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.
Llantén (Plantago major) has many names in Mexico including llantén mayor, llantén de hoja ancha, lengua de carnero, orejas de burro, lengua de vaca, lantén, paletarea, plantén, anten, antena, chile de pato, and mucilago. Several sources also claimed that in Nahuatl this plant was known as acaxīlotl. However, this name actually refers to the root of the tolpatlacti, which is a reed and not the broadleaf plantain. The confusion I believe began from a description of acaxīlotl by Francisco Hernández de Toledo who stated that the leaves of the plant that the edible root is from are similar to llantén (plantain) but larger.
Llantén grows wild in La Yacata and I had no idea it had any medicinal application until I started researching it. Traditionally, llantén is applied externally for headaches, wounds, burns, insect bites, cold sores, and eye inflammation. Boiled fresh leaves are applied as a healing poultice for wounds. Leaves added to rosewater (Rosa gallica) infusion make a cooling wash for irritated eyes. Leaves applied directly to the cold sore reduce inflammation. Fresh llantén and geranio (Pelargonium spp.) leaves are mashed, salted, and bound to the head to treat headaches. Plantago major has hematopoietic activity, is inhibitory against hyaluronidase and collagenase enzymes, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerative, anti-bacterial, and anti-nociceptive, making it appropriate for wound healing application.
The leaves are made into a diuretic tea, gargle for sore throat and mouth sores, and as a wash for vaginal irritation. Simmer ½ cup of leaves in two cups of water for this infusion. As a diuretic, drink a cup of tea made from two to four grams of dried leaves, three times a day. It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well as demonstrated effectiveness in the management of oral mucositis and a relaxant effect on the tracheal smooth muscles of the throat. Additionally, llantén is antigiardiasic and protects against kidney damage.
Note: Llantén should not be used by individuals with heart conditions, those taking blood-thinning medication, or women who are pregnant or lactating.
Curious about the effectiveness of Mexican herbal remedies? Delve into the science of plants for well-being by: