Tag Archives: natural remedies

Natural Healing — Chia

Photo credit: Dick Culbert

Before the conquest, chia (Salvia hispanica/Salvia columbariae) was one of Mexico’s basic food sources along with maíz (Zea mays), frijol (Phaseolus vulgaris), and huaútli (Amaranthus). Bernardino de Sahagún recorded in the Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España detaled the production, comercialization, and uses of chia.

Chia was so important to the Aztecs that there are words for the process of making oil from chia (chiamachiua), one who makes the oil (chiamachiuhqui), the process of polishing something with chia oil (chiamauia), one who sells chia oil (chiamanamacac), the process of extracting oil from chia seeds (chiamapatzca), one who extracts oil from chia seeds (chiamapatzcac), chia oil (chiamatl), to become stained with chia oil (chiaua), to describe something greasy (chiauacayo) or oily (chiauac), a marzipan-like paste made from chia seeds (chiancaca), and a place where chia seeds are found (Chiapan modern-day Chiapas). 

The seed was known as chiyantli, chien, chian, chia, or chiantli. A sprig of chia was centzontecomatl. As a verb chiya or chia meant to wait for, in reference to the tedious process of extracting oil from the seeds. Chianzotzolatoli was a drink prepared with toasted maíz and chia.

Pinolatl is a beverage made from maíz and toasted chia seeds. Pinolli was ground chia (or maíz) seeds made into flour now known as pinole. The Purépecha make small tamales made from pinole which are placed on the Día de Muertos alters each year. 

Chia was associated with the diety Chicomecóatl, the feminine aspect of Centéotl. Both were deities of fertility and abundance. Corn, beans, and chia were included in the offerings made during their celebratory months. 

Medicinally, the seeds, roots, leaves, and flowers were used by indigenous groups for skin infections, gastrointestinal ailments, fever, respiratory issues, urinary tract infections, eye diseases, and disorders of the nervous system.

Raw or toasted, chia is added to beverages, soups, oatmeal, yogurt, and salads regularly in Mexico. When the seeds are soaked, they release mucilage which is a gelatin-like liquid.

Chia contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3, omega-6, dietary fiber, protein, and phytochemicals (compounds found in plants that benefit human health). Regular ingestion has shown to be useful in the treatment of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. It has antioxidant, hypotensive, hypoglycemic, immunostimulatory, and antimicrobial activities. Salvia columbariae has compounds scientists believe can be used to treat strokes due to its anti-blood clotting properties. Chia is also antiatherosclerotic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, antidepressant, antianxiety, analgesic, laxative, and anti-inflammatory

Conjunctivitis is treated by placing a single seed in the eye. The mucilaginous substance that forms allows the eye to be wiped clean. Raw seeds are chewed as a digestive aid. For a fever, a drink made from limones (Citrus aurantiifolia), sweeted with miel (honey), and chia seeds is prescribed.


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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Filed under Health, Mexican Food and Drink, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Natural Healing — Tomatillo

Photo credit: Stefan.lefnaer

Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa or Physalis philadelphica) is also known as tomate fresadilla (tomate de fresadilla), tomate de cáscara, tomate milpero, miltomate (from the Nahuatl mjltomatl field tomato), farolito, and tomate verde or just tomate. In contrast, the term jitomate is used for red tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) from the word XĪTOMA-TL, while these small husked fruits’ name comes from the Nahuatl term TOMA-TL.

Although best known for adding the delicious sour taste to salsa verde, tomatillo has also been used medicinally at least since the time of the Aztecs. Traditionally, this fruit which can be found in yellow, orange, green, and purple, has been used for headaches, infections, fever, stomach ailments, and diabetes although there has been no scientific evidence supporting the plant’s hypoglycemic action

On the other hand, the calyx, leaf, fruit, and stem have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, with the husk having the highest concentrations. Additionally, the sticky part of the calyx has anti-inflammatory properties. The fruit has been shown to aid in digestion and is high in antioxidants. Extracts have shown promise in inhibiting pancreatic tumor growth and cancer chemopreventive properties as well.

The toasted fruit is mashed with salt and applied externally for earaches, headaches, and sore throats. Sweetened juice is prescribed for sore throats. Boiling the husk with pericón (Tagetes lucida) is recommended to make a tea to ease a sore throat and hoarseness. 

Stomach ailments caused by bilis (excess rage believed to acculumate in the liver) are treated with an infusion made from nopal root (Opuntia ficus-indica) and the leaves from albahaca (Ocimum basilicum), tomatillo, estafiate (Artemisia ludoviciana), yerba buena (Mentha spicata), and orégano de monte (Lippia graveolens). Simmer the ingredients for 10 minutes. Strain. Drink one cup a day on an empty stomach for 9 days.


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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Filed under Alternative Farming, Health, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Natural Healing — Llantén

Photo credit: Robert Flogaus-Faust

Llantén (Plantago major) has many names in Mexico including llantén mayor, llantén de hoja ancha, lengua de carnero, orejas de burro, lengua de vaca, lantén, paletarea, plantén, anten, antena, chile de pato, and mucilago. Several sources also claimed that in Nahuatl this plant was known as acaxīlotl. However, this name actually refers to the root of the tolpatlacti, which is a reed and not the broadleaf plantain. The confusion I believe began from a description of acaxīlotl by Francisco Hernández de Toledo who stated that the leaves of the plant that the edible root is from are similar to llantén (plantain) but larger. 

Llantén grows wild in La Yacata and I had no idea it had any medicinal application until I started researching it. Traditionally, llantén is applied externally for headaches, wounds, burns, insect bites, cold sores, and eye inflammation. Boiled fresh leaves are applied as a healing poultice for wounds. Leaves added to rosewater (Rosa gallica) infusion make a cooling wash for irritated eyes. Leaves applied directly to the cold sore reduce inflammation. Fresh llantén and geranio (Pelargonium spp.) leaves are mashed, salted, and bound to the head to treat headaches. Plantago major has hematopoietic activity, is inhibitory against hyaluronidase and collagenase enzymes, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcerative, anti-bacterial, and anti-nociceptive, making it appropriate for wound healing application.

The leaves are made into a diuretic tea, gargle for sore throat and mouth sores, and as a wash for vaginal irritation. Simmer ½ cup of leaves in two cups of water for this infusion. As a diuretic, drink a cup of tea made from two to four grams of dried leaves, three times a day. It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well as demonstrated effectiveness in the management of oral mucositis and a relaxant effect on the tracheal smooth muscles of the throat. Additionally, llantén is antigiardiasic and protects against kidney damage

Note: Llantén should not be used by individuals with heart conditions, those taking blood-thinning medication, or women who are pregnant or lactating. 


Curious about the effectiveness of Mexican herbal remedies? Delve into the science of plants for well-being by:

Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies in Mexico.

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