Tag Archives: mexican herbal remedies

Natural Healing — Jícama

Photo credit: Judgefloro and Wibowo Djatmiko

Jícama (Pachyrhizus erosus), from the Nahuatl word xicamatl, is a native Mexican plant. From Mexico, it was introduced to the Philippines by the Spanish and then to Southeast Asia. In Mexico, two types of jícama are cultivated. Jícama de agua is turnip-shaped and has a clear, watery juice, while the juice from jícama de leche is spindle-shaped and is milkier.

As with other plants we’ve looked at, its importance in the prehispanic diet is evidenced by the number of Nahuatl words devoted to it. These words include the specific name for the root, catzotl, the verb for planting jícama, cahtzōntōca, and the person who plants jícama,  cahtzōntōquiliā. Other names it is known by in Mexico include chicam and hehenchican. In English, jícama is most often called the Mexican yam bean.

The edible tuber’s fresh leaves, seedpods, and peel contain the toxin rotenone and make an effective insecticide. However, once the leaves dry, they are no longer toxic and often used as livestock feed in Mexico.

If you’ve never had jícama, you are in for a treat. The tuber is crisp and juicy and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It has a fresh flavor with a hint of cinnamon. It is often added to salads or sprinkled with limón and chile powder. It remains crisp after cooking, making it an excellent substitute for water chestnuts. Starch from the tuber is used in custards. Even the seed pods can be eaten, as long as they are thoroughly cooked.

Jícama plants need nine months of frost-free weather to mature. Once harvested, the tuber will remain fresh for up to four months whole and up to one week after being cut. 

An intestinal purge is made with 40 grams of jícama seed juice drunk morning and night. For wounds, a tincture is made from 100 grams of powdered seeds steeped in ½ liter of alcohol, soaked for three days, strained, then applied as a poultice. An infusion made from the root and seedpods is utilized as a wash for gout and inflammation. 

Not only is jícama refreshing, but it also has excellent nutritional value. Jícama contains iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, calcium, and selenium. It also has vitamins C, A, and E.  Additionally, studies have shown it is a good substitute for probiotic drinks.

Studies have shown it to have antioxidant, anticancer, anti-diabetic, anti-osteoporosis, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.  It has an immunomodulatory effect. It is considered a preventative food source against the development of diabetes and obesity. The toxic rotenone found in the peel, fresh leaves, and seedpods is an effective insecticide and anti-tumor. Regular ingestion promotes cardiovascular health. The seed extract cause muscles to relax as well as reduces anxiety and aggression. The seeds also show moderate anti-herpes simplex virus (HSV) activity.

Agua de Jícama

  • 4 cups of water
  • ½ cup jugo de limón (Citrus aurantifolia)
  • ½ cup jícama peeled and cut into pieces (Pachyrhizus erosus)

Blend the jícama with the limón juice and water. Sweeten with miel (honey) as desired.


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 — Pericón

Tagetes lucida Photo credit: Dick Culbert

Pericón (Tagetes lucida) is also known as, hierbanís, cuchrucumín, flor de Santa María, hierba añil, periquillo, yerbanís, Mexican tarragon in English, yauhtli in Nahuatl, and Naná uarhi in Purépecha. It is native to Mexico and in the same family as the more well-known cempasúchil (Tagetes erecta). The Aztecs used it in cooking, as medicine, and in rituals. It was an ingredient to the sacred drink chocolatl and still added to chayote and elotes (boiled corn ears) for flavoring. As it was considered holy to Tlaloc, the rain god, it was rubbed on the chest to ensure safety before crossing a river. It was closely associated with the harvest because it is found after the first rains of the season and blooms around the time the corn is ready to harvest.

After the conquest, pericón became associated with San Miguel (Michael the Archangel). In many areas, it is customary to place crosses made from the plant in each corner of la milpa (cornfield) and on doors to homes and businesses on September 28 to invoke the protection of San Miguel as part of the periconeada (also known as la Fiesta del Pericón) ceremony. September 29 is the feast day of the three archangels, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael.  

Medicinally, pericón is prescribed as a tonic for diarrhea, empacho (indigestion), asthma, colds, rheumatism, susto (a nervous disorder), and to regulate menstruation in Mexico

An infusion for stuffy noses is made with a handful of leaves in a quart of water. Another tea for fever includes the stems, leaves, and flowers. Dried plants are often burned to keep flies and mosquitoes away from an area.

Pericón has anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive, antispasmodic, antidiarrheal, antifungal, antibacterial, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antinociceptive, antidepressant, and sedative-like properties. These components support its traditional use for some nervous and digestive disorders. Additionally, it is a potent hepatoprotective and effective against Streptococcus pyogenes respiratory diseases.

Note: The name hierba anís is used for three related plants, Tagetes lucida, Tagetes filifolia, and Tagetes micrantha in different areas of Mexico. Be sure to positively identify the plant before use.

Pericón Infusion for Stuffy Nose

3-5 tablespoons of pericón leaves

Simmer the leaves in a quart of water. Allow it to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sip throughout the day to alleviate a stuffy nose.


Interested in health? Learn traditional Mexican plant remedies used today for wellness in the Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico series. Now available on Amazon!

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Natural Healing — Malva de Quesitos

Photo credit: Curtis Clark Malva parviflora

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.

Malva parviflora (cheeseweed) is the most commonly found variety of malva found in Mexico. Malva parviflora is anti-inflammatory and improves cognitive deficit that results from Alzheimer’s disease. The leaves inhibit insulin resistance and lower cholesterol levels. It is also an effective tuberculosis treatment

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

Malva verticillata L. var. crispa is a common food item served raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. It is a rich source of antioxidants.

Malva sylvestris, known as malva de campo or malva silvestre, is mostly used as an internal or external anti-inflammatory agent in Mexico. It is also an ingredient in treatments for chickenpox and after-birth expellant. Used as a tea infusion, it’s given to reduce the intensity of cough, bronchitis, and asthma and as a digestive aid. Malva sylvestris has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and renal-protective properties. The flowers are analgesic and anti-inflammatory. The leaves are anti-cancer, anti-ulcerogenic, and encourage the formation of skin tissue. It is also neuroprotective and shows promise as a food source that reduces brain inflammation associated with depression and mild traumatic brain injury.

Malva de Campo Diuretic Infusion

  • One part cola de caballo (Equisetum myriochaetum)
  • One part barbas del maíz (Zea mays) cornsilk
  • One part malva de campo (Malva sylvestris)
  • One part perejil (Petroselinum crispum)

Combine herbs in equal parts. Pour a cup of boiling water over a rounded teaspoon of the mixture. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink in the morning before breakfast.


Interested in discovering a path to wellness through traditional medicine? Discover Mexican herbalism with common remedies used today with the series Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico.

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