Tag Archives: Mexico

Natural Healing — Yerba Buena

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Yerba buena, (also spelled hierba buena) otherwise known as Spearmint, is yet another herb that came with the Spanish friars and was gleefully added to the indigenous medicinal herb garden. 

Curanderas (healers) add spearmint to make a concoction more palatable but it also has its own medicinal value.

To treat acid indigestion, gastritis, heartburn, and nausea steep dried or fresh yerba buena for 15 minutes. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. Add limón and baking soda and drink as needed. Nausea caused by pregnancy tea is made from yerba buena flavored with canela (cinnamon). Nausea caused by a hangover calls for a tea made from a spoonful of yerba buena flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Intestinal inflammations are traditionally treated with an infusion of powdered root. Spearmint has a proven antispasmodic effect.

For the most part, yerba buena (good herb) is still used primarily to treat stomach ailments in Mexico, although the herb has other medicinal properties worth noting.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) has been shown to reduce pain for people who have osteoarthritis. The antioxidant properties protect the liver. Regular ingestion improves memory. Spearmint is effective in reducing anxiety and is antimicrobial. Infusions of spearmint have been traditionally used topically as a mild wound wash to reduce the chance of bacterial infections. A poultice of spearmint leaves and a little olive oil is sometimes used to treat burns.

It is both antiproliferative and antidiabetic. It has been effective in the treatment of Polycystic ovary syndrome and hirsutism. Yerba buena has often been used medicinally particularly digestive issues. It has been shown to have anti-obesity properties.

Yerba buena is often used to reduce flem. To make a tea for colds and flu, boil 10 grams of the leaves for each 1 / 2 liter of water. Tea for a headache is made with a sprig of fresh hierbabuena and a few romero leaves (rosemary).

Babies are given teaspoons weak tea made from yerba buena then they have hiccups and are teething. If a baby is colicky, basil, cempasuchil, eneldo (dill), fennel, senna, yerba buena, brook mint, rosa de castilla (rose) are combined in equal parts. Three fingers full (a good pinch) of the mix is steeped in a liter of water.

Yerba buena is a natural food preservative and can be used as an organic insecticide. It also prohibits the growth of certain fungi on plants.

Overall, yerba buena is a good herb to have on hand.

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Natural Healing — Manzanilla

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Matricaria chamomilla (German Chamomile) has long been used to treat menstrual cramps. In fact, Matricaria comes from the Latin word for womb (matriz). It is an herb that didn’t originate in Mexico but has become a fast favorite since it was brought from Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s.

In Spanish, manzana means “apple,” so it’s only natural that chamomile (which also means apple), is called “little apple” in Mexico, not for its appearance but its apple-like scent.

Manzanilla is digestive, sedative, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Breast pain associated with premenstrual syndrome (mastalgia) has been effectively treated with regular doses of chamomile extract. To make a traditional Mexican PMS tea, use 10 grams of manzanilla (flowers and leaves) for every half liter 3 times a day as needed.

Matricaria chamomilla has antifungal properties as well. To treat a yeast infection in the Mexican way, use 20 grams of flowers for every half liter of water for a vaginal wash. Allow to the infusion to steep for 15 minutes before use.

Manzanilla is given to laboring mothers as well as prescribed after delivery in Mexico. Some midwives (parteras) use an ointment from manzanilla leaves and onions fried in manteca (lard) to lessen labor pains. For postpartum discomfort, an infusion of canela (cinnamon) rosa de castilla (Rosa gallica) and manzanilla is made from equal parts of each herb.

Studies have shown that manzanilla has been helpful for women in returning to regular digestive patterns after a cesarean section. It has also been used successfully to treat parasitic infections of the stomach.

Manzanilla is often used to treat eye infections. To make an eyewash, add a pinch of salt before boiling the herb. Make sure the infusion is freshly made for each application. Although care should be taken with topical application. Some people have a sensitivity to manzanilla on the skin. Applying it to the skin may cause a rash or allergic reaction.

Colicky babies are often given a weak tea made with manzanilla in Mexico. Young children are given manzanilla to help with dehydration caused by diarrhea. The Tzeltal Maya of Chiapas, Mexico make a manzanilla tea with an orange and lime leaf added to improve the drinker’s mood.

