I recently discovered that Mexico has its own sea salt production in Colima. These salt flats have been in use since pre-Hispanic times. Hueytlatoani Colimotl, the king, paid his tributes to the Aztec emperor with salt. In fact, the salt flats were the cause of the 30-year La Guerra del Salitre (Saltpeter War) between Colimotl and the leader of the Purépechas Cazonci Tangáxoan II, both factions vying for control of this valuable mineral.
After the Spanish conquest, salt increased even more in value because it was used in the extraction of silver. At one point, the salt flats were producing 3,600 tons each year. In the 1890s, cyanide replaced salt in the mining process and production dropped off.
Mexican sea salt is from the La Laguna de Cuyutlán. It is still harvested using the traditional processes. Microplastics are filtered out through the black volcanic sand that surrounds the estuary. The salinated water is dehydrated in the sun and the salt crystals are collected by hand. Because the process is organic, it is only done 16 weeks per year.
According to experts, you can distinguish sal de mar from Colima from other sea salt varieties by its color, bright white, size, smaller than most sea salt, and humidity. When you crush a grain between your fingers, your fingers will be damp.
Sal de mar is high in trace minerals not found in processed table salt. It has medicinal properties that you shouldn’t miss out on. Bathing in sal de mar helps reduce pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis outbreaks.
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.
The plant quesitos (Malva spp.) “little cheeses” gets its name from shape of the plant’s fruit. My husband has pointed this plant out on several of our wildflower explorations, being consistant about reminding me that it was edible (although not very tasty in my opinion). He also never fails to mention that his 5 sisters would harvest the plant’s quesitos for their dolls.
The term malva is also used in our area but reserved for the more ornamental versions of this species. Other names in Mexico include malva de quesitos, malva de Castilla, ahala, malba, malva alboheza, malva verde, violeta de cuchi, hierba quesera, quesillos en Veracruz, juriata eranchi and juriaterango in Purépecha, du-ene in Mazahua, alahuacciopatli in Nahuatl, and baldag malv in Zapotec.
Traditionally, malva is used as a digestive aid and wound wash. An infusion made from the leaves is prescribed for kidney problems. Fresh, crushed leaves are applied to bruises to reduce inflammation. The leaves are boiled as a vegetable and the “quesitos” are eaten as well. Its seeds are included in poultry feed.
There are at least 240 genera and more than 4,200 species in this classification. Only a handful have been studied thoroughly. Malva has been used as a food source and medicine for thousands of years. The origin of this species is uncertain, although some experts suggest that perhaps the Malvaceae family came from the Mediterranean area.
In general, Malva plants have diuretic, anti-diarrheal, and laxative properties. They possess moderate antimicrobial activity, high anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties, and strong anti-oxidant and anti-cancer properties.
In Puebla, malva parviflora root is made into an infusion for dysentery. In other areas, the leaves are applied topically or a leaf infusion is administered to treat rheumatoid arthritis. In Chiapas, a foot bath for swollen feet is made from the leaves. Children with a fever are bathed in water that contains malva leaves and flowers in many areas of Mexico. Its also used in remedies for diarrhea, cruda (hangover), empacho (indigestion), TB, colds, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and cavities. Crushed leaves are applied topically for wounds, cuts, animal stings, headaches, and mouth sores. A cold compress is made by boiling one entire plant in a liter of water then allowing it to cool completely. The herb is wrapped in a cloth and applied to the affected part. The cloth is rewet every 10 minutes for half an hour. An infusion is made as an eyewash.
Malva de Quesitos Sore Throat Tea
4 teaspoons of dried or 8 teaspoons of fresh malva de quesitos including leaves, flowers, stems, and roots (Malva parviflora)
Add the herb to a cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 – 20 minutes. Strain. Allow it to cool for 15 minutes more. Drink 3 cups a day.
The roots and leaves of malva rotundifolia, known as malvón, are used in a bath to lower fever in Mexico and Guerrero states. The dried or fresh flowers are boiled for an infusion drank lukewarm before breakfast and before bed for headache, joint pain, and stomach ailments. The roots and leaves are made into a decoction for a stomach cleanse.
Malva neglecta (L.) Wall., malva de quesitos, is often used as a digestive aid in instances of empacho (indigestion) or coraje (anger sickness). It’s also prescribed for urinary infections and fever. This plant has considerable antioxidant and wound healing properties.