Category Archives: Native fauna and flora

Natural Healing — Flor de Tila

Flor de tila (Ternstroemia lineata)

Originally, I was under the impression that the flor de tila that was a staple ingredient in my favorite relaxing tea blend was from the Mexican linden tree. After all, several herb books I own that focus on Mexican herbs use the terms linden and tila interchangeably. However, doing just a little more research, I found that flor de tila is NOT any species in the family Malvacaea at all. Rather it belongs to the Pentaphylacaceae family and all my research on this beneficial herb went out the window since I had been searching for the wrong plant. What is more likely is that the correct term in Mexico is flor de tilia (not tila) or flor de tilo when referring to the blossoms of the linden tree in the genus Tilia. 

As you can see from the picture, Flor de tila (Ternstroemia lineata) dries much darker than linden flowers. The flower structure is also very different. Linden trees are much larger than the Ternstroemia lineata, which tends to only grow to about 20 feet. 

Flor de tila (Ternstroemia lineata) is native to areas of higher altitudes in central Mexico. It is also known as ucharillo and charapit uku in Purépecha. The wood is used to make certain guitar components. This plant is used in traditional Mexican remedies for insomnia, menstrual cramps, and headaches. It is also used as a digestive aid, sedative, and for bronchitis. 

There have been no studies done on the medicinal properties of Ternstroemia lineata. In fact, until recently, this species was classified as Ternstroemia pringlei, also known as flor de tila. A few studies have been done on Ternstroemia pringlei showing it has a sedative effect supporting its use for insomnia treatment. Leaf extracts from the plant are effective against liver flukes and the leaf, petal, fruit and seed are antioxidant.

I did find a few concoctions in my little herb books that use Ternstroemia lineata and not linden but because of the error in identification, I had to discount many of the remedies both online and from the books in my library.

Flor de tila (Ternstroemia lineata)

Flor de Tila Headache Tea

Boil ½ liter of water.

Add:

  • 2 to 4 grams of flor de tila (Ternstroemia lineata)
  • To make a sleep aid tea, add 10 grams of bitter orange leaves (Citrus × aurantium).
  • To make a cough tea, add 5 grams of (starflower)(borrajo officinalis).

Flor de Tila Heart Palpitation Tea

Drink daily before meals

Boil ¾ liter water.

Add:

  • 5 matarique branches (Psacalium decompositum)(Desert Indian brush)
  • 20 flores de tila (Ternstroemia lineata)(Tila flowers)
  • 2 pinches of sauco (Sambucus)(elder flowers)
  • 2 flores de manitas (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon)(Hand Flower Tree flowers)
  • 1 branch of alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
  • 2 pieces of valeriana roja (Centranthus ruber)(red valerian)

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Natural Healing — Pasiflora

Passiflora edulis

I’ve mentioned before the amazing relaxing tea blend I stumbled across that contained:

  • Jamaica (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • Flor de Azahar (citrus Aurantium)
  • Flor de Tila (Ternstroemia lineata)
  • Flor de Manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon)
  • Hojas de Naranjo (Citrus aurantium)
  • Melisa (Cedronella Mexicana)
  • Manzanilla (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • Pasiflora (Passiflora Ciliata) 
  • Hojas de Limón (citrus medica)
  • Yoloxochitl (Talauma Mexicana)
  • Rosa de Castilla (Rosa centifolia) 
  • Alhucema (Lavandula angustifolia) 

I’ve done some research on many of the ingredients and today I’d like to add to your knowledge about Pasiflora.

Pasiflora (Passionflower) was called coanenepilli (snake tongue) in Nahuatl because of the curvy membranous outgrowths’ resemblance. In Maya, this plant is known as Pochil or Kansel-ak. It was a traditional remedy for snakebites and fevers. When the Spanish missionaries arrived, they named this unique flower passionaria after the passion of Christ. In their eyes, the circle of membranes was representative of Christ’s crown of thorns. Dr. Nicholas Monardes called the plant granadilla in his book Joyfull Newes Out of the Newe Founde Worlde because the small fruit resembled granadas (pomegranates) in his view. He recorded a remedy that used the juice from these fruits to relieve stomach pains. 

There are more than 600 species of passiflora, most of which are found in Mexico, Central and South America. Believe it or not, there is even a stinking passion flower (Passiflora foetida) that catches insects in the hairs on its bracts to eat, making it a protocarnivorous plant. This plant has been shown to be useful in treating inflammatory disease

passiflora incarnata

The fringed passion flower (Passiflora ciliata) is the variety most often used in teas as a sedative. The purple passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) is often grown for its fruit called maracuyá which has proven health benefits including the prevention of diabetic related complications

In herbal remedies still used in Mexico, pasiflora is often included in treatments of insomnia, anxiety, and nervousness including opiate withdrawal. Studies have shown that Maypop (Passiflora incarnata) extracts are effective sleep inducers as well useful in the treatment of anxiety and depression. And researchers have confired that at least one variety, the giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis), contains serotonin.

There have been reports of negative reactions to pasiflora such as nausea, tachycardia, and drowsiness, therefore care should be taken when using this plant, especially since so few varieties have been studied

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Natural Healing–Zapote Blanco

Zapote blanco (Casimiroa edulis) Photo credit Daderot.

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.

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