Category Archives: Health

Natural Healing — Pericón

Tagetes lucida Photo credit: Dick Culbert

Pericón (Tagetes lucida) is also known as, hierbanís, cuchrucumín, flor de Santa María, hierba añil, periquillo, yerbanís, Mexican tarragon in English, yauhtli in Nahuatl, and Naná uarhi in Purépecha. It is native to Mexico and in the same family as the more well-known cempasúchil (Tagetes erecta). The Aztecs used it in cooking, as medicine, and in rituals. It was an ingredient to the sacred drink chocolatl and still added to chayote and elotes (boiled corn ears) for flavoring. As it was considered holy to Tlaloc, the rain god, it was rubbed on the chest to ensure safety before crossing a river. It was closely associated with the harvest because it is found after the first rains of the season and blooms around the time the corn is ready to harvest.

After the conquest, pericón became associated with San Miguel (Michael the Archangel). In many areas, it is customary to place crosses made from the plant in each corner of la milpa (cornfield) and on doors to homes and businesses on September 28 to invoke the protection of San Miguel as part of the periconeada (also known as la Fiesta del Pericón) ceremony. September 29 is the feast day of the three archangels, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael.  

Medicinally, pericón is prescribed as a tonic for diarrhea, empacho (indigestion), asthma, colds, rheumatism, susto (a nervous disorder), and to regulate menstruation in Mexico

An infusion for stuffy noses is made with a handful of leaves in a quart of water. Another tea for fever includes the stems, leaves, and flowers. Dried plants are often burned to keep flies and mosquitoes away from an area.

Pericón has anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antispasmodic, antidiarrheal, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antinociceptive, antidepressant, and sedative-like properties. These components support its traditional use for some nervous and digestive disorders. Additionally, it is a potent hepatoprotective and effective against Streptococcus pyogenes respiratory diseases.

Note: The name hierba anís is used for three related plants, Tagetes lucida, Tagetes filifolia, and Tagetes micrantha in different areas of Mexico. Be sure to positively identify the plant before use.

Pericón Infusion for Stuffy Nose

3-5 tablespoons of pericón leaves

Simmer the leaves in a quart of water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sip throughout the day to alleviate a stuffy nose.

***

Interested in health? Learn traditional Mexican plant remedies used today for wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series. Now available on Amazon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

My Inner Herb Song

So I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I expect it will be a rough couple more. Things started out rosy in March, and then I had a birthday—just my 49th, not a milestone or anything, and while I’m ok with my age, it reminded me of all those who didn’t make it to 49 with me. 

But I shook it off and kept moving forward in busyness–until I lost my main source of income teaching online. And I was sure something would turn up, but as the days turned to weeks, and nothing did, well, you can imagine how that weighed on me. (More about that saga in another post). 

Midway through April now, and I’m dealing with swollen and painful joints keeping me housebound, just when I thought to start planting my garden. And looming ahead is May when my son turns 20 (where did the time go?), and my mom will have been gone a year. 

In between, I’ve been working steadily on some plant studies. Yesterday I finished the thirtieth one, which means the first draft of a new herb book will be out soon. 

Chatting with one of my besties, who is also having a rough time of it (aren’t we all?), I mentioned how much I enjoy my herb research. I admitted I even have a little herb song that plays in my head while I look up Nahuatl terms and try to decipher yet another scientific paper on plant properties. 

It goes something like Rihanna’s “Work,” but instead, I sing, “Herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs. I really like them herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs…Digging in the dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt….” and so on. Anyway, it’s a happy little ditty with a lot of repetition and mumbling. 

You may be wondering how I pick the next plant study when there are so many to choose from. After all, Mexico is one of the ten most biodiverse countries in the world. 

Sometimes it’s random. I might see something in an article or in my Facebook feed about some plant or other, and I jump in with both feet researching. But mostly, it’s more of a personal connection that leads me down the garden path of investigation.

For example, last week, my sister-in-law was over, and I, of course, had to show her my plants. She pointed to one particular viney weedy thing with white flowers that sprung up from nowhere and said that that one was for coughs. WHAT! Now I have to look into la artemisia (the plant in question) and see what is to be seen. Very exciting!

Or take another instance. I expect this year to be rather difficult all around with rising food prices and now my unemployment. So I thought long and hard about what would be the best use of the limited growing space I had. While researching native plants, I came across huautli, outlawed by the Spanish conquerors. Now known by its European moniker, amaranto is hailed as a superfood. Well then, I could plant huautli and girasoles (also believed to be native to Mexico) along with maíz, frijoles, and calabazas. And it’s exciting!

Or maybe I’ve picked up another tea concoction for my son to try who still struggles with breathing two years after Covid, and it doesn’t work as well as the last tea. After looking at the ingredients and seeing that gordolobo (Verbascum thapsus) is in one but not in the other–and voila. Gordolobo is a plant that helps his breathing and I’m off to the indigenous herbalist in town to get some and at my computer doing some more research. 

Each plant is like a little mystery waiting to be solved. I try to answer what it is, how is it best grown, how it is used (fresh or dry), and ultimately what is its value. It’s fitting as I putter in my garden, sitting, of course, to spare my knees, with my hair faded to grey and the freshness of youth gone, I wonder: Who is she? What is her value? How is she best grown? And then my little inner herb song kicks in…and it’s ok.

***

Discover how native Mexican plants can enrich your garden!

Leave a comment

Filed under Alternative Farming, Health, Mexican Food and Drink, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Natural Healing — Tomillo

Photo credit: Syrio Thymus vulgaris

The other day at the plant place, I came across a lovely thyme plant that I just had to have for my garden. As part of my introduction process, I had to do an intensive research session on medicinal properties. As my devoted reader, you too get to enjoy my obsession with plants in today’s post.

Tomillo (Thymus vulgaris) is native to Europe and therefore a plant brought to Mexico by the Spanish after the conquest. In Mexico, this is a culinary and medicinal herb. It’s used to flavor beans, calm a cough, and as a digestive aid.

It has antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. It has been shown to have beneficial immunomodulatory and potent smooth muscle relaxant effects, making it a good choice for treating respiratory ailments. It is also effective against several RNA viruses, including coronaviruses. Its antispastic effects on the intestine and antibacterial and antimicrobial properties also support its use as a digestive aid. 

It can also be used as a bioinsecticide. Studies have shown that it is toxic to larvae of insects that carry the dengue virus. It is an effective food preservative as it inhibits microbial growth.

Tomillo and Ajo Infusion for Hacking Cough

  • 1 tablespoon of tomillo leaves (Thymus vulgaris)
  • 1 ajo clove (Allium sativum)

Pour one cup of boiling water over the tomillo leaves and ajo. Allow it to steep for 15 minutes before straining. Add miel (honey) and limón (Citrus aurantifolia Swingle) to taste.

Tomillo Cough Expectorant

  • 2 parts gordolobo (Verbascum thapsiforme sdahere)
  • 1 part bugambilia morada (Bougainvillea glabra)
  • 1 part manzanilla (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • 1 part jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • 1 part tomillo (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Pinch of ground canela (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

Pour a cup of boiling water over 2 spoonfuls of the mixture. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and add a pinch of canela. Drink as needed to reduce excess phlegm.

***

Want to learn a new way to look at plants?

Discover common traditional medicine practiced in Mexico today

with the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing