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Despite its small size, Belize is an ecologically and culturally diverse Central American nation. Over 3,400 species of plants can be found here, growing within a diversity of ecological habitats. Many of the plants of Belize have a long history of being used by local people, with properties that have served traditional herbal healers of the region as well as those who use plants as food, forage, fiber, ornament, in construction and ritual, along with many other purposes.

With Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize, Drs. Michael Balick and Rosita Arvigo give us the definitive resource on the many species of plants in Belize and their folklore, as well as the natural history of the region and a detailed discussion of “bush” uses of plants, including for traditional healing and life in the forest, past and present. The book has been decades in the making, a culmination of a biodiversity and ethnobotanical research project that The New York Botanical Garden and collaborators have had in motion since 1987. This partnership with local plant experts and traditional healers has produced a fascinating discussion of the intersection of herbal medicine and spiritual belief in the area, and interviews with these local experts are used to complement and contextualize the numerous species accounts presented. The book is both a cultural study and a specialized field guide; information is provided on the fascinating traditional and contemporary uses of many different native and introduced plants in Belize. Richly illustrated with over 600 images and photographs, Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize is the primary reference and guide to the ethnobotany of Belize.


Dr. Michael J. Balick is the Vice President for Botanical Science and Director & Philecology Curator of the Institute of Economic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Dr. Rosita Arvigo is a naprapathic physician with a clinical practice in Belize.

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