Natural Healing — Jacaranda

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In April, the jacaranda blooms in Mexico announcing spring’s arrival. Originating in Bolivia and Argentina, the jacaranda can be found as an ornamental plant in most of the world these days. In fact, in some areas, it has been elevated to an invasive species

The purple flowers cluster in bunches which later are replaced by woody seed pods that resembles a crab shell that has flat seeds inside. The leaves are fern-like and resemble the mimosa which is where the jacaranda mimosifolia gets its second name.

The tree is exceptionally hardy. It with drought-resistant (a must for La Yacata), has very few pests or disease issues and even flourish in areas of extremely high pollution, like Mexico City where the jacaranda is iconic. These lovely trees can live up to 200 years.

Surprisingly, the leaves, barkand root are the components used medicinally most often rather than the flowers. The bark has a higher antioxidant composition than the leaves and may be useful in the prevention of oxidative stress induced and neurodegenerative diseases.

Extracts from these sections of the jacaranda have a high antimicrobial effect against Bacillus cereus and Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Extracts from the jacaranda mimosifolia have also shown to lower blood pressure.

The flowers from the jacaranda have the potential for use in the fight against cancer.

In Mexico, not only are extracts from different parts of the jacaranda used to treat wounds but in traditional medicine,  the jacaranda mimosifolia is used for dysentery and diarrhea as well as throat infections.

For sore throats or sores in the mouth, an infusion made from the roots is gargled. For the treatment of venereal diseases, a root infusion is drunk for 4 days in 4-ounce dosages. To make the infusion, soak a section of the bark for 10 hours, discard the bark and dilute the essential oil with water.

Infected wounds, acne, and skin sores can be washed with a jacaranda leaf infusion. Treatment for arthritis and rheumatism uses the same infusion as a muscle rub. To make the leaf infusion, use 30 grams of leaves per liter. Wounds can also be treated with a poultice of crushed leaves placed directly on the infected area.

Parasitic infections can be treated by combining spearmint and jacaranda leaves for a medicinal tea drunk for 7 days. Another tea concoction can be made with spearmint, epazote and jacaranda bark.

Although I found several forums where gardeners claimed that the jacaranda mimosifolia was toxic, I wasn’t able to verify that information with any botanical sources. The worst issue with this plant is the mess that the falling flowers create which when wet might cause treacherous road conditions.

Now, next time you are admiring your blooming jacaranda with your neighbor, you’ll be able to talk about its medicinal value too!

 

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Gimping Around

We have two males gimping around the place this week, my husband and Puppy. So here’s what happened.

Puppy barks at everyone as they go by the house, even if they are on the other road. That’s what he does. He’s gotten better about chasing motorcycles since he was run over, but if a motorcyclist kicks out at him or throws rocks, he goes ballistic.

We let the puppies out in the morning for a romp and walk around the block with me. About noon, the shade is gone and it isn’t fun to be out anymore, so we let them in the back. They enjoy the time outdoors but the barking is non-stop unless they find something dead to roll around in. That’s always a treat.

This particular morning, some jerk on a motorcycle decided to go down our road. Our road is the center road and he actually had to go out of his way to come down our road. In fact, the opposite road that is a straight shot to the main road is in much better condition. So it was with evil intent that this guy went down our road.

Anyway, this guy goes down the road, slows down in front of the house and kicks out at Puppy, sure to get a reaction. He then drives further and turns and starts chucking rocks. Rocks that he had already collected and had ready to throw, mind you. Puppy naturally gives chase and the guy runs over his foot, probably with the idea of squashing Puppy.

Now Puppy’s poor little foot is injured. He’ll be fine, but he is sure milking his injury for everything its worth. Maybe he’ll learn not to chase jerks on motorcycles, but probably not. My son had a stern talk with Puppy about chasing motorcycles and he just moaned and sighed with big sad puppy eyes. Then we accidentally got the wrong dog food, the ones with the green pieces, and his day was totally ruined.

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Now for my husband. He is currently working on a remodeling job. The owners are going to put a new floor in. Before that can be done, the old floor needs to have a myriad of holes hammered into it so that the new floor can be installed. My husband figured he’d speed up the process by using a drill with a disc on it.

For two days, this was working well. Then that morning, the disc broke off, flew up and sliced his knee. When he looked down, he could see all the way to the bone, so he decided he needed some medical attention.

He came all the way home for me because it’s mid-week and he didn’t have any money. We went to one of the consultation offices next to Farmacias Similares. We could have gone to CAISES and been covered by Seguro Popular, but you know how long that takes, and the blood from the gash was flowing.

We waiting about 10 minutes until the doctor could attend him. The first thing he said was that to stitch up the wound, the cost was $250. Ok, fine. A little steep, but not impossibly so.

The doctor went next door to the pharmacy for his supplies. As he was cleaning the wound, cutting the pant leg off and then stitching and wrapping the injury, he regaled us with all sorts of medical stories.

First, there was this guy who had gotten hit with a baseball. The area swelled. Someone told the guy to put warm water on it (which goes against everything I ever learned in first aid classes, but what do I know?). Anyway, the guy figured the warmer the better. So he boiled a pot of water and then poured it over the swollen area giving himself third-degree burns in the process. That’s when he decided it would be best to go see a doctor.

Then there was the accident that happened just a few weeks ago during Semana Santa. We have a shrine in a little town called Soledad to the Virgin de Soledad that people make pilgrimages to during Holy Week. So a mother and her three children, ages 3, 6 and 10, were returning home after visiting La Virgin. It was just starting to get dark.

