Tag Archives: mexican herbal remedies

Natural Healing — Toronjil Morado

I had quite a time identifying the Toronojil Morado (Agastache mexicana) that grows in my garden. The issue came with the general translation of toronjil as lemon balm, also known as Melissa. In certain remedies, these plants are used interchangeably since they both belong to the Lamiaceae family of plants. However, the two plants have very different characteristics.

Toronjil morado (Agastache mexicana) is Mexican giant hyssop and native to Mexico. The indigenous people of central Mexico used toronjil morado (Tzompilihuiz-xihuitl) as an inhalant to treat colds. A white-flowered subspecies, toronjil blanco (Agastache mexicana xolocotziana)(Tzompilihuitz-patli), was used in poultices for wound treatment. Other names for this plant include Toroji (Otomí), Agastaché mexická (Checo), Pinkil (Tepehua), Júpachi, and Noritén. Agastache mexicana was classified as a “hot” treatment (as opposed to dry, wet, and cold). Used in conjunction with ahhuachcho tonatiuh-yxiuh (tonatiuh ixiuh ahuachyo / tonatiuh yxiuh ahhuachcho) and incense (probably copal), it was used as a parasite treatment. 

These days, toronjil morado is used mostly for its sedative effects in the event of espanto or susto (a sudden scare) or mal de ojo (the evil eye) in central Mexico. Don’t be too hasty to dismiss this lovely purple flowing plant because of its main uses, however. It has quite a bit to offer.

According to popular belief, symptoms of espanto or susto (fright) include loss of appetite, insomnia, depression, and paleness, some of which this plant can actually help with. Furthermore, toronjil morado is prescribed for stomach pain, excessive bile (coraje), cough, vomiting, chills, and anxiety, while toronjil blanco (Agastache mexicana xolocotziana) is sometimes taken to treat heart disease. Studies have shown that both varieties are anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, (anti-anxiety), sedative and antioxidant. Toronjil blanco does indeed have anti-hypertensive and vasorelaxant effects, supporting its use for heart disease. According to research, it is toronjil blanco rather than toronjil morado that is more effective in treating stomach ailments such as ulcers, colitis, and abdominal pain. 

Additionally, scientists have found that Agastache mexicana is an effective treatment for asthma, pain associated with inflammation, and can be used as a non-toxic botanical fungicide.

Anxiety Tea

Equal parts:

Boil for 10 minutes. Allow to steep 5 minutes. Strain and serve.

Insomnia Tea

  • 15 to 20 grams of leaves Toronjil Morado (Mexican giant hyssop) (Agastache mexicana)
  • 10 grams of orange tree leaves (Citrus sinensis)

Brew in one liter of water. Strain. Drink one cup before bed.

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Natural Healing — Canela

Although there are several types of cinnamon available commercially, Mexican recipes and remedies call for cinnamomum zeylanicum otherwise known as Ceylon cinnamon. These light brown sticks are made up of many thin layers and are easily ground with a metate (grinding stone). 

This spice was brought to Mexico in 1690 by Juan de Esteyneffer, a Jesuit physician from Germany. He combined remedies and treatments he learned in New Spain (Mexico) with the European knowledge he had as a pharmacist in his work Florilegio Medicinal, published in 1712. Juan de Esteyneffer had a powerful belief in the healing properties of cinnamon or rather canela from the Latin word cannella meaning “little tube” referring to the way the bark curls as it dries. He prescribed it as a cure for sudden blindness and deafness indicating that the physician should chew on a stick and then blow the pieces into the eyes or ears of the afflicted. 

While that particular remedy didn’t catch on, canela is used to treat stomach issues, fever, cough, colds, rheumatism, regulate menstruation, teething issues, motion sickness, and hangovers in Mexico. It also is considered an aphrodisiac. 

Canela essential oil is used as a rub for rheumatism. Cinnamomum zeylanicum has wound healing properties, being both anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (reducing the sensation of pain). 

For cough, 1 section of canela, gordolobo (mullein), ajo (garlic), is boiled in ¼ liter of water and drunk as needed, sweetened with honey and flavored with limón (lime). Cinnamomum zeylanicum is an effective fungicide and can be used to treat a variety of fungi that cause respiratory infections. 

It has antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antiparasitic properties as well as anti-gastric ulcer and anti-secretagogue effects, supporting its use as a stomach ailment remedy. It has also shown to be effective against Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacteria found in the upper gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract and the colon. Both rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease have been associated with this periodontal infection. 

Motion sickness calls for canela tea. Teething issues are treated with a decoction of canela, mejorana (marjoram), butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), menta (peppermint) and cempasuchil (marigold) is administered. 

Cinnamomum zeylanicum has hepato-protective effects, making it a beneficial addition to those that drink just a bit too much alcohol by reducing the effects on the liver. It also lowers the serum cholesterol levels. 

