Tag Archives: herbal remedies

Natural Healing — Palo Azul

Eysenhardtia polystachya Photo credit: Juan Carlos Fonseca Mata

Palo azul (Eysenhardtia polystachya) is also known as palo dulce, palo cuate, cualaldulce, varadulce, and taray by the Tarascans. In Nahuatl, it’s either referred to as cohuatli or tlapalezpatli and in English, it’s Mexican kidneywood. Wood from this small shrub with white flowers, aromatic leaves, and red seedpods was used by the Aztecs primarily to treat kidney problems. It was also a key ingredient in a hiccup remedy and included in another to reduce fever.  

In some areas of Mexico, palo azul bark is used to treat pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Studies have shown this traditional use to be valid. It has also been found to have good anti-diabetic activity reducing renal damage caused by diabetes and inhibiting hyperglycemic, hyperlipidemic, and oxidative stress. Its use in the treatment of infection, diarrhea, inflammation, and pain are supported as well. 

Other traditional remedies call for palo azul to treat toothache, cavities, periodontal disease, and gingivitis. Palo azul has antibacterial properties and is effective against both Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis. It also has moderate cancer fighting properties.

Tea made from Eysenhardtia polystachya is phosphorescent under the right light. The fluorescent compound that causes this is not found in the plant itself, but occurs after a certain flavonoid oxidizes. Some research has been done on using palo azul as a fluorescent biomarker in early-stage cancer diagnosis and pathogen detection procedures and well as drug delivery monitoring since it is non-toxic.

Palo Azul Kidney Cleanse Infusion

  • Soak a handful of woodchips overnight in 1 liter of water. 
  • Drink a cup each morning before breakfast for 8 days with a squeeze of limón juice. (Citrus × aurantiifolia)

Palo Azul Cough Remedy

  • Soak a handful of woodchips until the liquid is a bright yellow/orange/bluish. 
  • Strain and drink as needed to reduce phlegm with a deep cough.

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Natural Healing — Hinojo

Photo credits: Forest & Kim Starr and  Arnaud 25.

Hinojo (Foeniculum vulgare) came to Mexico with the Spanish missionaries as part of their medicinal gardens. In traditional Mexican remedies, it is used to treat migraines, colds, and cough. It is also prescribed as a digestive aid and appetite stimulant. Hinojo seeds, leaves, roots are edible.

Women’s cures that include hinojo involve regulating menstruation, alleviating mastitis, and increasing milk production. Hinojo tea has shown positive recovery effectiveness when given to women postpartum. Women suffering from menopausal depression and anxiety conditions have experienced moderate to significant relief with regular ingestion of fennel. In large doses, hinojo acts as a uterine stimulant.

An anti-anxiety tea is made from flor de manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon), flor de azahar (orange blossoms), toronjil morado (Agastache mexicana), yerba buena (Mentha spicata), and hinojo in equal measures. 

Hinojo leaves have antihyperglycemic, hypoglycemic and antioxidant effects. Hinojo essential oil is an effective treatment for inflammation and arthritis. Its use in treating colds and coughs is supported by its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, immunomodulatory effects. Hinojo has demonstrated effective antimycobacterial activity including tuberculous and respiratory infections. It has a calming effect on bronchial tissues. The seeds act as an expectorant to loosen phlegm in the lungs.

A remedy for colds with cough calls for three or four cups a day of hinojo seed infusion sweetened with honey.

As a digestive aid, it has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic, to speed up the digestion process of fatty foods, and be useful in the treatment of colitis.  It also reduces neuronal toxicity. For vomiting and diarrhea, boil about several hinojo stems in a liter of water and add about 30 grams of coffee. Drink on an empty stomach.

Individuals suffering from empacho (indigestion) are sometimes given a mild tea made from albaca (Ocimum basilicum), cempasúchil (Tagetes erecta), eneldo (Anethum graveolens), hinojo, hojasén (Flourensia cernua – Asteraceae), yerba buena (Mentha spicata), poleo (Mentha pulegium), and rosa de castillo (Purshia plicata) combined in equal parts. A good size pinch of this herb mix is steeped in a liter of water and a teaspoonful is administered. Another colic tea for babies is made from crushed fennel seeds.

A tea for a gasy stomach is brewed using a pinch of flor de azahar (orange blossoms), crushed anís seeds (Pimpinella anisum) and crushed hinojo seeds. Steep the ingredients in a cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey. 

Bilis, indigestion caused by a fit of anger, is treated with an infusion of hinojo leaves and flowers, guayaba (Psidium) leaves, and a pinch of marrubio (Marrubium vulgare) leaves steeped in a cupful of water. Or a tea can be made combining hinojo and romero leaves.

Note: Essential oil made from the seeds is toxic. It can cause vomiting, seizures, respiratory distress, and vomiting and should never be ingested. Hinojo may also cause contact dermatitis after handling. Because strong doses of hinojo can cause uterine contractions, pregnant women should avoid any remedy that contains it.

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Learn more about Mexican traditional remedies!

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Natural Healing — Flor de Manita

Photo of ”Chiranthodendron pentadactylon” (Mexican hand tree) at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, taken June 2005 by User:Stan Shebs 

I was fortunate enough to find some dried Flor de Manita, one of the ingredients in my favorite relaxing tea blend, with one of the local herb sellers and excitedly began my investigations on its medicinal properties. Flor de Manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon) is also known as El Mano de Dragón (dragon’s hand), Macpalxóchitl in Nahuatl, and in English as the Handflower tree or Devil’s hand tree because of the unique shape of its flower. It is native to Mexico and Guatemala and has been used since the time of the Aztecs as a heart tonic and as a treatment for dysentery, epilepsy, and STDs. 

It has antiprotozoal, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antidiarrheal properties, making it an effective treatment for diarrhea. Flor de Manita extracts also have a vasorelaxant effect, supporting its use as a treatment for susto (fear/anxiety) and espanto (sudden fright).

One traditional consists of making a decoction from the bark and leaves as a wash or poultice for genital swelling and pain. A poultice made from the flowers is still used as a common treatment for hemorrhoids by traditional healers.

Tea for Heart Palpitations

1 tablespoon of each:

  • Flor de Yoloxóchitl (Talauma mexicana)(Mexican heart flower)
  • Flor de pitaya (Selenicereus undatus)(Dragon Fruit Flower)
  • Flor de manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon) (Handflower tree)

Boil ¼ liter of water and add ingredients. Steep for 5-10 minutes. Drink daily before breakfast without sweetener.

Tea for Nerves

Equal parts:

  • Flor de Yoloxóchitl (Talauma mexicana)(Mexican heart flower) 
  • Hojas de tila (Ternstroemia lineata) 
  • Hojas de toronjil morado (Agastache Mexicana)(Mexican giant hyssop)
  • Hojas de de hierbabuena (Mentha spicata)(spearmint)
  • Flor de Azahar (citrus aurantium)(bitter orange blossoms)
  • Flor de Manita (Chiranthodendron pentadactylon)(Handflower tree)

Boil 1 liter of water. Add herbs. Let steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and drink liberally throughout the day.

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