably was tainted by the European perception that the Aztec medical practices were akin to witchcraft and superstition.  This European concept was particularly emphasized in the spiritual healing aspects of Aztec medicine. 

Based on various European sources and to some degree on archaeological evidence, it is possible to categorize 118 medicinal preparations used by the Aztecs as remedies for a variety of illnesses and disorders.  Some of these included:

  1. Sap from the maguey plant
  2. Burnt plants for medicine
  3. Yauhtli plant
  4. Izatauhyatl plant

While the majority of medicinal preparations were derived from plants, the Aztecs also used pastes and potions made from insects and even from snake venom. This suggests that the Aztecs had a highly developed understanding of the way that natural substances interacted with the body and had developed a wide body of medicinal lore.

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