Zapote blanco (Casimiroa edulis) is a tree native to Mexico and Central America. In Nahuatl, it is known as cochizapotl, cochiz-xihuitl or Iztactzopotl which translate as sleep fruit. In Maya, it is called yuy. Other names in Spanish are matasano sapote, sapotilla, chapote, and zapote dormilón.
The tree bears a sweet fruit with a soft seedy white inside and green skin similar in appearance to an apple. Traditionally, the leaves are used as a sedative to treat nervous disorders and insomnia and to lower blood pressure. Studies have shown that the leaves and seeds are anti-hypertensive, supporting their use in the treatment of high blood pressure. This plant has also been determined to have anti-anxiety and sedative effects. It’s one of the ingredients in my favorite “relaxante” tea.
The leaves and fruit are also used to reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and empacho (stomach upset). Francisco Hernández de Toledo mentions in the Florentine Codex that zapote blanco was used to treat diarrhea in infants and calmed children’s upset stomachs caused by excess gas. The seeds have hypnotic and aphrodisiac effects. The leaves are applied as a poultice for wound treatment. Powder made from ground seeds is used to treat skin infections.
The fruit has been shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties. Infusions made from the leaves work well as an anti-depressant. Leaf extracts from the zapote blanco are anti-cancer in nature, inhibit HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, and are potentially anti-epileptic.
Zapote blanco leaves are also used in a cleansing wash for women post-delivery in some areas of Mexico. The leaves are combined with romero (rosemary) and pirul (Schinus molle) and the woman bathes using the infused water for 3 or 4 days after giving birth. Another purification treatment involves brushing a bundle of leaves still attached to the stems across the body of a person who wishes to be cleansed in the temazcal (steam bath).
The leaves are cooked and ingested as a vegetable to treat diabetes in some areas. The Otomí ingest cooked leaves as a treatment for anemia, called el iztaquiotl.
Leaves added to a warm bath used to to treat body pain and fever. For arthritis pain, the branches, leaves, and seeds are made into an infusion. The root from the zapote blanco tree is used as an effective wash to treat gonorrhea in Guatemala. Zapote blanco should not be used during pregnancy as it can cause uterine contractions.
Zapote Leaf Insomnia Tea
- 10-20 leaves from Zapote blanco (Casimiroa edulis)
Boil in ½ liter of water. Strain. Drink one cup an hour or two before bed after the last meal of the day.
Zapote Leaf Blood Pressure Decoction
- 25 Zapote blanco leaves (Casimiroa edulis)
- 15 chayote leaves (Sechium edule)
Boil 10 minutes in 1 liter of water. Strain and sweeten with honey.
Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.