Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Beadvine or Rosary Pea, ABRUS PRECATORIUS

from the May 23, 2010 Newsletter issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort beside Chichén Itzá Ruins, central Yucatán, MÉXICO

On the trail to the organic garden suddenly I've begun spotting BB-size, spherical things that really show up on the shadowy forest floor because the look like bright red eyeballs with large, black pupils, as shown below:

Beadvine or Rosary Pea, ABRUS PRECATORIUS

Those are beans falling from clusters of pods adorning a ferny-leafed, somewhat woody vine climbing high into a big Piich tree. They're beans because the vine is a member of the Bean Family. Sometimes it's called Beadvine or Rosary Pea. It's ABRUS PRECATORIUS. You can see a small part of the vine about 20 feet up at the top of this page.

The beans are said to be poisonous. Still, they're hard and last for a long time so people string them to make necklaces and bracelets. The leaves have a grassy-licorice flavor.

Beadvine is a widely distributed species in much of the New World Tropics and because of its pretty seeds a well-known species. With the seeds being so unusual I figured the Maya would have a special use for the plant, and I was right. My shaman friend José, who calls the plant Oxó, told me all about it.

He says that when an adult works out in the sun and gets all hot and thirsty, if he goes home and happens to look at an infant, that infant might get sick. Diarrhea, vomiting, whatever. The problem is that out in the fields the sun's energy builds up in the adult and when the adult carries that energy home it can be bad energy. Then the adult has the ojo malo, the "evil eye," and you can hurt an infant just by looking at it.

When this happens, take the leaves (not the fruits) of Beadvine, combine them with leaves of Ruda (Common Rue) and tobacco and brew a tea, add some alcohol, and bathe the infant in it. It'll undo the evil eye.

Another Maya friend, Fernando, told me that really there are two kinds of this form of evil eye. One comes from someone getting hot and thirsty out in the sun, but a drunk looking at a little kid can cause the same kind of damage.

I've heard José talk enough about these matters to know that the root of the problem is "disequilibrium." In one case, the sun's energy being stored up is not counterbalanced by anything inside the person, so things get unbalanced inside. In the other case, the drunk loses parts of himself, messing up his natural inner balance.

How wonderful that the Maya can cure such mysterious problems thanks to a simple little vine who drops flaming red eyeballs onto the forest trail to remind us that's it's always there, ready to help us when the evil eye enters our lives.