I had been reluctant to investigate the medicinal properties of epazote (Chenopodium Ambrosioides) simply because it’s touted as the “miracle weed/herb” in a lot of Mexican herb forums. I know, a bit prejudicial on my part. So, in an effort to provide impartial research, today I’m going to share what I learned when I finally took up the gauntlet.
Epazote, native to Mexico, was formally classified under the name Chenopodium ambrosioides but has since been reclassified as Dysphania ambrosioides. Other names include Jesuit’s tea, payqu, mastruz, quinoa, and herba Santa Maria. Alternative spellings in Mexico for epazote include epasote, ipazote, and pazote. In Maya, it is known as lukum-xiu. In Purhépecha it is cuatzitish-atcingo. In otomí it’s gail, and in the state of Puebla, it is known as Alskini. The name epazote comes from the Nahuatl, epazotl, which means stinky. It does have a strong aroma, in case you were wondering.
In Mexico, epazote is most often used for parasites, stomachache, menstrual cramp relief, increase lactation, and in the treatment of bites or stings. It’s also a common flavoring for beans, menudo, chilate, chile atole, chilaquiles, and quesadillas.
For stomach pain, a leaf infusion is prepared either with water or milk. For menstrual issues, it is combined with ruda (Ruta graveolens), zoapatle (Montanoa tomentosa), or cabellos de elote (corn silk). To treat bites and stings, the chopped leaves are added to tobacco leaves and placed over the wound as a poultice. To expel parasites, 20 to 60 grams of the chopped herb is added to an infusion of milk and garlic and allowed to steep overnight and drunk for 9 days before breakfast. While undergoing parasite treatment, the afflicted should not eat pork or chile according to common belief.
Atole blanco con epazote is prescribed for individuals suffering from “espanto” (anxiety). It is drunk for 9 mornings. In the event of extreme anxiety, a cup can also be had in the afternoon.
Epazote has a vasorelaxant effect. It has antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antimicrobial, anti-biofilm, anti-malarial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also is effective in the treatment of the central nervous system and sleep disorders. It stimulates the immune system and provides pain relief. Regular use prevents bone loss. Topical use stimulates wound closure and bone healing.
Note: Long-term use of this plant should be avoided as it can be toxic. It also should be avoided during pregnancy.
5 grams of epazote stems and leaves (Dysphania ambrosioides)
Boil ½ liter of water. Add the epazote. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and serve. Drink one cup before breakfast for 2 or 3 days for indigestion.
Interested in discovering a path to wellness through traditional medicine? Discover Mexican herbalism with common remedies used today in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.