Natural Healing — Zacate Limón

Cymbopogon citratus Photo credit: Judgefloro

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.

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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.

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Natural Healing — Jícama

Photo credit: Judgefloro and Wibowo Djatmiko

Jícama (Pachyrhizus erosus), from the Nahuatl word xicamatl, is a native Mexican plant. From Mexico, it was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish and then to Southeast Asia. In Mexico, two types of jícama are cultivated. Jícama de agua is turnip-shaped and has a clear, watery juice, while the juice from jícama de leche is spindle-shaped and is milkier.

As with other plants we’ve looked at, its importance in the prehispanic diet is evidenced by the number of Nahuatl words devoted to it. These words include the specific name for the root, catzotl, the verb for planting jícama, cahtzōntōca, and the person who plants jícama,  cahtzōntōquiliā. Other names it is known by in Mexico include chicam and hehenchican. In English, jícama is most often called the Mexican yam bean.

The edible tuber’s fresh leaves, seedpods, and peel contain the toxin rotenone and make an effective insecticide. However, once the leaves dry, they are no longer toxic and often used as livestock feed in Mexico.

If you’ve never had jícama, you are in for a treat. The tuber is crisp and juicy and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It has a fresh flavor with a hint of cinnamon. It is often added to salads or sprinkled with limón and chile powder. It remains crisp after cooking, making it an excellent substitute for water chestnuts. Starch from the tuber is used in custards. Even the seed pods can be eaten, as long as they are thoroughly cooked.

Jícama plants need nine months of frost-free weather to mature. Once harvested, the tuber will remain fresh for up to four months whole and up to one week after being cut. 

An intestinal purge is made with 40 grams of jícama seed juice drunk morning and night. For wounds, a tincture is made from 100 grams of powdered seeds steeped in ½ liter of alcohol, soaked for three days, strained, then applied as a poultice. An infusion made from the root and seedpods is utilized as a wash for gout and inflammation. 

Not only is jícama refreshing, but it also has excellent nutritional value. Jícama contains iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, calcium, and selenium. It also has vitamins C, A, and E.  Additionally, studies have shown it is a good substitute for probiotic drinks.

Studies have shown it to have antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diabetic, anti-osteoporosis, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.  It has an immunomodulatory effect. It is considered a preventative food source against the development of diabetes and obesity. The toxic rotenone found in the peel, fresh leaves, and seedpods is an effective insecticide and anti-tumor. Regular ingestion promotes cardiovascular health. The seed extract cause muscles to relax as well as reduces anxiety and aggression. The seeds also show moderate anti-herpes simplex virus (HSV) activity.

Agua de Jícama

  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup jugo de limón (Citrus aurantifolia)
  • ½ cup jícama peeled and cut into pieces (Pachyrhizus erosus)

Blend the jícama with the limón juice and water. Sweeten with miel (honey) as desired.

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Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.

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Job Hunting Ain’t What It Used To Be — Part 5

I’d like to say that May took my employment status from 0 – 60 in 30 seconds flat, but that’s not what happened. Here’s what did–

First, I was hired by a Canadian-based company whose target audience seemed to be immigrants from African countries living in the U.S. and Canada. The interview process was 15 minutes, mostly a sound/video check, and I snagged a 9-10 am beginner class that started the next day. The platform provided basic materials and a general outline for the course, which I could supplement with my own creative wowza stuff, so I was feeling optimistic.

Now, for the downside. Pay. The company paid $50 Canadian dollars per student per month, but only if the student attended all the classes. So since work or other responsibilities kept students from regular attendance, my pay was also affected. For the month May, I earned $14 in total.

Next, I was hired by another company to teach middle-school-aged students. Again, the interview process was painless. I had a Skype call with the hiring person and explained my teaching credentials and living situation. I was under the impression I would help with designing some new curriculum before being given regular classes, but that’s not what happened. I was scheduled for two “trial” classes a day or so after my onboarding process. That means the students were taking a free class to see if they like the platform or not. I was given curriculum to teach, but it was AWFUL! I mean, seriously, it was not appropriate for middle-school non-native English students at all! So I spent an hour at least on each presentation, bringing it up to par, and then an hour teaching each of the students. 

The next week I was scheduled for an Algebra class. Nope! Not gonna happen. It took 3 days of back and forth email correspondence until the class was reassigned. I also seem to be on-call rather than having a set schedule. The company sends me a text message, and if I say I’m available, they schedule it (except for that Algebra class that was assigned to me without checking with me first). I get charged for text messages, and there are a lot of messages sent back and forth, so I’m starting to fret about that. I’ve taught 6 trial classes so far.

Then the third online teaching position I managed to get was for a company that offers practical English skill classes to recent immigrants to the U.S. I was the first person the owner interviewed, and I must have impressed her. She later said she interviewed a few more but decided I was the best candidate for the position and contacted me the next day. This company’s target audience is mostly Middle-eastern immigrants. However, they were looking to expand and offer English for Spanish-speaking refugees and immigrants, which is where I would come in as a sort of liaison for those students since everyone else hired by the company spoke Dari. 

This job came with additional tasks besides teaching, including translating flyers into Spanish and correcting English errors found in company documents. I also had to do a Facebook live video in English and Spanish, which was a bit stressful for me, to say the least. I am only officially contracted to teach one 90-minute class on Sundays July-September, although the owner, who is also a teacher, is expecting a baby any day now and may have me take over her classes. As far as I know, the classes are all Dari speakers, so my Spanish isn’t going to be much use there.

And then, if you remember, I signed up at Wyzant as a tutor and have managed to rack up 6 hours so far in tutoring. Unfortunately, most students have summer vacation in June in the U.S., so tutoring sessions have dried up temporarily. I expect things will gear up in September there again. 

The final teaching job that sprung up was with Cambly, where I applied in March. I’ve been accepted as a tutor rather than teacher, so I don’t have a class schedule. However, they have it set up so I can pick up hours whenever I want. I only get paid for what I teach at 17 cents a minute, but it seems I may be able to get regular students this way too. Of the teaching jobs, this might be the one that works out the best. I don’t have set hours, so if the internet is wonky, I can just not work, no need to find a replacement teacher. If the internet is good, I can pick up more hours. 

I’d also been on the lookout for non-teaching jobs. One of the ladies in the South of the Border Sisters group advertised that they were looking for a social media person for a few hours a month where she worked. So I applied. I got an interview. And I got a contract. It’s not a lot of hours, maybe 10-15 per month, but my hope is there will be more for me to do as the online magazine expands its reach. Right now, I’ll be overseeing social media posts and doing some copywriting. 

Even with 6 jobs, I’m not sure I’ll make enough to pay the internet bill (and feed Bruce). So I’m still living on the edge, so to speak. Let’s see what next month brings! 

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Want to know what it’s really like living in rural Mexico? Then check out A Woman’s Survival Guide to Living in Mexico Series.

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