Studies have shown that canela is useful in the treatment of PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and helps regulate menstrual cycles among women with this condition. It has also shown to be effective in reducing menopausal symptoms. For cramps, a decoction made with the flowers from la barra de San Jose (Joseph’s staff) and cinnamon is the recommended remedy. A postpartum treatment calls for ajo (garlic), ruda (rue), laurel, romero (rosemary), orange peel, clavo (clove), canela, and alum is added to a small brazier of coals and burned. The new mother stands over the brazier as it smokes. This treatment is done every other day until the 40-day postpartum period is over. 

Canela has anti-cancer properties and has been useful in treating leukemia. It has been shown to have antioxidant properties and be useful in reducing damage to the pancreas often experienced by those with diabetes as well as being antidiabetic in nature. Studies suggest that regular ingestion may halt or delay Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been shown to be effective in reducing the progression of multiple sclerosis. The combination of cinnamon bark extract and honey has potential activity against acne-causing bacteria.

Although tea is the typical method of preparation as an herbal remedy, canela is also a staple in many other traditional beverages. Mexican chocolate, horchata (rice milk) and cafe de olla (coffee) are always made with a dash of canela. Mole, the thick chocolate sauce served with meat and rice, also uses canela, both when it is in broth form and then added again when ground. Tepache, an alcoholic beverage made from pineapple is seasoned with cinnamon. One of the most common atole (a thick corn drink) flavors is canela. And finally Ponche Navideño (Christmas punch) would not taste the same without this little twig. 

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Natural Healing — Chicalote

Chicalote (Argemone mexicana) grows in abundance in La Yacata during the dry season. I discovered that it has medicinal value quite by chance. I was looking for another plant, and found a picture of this one, which I could positively identify, having seen it year after year by my house. 

Mexican prickly poppy has several names, leading to some confusion. Chicalote is the name I am most familiar with, however in Mexico, it is also known as cardo, cardo santo, adormidera, adormidera espinosa, amapolilla, and Amapola montés. Cardo santo was the name given to this plant by the Spaniards when they cataloged medicinal plants they found, not to be confused with Cnicus benedictus which is also known as cardo santo. 

In Nahuatl, it was known as chicálotl, chillazotl, or xicólotl. In Zapoteca spoken in Oaxaca, the same plant is called guechinichi. In Maya, it is k`iix-k`anlol or k`iix-saklol. In the language spoken by the Tarascans centered in Michoacan, it was shate or xaté. And in Huasteca, the indigenous language of San Luis Potosí, it was known as tzólich.

The fact that so many different indigenous groups identified this plant so specifically shows its importance both culturally and medically. Chicalote was believed to be sacred to the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, the fact that it grows abundantly in the dry season notwithstanding. It was used to treat water related diseases like palsy. Most indigenous groups in Mexico believed that diseases could be classified into four categories, hot, cold, wet and dry. And that sometimes gods punished their subjects with specific diseases that must be treated with appeasement of the angry god, who would then send a cure. Thus, near drownings or lighting strikes (signs of Tlaloc’s displeasure) were also treated with chicalote. 

You should exercise caution when using this plant as the seeds are toxic to humans and animals that accidentally ingest them while grazing. On the other hand, a pinch of ground seeds mixed with water makes an effective laxative. 

The sap is an orange-yellow color and contains berberine and protopine. It has been used medicinally in Mexico as a topical analgesic. The seeds are also crushed and mixed with petroleum jelly for an ointment to treat burns and skin infections. 

The leaves when smoked have a slightly narcotic effect, however vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects. This hypnotic effect is the reason the chicalote was used traditionally as a sedative, for migraines and coughs, and for epilepsy. The Seri in Sonora use chicalote leaves to treat kidney pain and expel afterbirth. 

An infusion of leaves is used to treat nervios (nerves). Insomnia can be relieved with an infusion of 14 grams of the flowers in ¼ liter of water drunk before bed. 

For migraines, a spoonful of leaves is steeped in a cup of boiling water and drunk. For a severe cough, drink 1 cup of tea made from 50 grams of ground seeds and leaves that have been boiled for 15 minutes in a liter of water before bed. 

Traditional medicine also uses chicalote to treat diarrhea. The leaves are boiled with ground, browned rice and drunk throughout the day. 

Quite a bit of scientific study has been done on the Argemone mexicana. Not surprisingly, most of the traditional uses have merit and some new applications have been discovered. The leaves and stem are antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic. They also contain anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

The leaves are also useful in reducing side effects experienced from synthetic medicines and are effective in the treatment of epileptic disorders. And finally, Malaria, HIV and morphine withdrawal have been successfully treated with decoctions made from the Argemone mexicana. 

Who would have believed that this scrubby thistle would have so many medicinal benefits?

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