Additionally, it has anticancer properties and can be used in the treatment of lung cancer. The chamomile flower heads and leaves have antioxidant properties. This pretty little flower has been shown to be memory enhancing and useful in the prevention of cell death in the hippocampal region of the brain too.

Apparently, regular ingestion of manzanilla will help you live longer if you a woman according to one study, so bottoms up ladies.

The mood enhancing tea recipe, with manzanilla, orange and lime leaf, sounded so delicious, I decided to make my own cup. And it was.

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A to Z Blogs About Mexico–VidaMaz

Dianne Hofner Saphiere and her husband Greg Webb are the authors of VidaMaz about their family life in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México.  It’s an excellent resource for those planning on visiting or moving to the area.  Be sure to check it out!

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Before we were married, we promised to raise our son overseas, so that he could grow up thinking of himself as a global citizen, be fluent in a second language, and know how it feels to be an immigrant minority. A year before he was to leave primary school and start middle school, we made the decision to relocate. For the next year, we had a tutor come in to teach us Spanish twice/week, and we began getting rid of everything extra in our home—major downsizing.

Our family blog is VidaMaz, because it’s all about our life in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico.

We live in Mazatlán, on the west coast of Mexico, so our blog primarily focuses on this area: what’s going on in town, the joys of daily life, nearby road trips that are worthwhile, cultural tidbits. We love to travel, however, so you’ll find posts about Copper Canyon, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, or even Venice or Sophia. We’ve had lots of posts about raising kids here, but our son is now in university, so that phase is pretty much past. I am a photographer, and we often share what my lens has captured. We love knowing how our posts have helped people over the years, whether it’s informing their decision about moving or where to take a trip on the weekend. It’s a joy to meet them when they visit or move here.

We blog for pleasure, and to help other expats. Our site started to help family and friends stay in touch, but it was quickly adopted by our local community as a place to find in-depth stories and information. We write mostly for our expats in our area, but we are read by many locals who use VidaMaz to practice their English and learn about the interests of expats. 

The blog has very much evolved over the years because what we see as exciting, new and interesting has changed. I imagine that trend will continue. We are blessed with a community of great local and expat friends, and I’ve noticed that we are often asked to take on a leadership role, or at least the role of “voice” or communicator, between the two. We do the blog to share what life is like here, to help others, and because we enjoy it. We don’t make money at it, so we don’t want it to become an obligation in any way; we want it to stay joyful, which so far it has.

We’ve posted 450 times since we started blogging in late 2008. Nowadays we can average 27,000 views per month, so a favorite post is very difficult. Our most-read post was written when the Baluarte Bridge first opened, connecting the states of Durango and Sinaloa.

Our second most popular post was about our local merchant marine academy, Latin America’s oldest, where loads of our son’s friends go to school.

I really enjoyed writing about our local, incredible watchmaker.

The most difficult topic to blog about was when our friend was kidnapped and murdered, and we posted to help the efforts to find him. It was heartbreaking, community leaders and expats had nerves frayed… just a very stressful time. We did our best to be helpful, but balancing what the family wanted with what the police advised and what our readers asked for with what we could do was very tough.

Our best experience was raising our son here. At 12 years old he did NOT want to move! On our one-year anniversary, we woke him for school and he told us, “One year since the best decision of our lives.” He struggled for months learning enough Spanish to keep up with school work. Then, about six months in, he went to bed one night, and it was as if a lightbulb turned on. From then on he could handle his schoolwork. Friendships were challenging, also, as people are very friendly, but manners and customs are different. It takes getting used to. He was called “gringo” by his friends for a long time and still is by some. Living here has taught him mental and emotional flexibility. It’s taught him to bridge two worlds, to find the best in situations, to create constructive paths forward. I’m eternally grateful to Mexico, our family and friends for helping make that happen, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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If I’m honest the worst experiece I’ve had in Mexico has been the deaths of several friends due to violence/extortion. It’s heartbreaking. Other than that, not much. When we go through culture shock, which happens cyclically as you get to know people more deeply, you can have days that you feel haven’t gone well. Perhaps our most difficult challenge was during MotoWeek parade, when a motorcycle crashed, jumped the curb, and hit my husband, breaking his leg in two places. The bone healed fine, but the nerves took over a year to heal, which was hard because he’s a runner. It was a horrible experience due to the injury and sidelining of any athletics, but also because the event organizers and the city officials would do nothing to help us.

