Tag Archives: mexican flora and fauna

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.


Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.

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Natural Healing with Lentejilla

lentejilla With the number of visits we had to make to the hospital in order to get a prescription refill (See Seguro Popular—A model of inefficiency) it was no big surprise that we picked up a stomach bug and brought it home.  My husband and I just felt a little under the weather for a few days, but my son ended up with the works, aches and pains, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and headache. Being a champ, he complained a bit, but grimly went to school.  However, about an hour later, he called to say that he wanted to be picked up as he had vomited all over his uniform. When he was tucked into bed, I went to talk to my sister-in-law up the hill.   I told her about my son’s unfortunate episode at school and immediately she yanked up a plant  root and all, from the side of the road next to the house.  She told me to make a tea from the root of this plant, she called lentejilla, to help with an upset stomach. root The root of this small plant is a bit stringy and smells sort of like a radish.  I washed the root and set it to boil with just a little bit of water.  My son did not want to drink it.  He said it tasted terrible.  So I had a sip.  I admit it wasn’t sweet, but it wasn’t terrible.  It had an herby, rooty taste.  My husband told him he was going to drink it and that was that.  The cup was empty in no time and back to bed, he went.  He had a second cup in the morning, despite his protests of being “fine now”. Although he still felt weak for the next 2 or three days, there was no more vomiting or diarrhea.  Yeah, another herbal cure! lentajilla So what is lentejilla?  It grows wild all over La Yacata and I had never paid it any attention before.  It grows mostly in areas that had been formerly cultivated, but now are abandoned; hence it’s profligacy in La Yacata.  It is a small green plant with tiny flat, oval leaves and grows little white flowers.  I was unable to find any information about it in my Antiguo Recetario Medicional Azteca book, but it may be there just listed under a different name. In Náhuatl, this herb is called chilacaquilitl or mexixi, in Mazahua it is yo-hi and in Mayan called x-cabal pul.  It is also known as lentejuela, pierna de vieja, kuitiski, meshishi, yuku kue eni, lipajna shla, kabal puut or tskam utsun. Botanically it is either Lepidium intermedium Gray or Lepidium apetalum Millar.  It is also called Peppergrass. No matter what it might be named, it is a useful herb to have around.


Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.


Filed under Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Natural Healing with Sábila (aloe vera)

wpid-cam00180.jpg Even before moving to México, I had known that aloe vera could be used for burn treatments.  I now know that aloe vera (sábila) has more uses than that. Sábila has been used since the time of the Mayans as a miracle plant, treating everything from cavities and cancer to brujaría (witchcraft).  The most potent part of the plant is the clear gel found within its long spear-like leaves.  This gel works as an astringent, pain killer, and coagulator.   It contains beta carotene, Vitamin B, niacin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, folic acid, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E as well as calcium, phosphoric acid, and iron.  Sounds like a breakfast of champions to me. Sábila can be used to boost the immune system, regenerate damaged skin cells, as an antibiotic, reduce arthritis inflammation and pain, and stop bleeding.  It can be used as a topical agent or ingested by being made into juices or teas, although having accidentally eaten a bit that was on my toast one day, I’m not sure how delicious a tea would be.  It has an acrid taste.

Maguey plant

So there is some basis in it being a miracle plant.  My husband had heard that it could be used in treatment for athlete’s foot, so one day he cut what he thought was sábila (aloe vera) and rubbed the gel on his feet.  Unfortunately for him, he had mistakenly cut a leaf from the maguey plant and the result was an extreme burning sensation rather than the itch soothing he was looking for. Since then, he has gotten savvier in his plant identification and has used sábila successfully in healing animal wounds. (See Animal Doctoring) When my sister-in-law was being plagued by brujería (witchcraft) being caused by envidia (envy) she bought a sábila (aloe vera) plant and placed it at the entrance of her tortillería (tortilla shop) to absorb any bad feelings being sent her way. (See Battle of the Brujas) Sábila used as a ward against evil should be placed at the left of the entrance and would be even better if there were two plants, one at either side of the entrance. I even found a little prayer that can be used in conjunction with incense made from sábila, balsam, ground coffee and sugar.  It goes like this: Cruz santa y divina, bujas y brujos: Enemigos que piensan llegar a mí, estoy con Dios por el poder de Cristo, que ha dado en el huerto de la fe.Oh! Dios. Pido que alejes de mí las tristezas y ruinas que vengan hacia mí.  Dios soberano, líbrame de las penas y las traiciones, que bendita sea María y la hostia de la consagración.  María Santísima, cúbreme con tu manto, que mi cuerpo sea parte de cielo, por los tres dulces nombres de Jesús, José y María.  Con Dios y esta mata, sea la prosperidad en mi vida y en mí y en mi casa, Jesús, Joaquín y Santa Ana, líbrame de todo mal. If the plant wilts or dies, it means that someone has had envy or bad intentions toward you and the plant absorbed the negative. There is also a belief that if you plant a sábila with a coin at the roots, the household will never lack money.  Since my husband recently transplanted two wild sábila to our backyard, it’s a perfect opportunity to test this out.  We sure could use that bit of financial wizardry. My little guidebook Antiguo Formulario Azteca de Yerbas Medicinales also has a section devoted to sábila.  For back pain, the halved heated penca (leaf) should be placed on the part that hurts or in inflamed to relieve pain.   For bronchitis or cough, a tea can be made with a little piece of sábila, 10 eucalyptus leaves and 10 flowers from the bugambilia morada plant (bougainvillea) and drunk an hour before going to sleep.

As with all customs and beliefs that we have discovered among our many adventures and disasters in México, we tend to err on the side of belief rather than skepticism.  As they say “When in Rome…


Interested in natural remedies? Uncover herbal remedies from traditional Mexican sources for healing and wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series.


Filed under Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing, Religion