Zacate limón (Cymbopogon citratus) is also known as té de limón, limoncillo, limonaria, hierba de limón, cedrón pasto, pasto de limón and lemongrass. It’s uncertain when zacate limón arrived in Mexico. Some sources claim that Francisco Hernández mentions it in his book about Mexican indigenous remedies. However, I was unable to verify that. The word zacate comes from the Nahuatl term zacatl which means grass. Since limónes aren’t native to Mexico and weren’t found in the country until after the Spanish conquest, it’s not a term that is found in Nahuatl and none of the zacatl terms in Hernández’s writings match the description of zacate limón. Therefore, it’s probable that zacate limón is another herb brought by the Spanish friars.
Zacate limón has antiamoebic, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, antifungal, antimalarial, anti-inflammatory, antiparasitic, antibiofilm, antimutagenic, anticancer, antitumor, and antimycobacterial properties. It also contains antioxidants and functions as a neuroprotective and vasorelaxant agent. It is an effective botanical insecticide as well.
Traditionally, zacate limón is used to lower blood pressure, reduce muscle pain and migraines, treat colds, fungal infections, and diarrhea. A daily decoction of zacate limón after meals or before breakfast with milk is prescribed for stomach ailments. For nausea and vomiting, an infusion is made combining zacate limón and yerba buena (Mentha spicata). To lower blood pressure, three cups of a zacata limón are recommended. A compress can be made by boiling entire leaves and then applying it to infected areas. Some areas also use the dried leaves or the root as a tooth whitener. For a refreshing summer drink, combine leaves from orange (Citrus × aurantium) or lime (Citrus aurantifolia) trees and zacate limón. The section of grass closest to the root will give you the best flavor.
Zacate Limón and Jengibre Energy Drink
- 2 tablespoons grated jengibre root (Zingiber officinale)
- 2 chopped full stems of zacate limón (Cymbopogon citratus)
- 3-5 flores de naranjo (Citrus × aurantium)
- 1 teaspoon yerba buena (Mentha spicata)
Add the ingredients to two cups of boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain. Add miel (honey) if desired. Serve hot or cold.
Looking for practical plant remedies for common ailments? Find the benefits of over 60 traditional Mexican treatments for health and wellbeing in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.