Mexico is our home. We are all permanent residents and plan to live out our lives here if possible.

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If you are considering moving to Mexico–Do it! Life is an adventure, a “Carnaval,” as they say here. Make the most of it! When you move here, remember you are in someone else’s home. The locals do things differently from, not worse than, what you are used to. Learn to discover the joy, the parts that are better, to savor them. Challenge yourself to adapt to your new surroundings, and discover parts of yourself you never knew you had.

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VidaMaz

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Playing Tourist–Patzcuaro, Michoacan

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Ex-monastery of San Agustin in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico

Patzcuaro, Michoacan is yet another Pueblo Mágico within easy driving distance from La Yacata, so there was nothing to be done but go. Its original name was Tzacapu-Hamúcutin-Pásquaro which roughly translates as Donde están las piedras (los dioses) a la entrada de donde se hace la negrura (where the stones of the gods are at the entrance to where they make the blackness) which sounds ominous. A better English translation would be ‘The entrance to the gates/entrance of Paradise’ or some such idea. The indigenous of the area held the belief that lakes were portals to the otherworld, so it comes as no surprise that there is a lake just outside of Patzcuaro proper.

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Fountain in the center of Patzcuaro, Michoacan in honor of Bishop Vasco de Quiroga.

The Purépechas founded the town sometime before 1300 mostly as a religious center. The Spanish arrived in 1522, and the town remained a religious center with a very small population until about 1539 when the bishop Vasco de Quiroga dedicated himself to the repopulation and revitalization of the area. He was well received by the native people, even earning the nickname Tata Vasco.

In 1776, the indigenous of the area staged a revolution which was put down in 1777. In 1886, the railroad Morelia-Pátzcuaro was finished, and in 1899, Patzcuaro had its first electric lights. That amazes me since La Yacata is still waiting for electricity in 2016!

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Since then, it has been a popular tourist area, known for its pottery and basketry. It really is a beautiful little town, done up in the red and white style, with cobblestone streets, much like Cuitzeo.

Our underlying reason for visiting Patzcuaro was my quest for a foot-pedaled sewing machine. Someone told me that these could be found there. So there we went. The road was clearly marked, unlike our trip to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and we were able to take the libre (free) road the entire way.

There happened to be a tianguis (flea market) in the centro (downtown), but there wasn’t much of interest for us. Most vendors were hawking new toys and boxes of cookies for Los Santos Reyes. We did enjoy some gorditas de nata and fresas con crema (strawberries with whip cream).

Around la plaza, we noticed that there were a number of American-styled coffee houses instead of the more typical taco stands. It really smelled heavenly but was pricey, so we opted not to buy any. In line with the town’s tourist popularity, there were quite a number of gringos (white English speaking people) enjoying their cups of joe, playing chess or reading. The stores were chocked full of delightful artesenia (arts and crafts) but at prices that were not accessible to the average Mexican or to us, for that matter.

cam04112.jpgWandering around town, we came across the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, built on a Purépecha/Tarasco pyramid platform. Notice the sign by the fence warns against tieing up your horses or leaning against it. I didn’t see much in the way of horses for that to be a current problem. There, outside the Basilica, vendors were selling prayer cards, rosaries, statues and peyote/marijuana cream for arthritis. Nuestra Señora de la Salud seems to be the same virgin found in Soledad, so I expect pilgrimages are made here as well to petition her curative powers. Tata Vasco’s remains are also housed within the Basilica.

We finally found the Singer Sewing store, and they had a foot-pedaled machine on display. However, the elderly owner would not sell it to me because she said it was a piece of crap, China made rather than hecho in Mexico (made in Mexico). My son pointed out that was just as well since if we did buy the machine, how would we get it in Myrtle (the VW bug) and back home? Good point.

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We stopped at a yonke (junk yard) and picked up some pieces for the revitalization of Myrtle and had a late lunch at Las Jacarandas just outside of Cuitzeo. An excellent day trip if rather uneventful.

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