Category Archives: Native fauna and flora

Natural Healing — Papaya

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Native to Mexico, the papaya (Carica papaya) gets its name from the Maya páapay-ya which roughly translates as “mottled fruit.” The papaya is yet another staple food in the Mexico diet. Rich in papain, leaves and seeds are used to tenderize meat. The fruit is eaten raw, cooked and blended in fruit juices. The sap from the unripe fruit makes latex.

It is anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory. High in lycopene, papaya juice is often applied to sunburn and skin irritations to reduce inflammation. Papaya also is effective in reducing cancerous breast tumor growth.

Papaya seeds are natural antifungal agents. Dried seeds are often eaten to help in digestion. The seeds have a spicy flavor and are sometimes ground and used to season food as you would black pepper.  They have found to be useful in the treatment of IBS and stomach ulcers.

The leaves are used to treat liver damage caused by dengue in some areas as an antiviral agent. Extracts from the leaves are hypoglycemic and antioxidant and have been shown to improve liver and pancreas function.

The papaya is often prescribed in Mexico to treat parasites and is anti-protozoal. There are several remedies to expel internal parasites. One recipe calls for a mixture of juice, honey and coffee drank before breakfast. Another treatment is a tea made from the leaves drank 3 times a day for three days while ingesting a steady diet of the fruit. Yet a third remedy is to eat poached seeds with sap from an unripe fruit.

If your face is starting to wrinkle, eat more papaya and try a mashed papaya fruit mask! Papaya has been shown to reduce the depth of facial wrinkles

Note: The ripe fruit is safe for pregnant women to eat, however, the green fruit should be cooked first as it may cause contractions.

June is National Papaya Month! Have you had your papaya today?

 

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Natural Healing–Corn Silk Tea

Corn (Zea mays)is high in fiber thus helpful for proper digestion. It is also high in B vitamins and we all know how good those are for you. It is especially high in niacin, pantothenic acid, and thiamin.  

Zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese are found in corn. Corn is a good source for antioxidants including carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin which are good for your eyes. The kernels are rich in vitamin E which helps protect the body from illness and disease.

Corn oil and corn husk oil used for cooking have been shown to reduce cholesterol with regular use. A return to the traditional three sisters, (corn, beans, and squash) diet has been shown to reduce hyperglycemia-induced pathogenesis and associated complications linked to cellular oxidation stress and hypertension.

Some version of maíz can be found in nearly every meal of the day in Mexico. Atole for breakfast. Tortillas for lunch. Pozole, enchiladas, quesadillas, and tacos for dinner. Even snacks are corn. Elotes (corn on the cob) on a stick smothered in mayonnaise and chili powder are common evening edibles. A cup of maizena (corn starch) is just the thing before bed. Tortillas left over from lunch might be toasted into tostadas and enjoyed with any number of toppings.

It comes as no surprise that even the corn silk has value in Mexican culture. The caballitos de elote (little hairs of corn), also known as barbas de maíz (corn beard), are considered especially good for renal ailments.

My little green herb book, Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca, provides a recipe for a tea to be drunk at room temperature. Boil 15 grams of caballitos de elote in one liter of water, adding alfalfa or barley if desired. Drink three to four glasses throughout the day.

corn tea

Corn silk tea functions as an anti-inflammatory and diuretic, which of course supports the use of it in treatments for kidney issues. It also helps with water retention during PMS and is often given to the elderly to help with incontinence. PMS tea is made with dandelion leaves, barbas de maíz, and uva ursi.

Corn silk can be used topically to treat spider bites or other insect stings as an infusion to bring down the inflammation. This is for common bites or stings only. Poisonous spider bites or scorpion stings should be treated by a professional healthcare provider.

Corn silk tea is thicker than you might think and for all intents and purposes tastes like diluted corn starch. If your body is already low on potassium, drinking corn silk tea could make the problem worse since it primarily works as a diuretic.

Another precaution you should take is to ensure that the caballitos de elote should come from non-GMO, organically grown corn. Mexico has prohibited the planting of GMO corn but pesticide use is alive and well.

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Natural Healing– Bugambilia

I’ve already mentioned that the bugambilia morada  (Bougainvillea glabra) can be used medicinally along with eucalyptus and aloe vera for cough treatment. Most often an infusion is used to treat asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, and other respiratory conditions.

This lovely, bright plant, known as camelina in some parts of Mexico, has several other traditional uses as well. It has been used to treat dysentery, stomach pain, and skin blemishes.

Bougainvillea glabra is also known as the lesser bougainvillea or paperflower. The plant that appears to be full of purplish flowers actually has very small white or yellow flowers which are surrounded by colorful papery bracts. The video above shows a close-up of the actual flower.  The flowers of Bougainvillea glabra are used to treat low blood pressure in Panama.

The Bougainvillea glabra has anti-nociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties. The leaves are effective in preventing dopamine-depleted neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease because of their antioxidant composition. The antioxidant component also has potential in the treatment of cancer.   

In addition, studies have shown that other varieties of the Bougainvillea species, mostly the Bougainvillea spectabilis, have antimicrobial, antidiabetic, antifertility, antihyperlipidemic, anti-atherogenic, antipyretic, anthelmintic, amylase inhibitors, thrombolytic, and analgesic properties, leading to the suggestion that the bougainvillea glabra be studied further in the future.

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I’ve found a few recipes that use bugambilia for cough remedies.

Recipe #1

Boil in one quart of water, reduce to simmer, then strain the herbs out.  Add limón and miel (honey) to taste. Sip as needed throughout the day.

Recipe #2

  • 2 parts gordolobo (common mullein) flowers
  • One part bugambilia bracts
  • One part manzanilla (German chamomile) flowers
  • One part jamaica (hibisucs) flowers
  • One part tomillo (thyme) leaves
  • Pinch of ground canela (cinnamon)

Boil the herbs together, strain, drink hot or cold with cinnamon for flavoring.

Recipe #3

Mix gordolobo (common mullein) and bugambilia bracts with tamarind juice, flavored with cinnamon and honey. Drink as needed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate gordolobo in my area. I’m going to check with the herb seller at the tianguis in Uriangato next time I go. He’s got rattlesnake skin and armadillos shell, so the odds are in my favor he’ll have some.

I did prepare the simple infusion tea with just the bugambilia, however. It has a mild taste and a bright pink color.

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Charandaro Pitayas

Just before the rainy season starts in mid-June, the pitayas, another cactus fruit, are ready. This year we went to Charandaro to do a little harvesting. Pitayas, not to be confused with Pitahayas AKA Dragon Fruit, is also known by the indigenous name coapetilla which means thick serpent in reference to the branches of the cactus stenocereus that this fruit is found.

We found a long bamboo stick with a three-prong top for easy harvesting. This particular grove of cactus was easily accessible by climbing neighboring trees.

We ate about 5 or 6 each and left the rest to ripen up a little more. When fully ripe, they taste exactly like a sweet strawberry.

Have you had pitayas?

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