A driver who had been in Huandacareo all day, lounging by the pool and drinking, was also returning home. He didn’t see the family. The mother managed to get her children out of the way but was hit by the car and killed. Our doctor at the clinic was the attending physician.

Then there was the little boy who had to have his fingers amputated. He was playing at Los Areas Verdes, a park with a small zoo. Apparently, there was a slide where one of the metal plates was bent up, fairly common on playgrounds here. The little guy was unattended because his parents were arguing. He was zipping down the slide too fast and tried to stop himself but sliced his hand. There was no way to save two of his fingers.

My husband has a huge fear of needles, so these stories distracted him while the anesthesia was administered and the wound sewn up. He needed 5 stitches. The doctor then wrote out a prescription for an antibiotic, antibiotic topical cream and some ibuprofen. Altogether, the medicines were nearly $200 pesos.

For comparative purposes, my husband makes $250 pesos per day. This minor injury cost us (or rather me since I paid from the grocery money) $450 pesos. He didn’t feel well enough to return to work that day and took the next day off as well. The stitches are right at the bend of his knee and the job he was doing meant he was all day on his knees. So he rested up.

He returned to work on the third day. He says he’s been “taking it easy” but his leg is red and swollen when he gets home every night. He needs to go back en 8 días (next week) to have the stitches removed. That will be another expense. He’ll be fine, but he is sure milking his injury for everything its worth. Maybe he’ll learn to take more safety precautions at work, but probably not. I had a stern talk with him about that while he just moaned and sighed with big sad eyes.

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Natural Healing–Corn Silk Tea

Corn (Zea mays)is high in fiber thus helpful for proper digestion. It is also high in B vitamins and we all know how good those are for you. It is especially high in niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamin.  

Zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese are found in corn. Corn is a good source for antioxidants including carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin which are good for your eyes. The kernels are rich in vitamin E which helps protect the body from illness and disease.

Corn oil and corn husk oil used for cooking have been shown to reduce cholesterol with regular use. A return to the traditional three sisters, (corn, beans, and squash) diet has been shown to reduce hyperglycemia-induced pathogenesis and associated complications linked to cellular oxidation stress and hypertension.

Some version of maíz can be found in nearly every meal of the day in Mexico. Atole for breakfast. Tortillas for lunch. Pozole, enchiladas, quesadillas, and tacos for dinner. Even snacks are corn. Elotes (corn on the cob) on a stick smothered in mayonnaise and chili powder are common evening edibles. A cup of maizena (corn starch) is just the thing before bed. Tortillas left over from lunch might be toasted into tostadas and enjoyed with any number of toppings.

It comes as no surprise that even the corn silk has value in Mexican culture. The caballitos de elote (little hairs of corn), also known as barbas de maíz (corn beard), are considered especially good for renal ailments.

My little green herb book, Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca, provides a recipe for a tea to be drunk at room temperature. Boil 15 grams of caballitos de elote in one liter of water, adding alfalfa or barley if desired. Drink three to four glasses throughout the day.

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Corn silk tea functions as an anti-inflammatory and diuretic, which of course supports the use of it in treatments for kidney issues. It also helps with water retention during PMS and is often given to the elderly to help with incontinence. PMS tea is made with dandelion leaves, barbas de maíz, and uva ursi.

Corn silk can be used topically to treat spider bites or other insect stings as an infusion to bring down the inflammation. This is for common bites or stings only. Poisonous spider bites or scorpion stings should be treated by a professional healthcare provider.

Corn silk tea is thicker than you might think and for all intents and purposes tastes like diluted corn starch. If your body is already low on potassium, drinking corn silk tea could make the problem worse since it primarily works as a diuretic.

Another precaution you should take is to ensure that the caballitos de elote should come from non-GMO, organically grown corn. Mexico has prohibited the planting of GMO corn but pesticide use is alive and well.

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Book Review — Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats compiled and edited by Janet Blaser

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Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats is a collection of 27 essays written by women who relocated to Mexico. Some of the women may be familiar names. Roxana Bangura from the Bangura Chronicles wrote about raising her daughter as a polyglot in Mexico. Holly Hunter, the better half of Dan Gair, wrote about her side of the Mexico Diaries adventures. Dianne Hofner Saphiere from VidaMaz wrote about not being in Kansas anymore.

The women were honest about the struggles they had to create the life they love in Mexico. All of the women told their stories from the “other side” after prevailing against discrimination, income loss, relationship challenges, and just plain ol’ culture shock. All in all, it’s an inspiring “happy expat” read.

My hope is that this book does two things_ That it inspires others who may be feeling an urge, an itch, something deep down that just won't go away, to live a different life, outside of the proverbial box, where happ.jpg

So why did these women leave their home countries? Some left because of the current political climate. Others left to provide life experiences for their children they would not otherwise have. Some women came for the culture, others for the cost of living. Some lost their marriages to Mexico, others found love and stayed.

What did these women find in Mexico? Purpose. Simplicity. Patience. Confidence. Seem like pretty good trade-offs to me.

I would have liked to have seen more stories from women who chose voluntary exile after their spouses were deported, but then perhaps they don’t fit the criteria of “expats”. Most of the women in this anthology were also living in areas full of gringos or small towns near those epicenters, San Miguel de Allende, Mazatlan, Lake Chapala, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and so on. Perhaps that’s the book I need to write…

Regardless, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats is an interesting collection and I’m sure you’ll love reading about the process of crafting a life you love in Mexico as told by these 27 brave women.

four stars

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