Tag Archives: traditional herbal remedies

Natural Healing — Pirúl

Photo credit: Georges Jansoone

Pirúl (Schinus molle) is also known as pirú, perú, Falso Pimentero, gualeguay, Árbol Del Perú, Peruvian Peppertree, and in Nahuatl, it is Pelonquáhuitl. As you may have guessed, it is native to the Peruvian Andes. The botanical name molle comes from mulli, which is the Quechua word for tree. The indigenous put a high value on the pirúl because of its many uses. Textiles were dyed using Pirúl leaves. Oil extracted from the leaves was used by the Incas to embalm their dead. The high sugar content of its fruit meant that it was a common ingredient in atole, pulque, and chicha, a fermented corn beverage. The fruit was also used as a pepper substitute.

Credit for the first pirúl cultivation in Mexico is given to Virrey Antonio de Mendoza in the mid-1500s. Francisco Hernández de Toledo recorded that indigenous healers used parts of the pirúl to close wounds, stop bleeding, heal hemorrhoids, treat cataracts, and ease arthritis pain. The sap was dissolved in water as a purgative. Full branches from this leafy tree were used in limpias (cleansings).

In traditional remedies used by curanderas today, this plant treats wounds, infections, toothache, rheumatism, and menstrual disorders among other ailments. It is also prescribed as an antidepressant and diuretic as well as an effective insecticide.

To help with constipation, make an infusion from 1 tablespoon of pirúl leaves in one liter of water. Drink one cup three times a day after meals. Crushed leaves can be used in a wash for conjunctivitis. A foot bath with fresh pirúl leaves, which have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, can reduce foot swelling. 

A bark decoction for bronchitis or respiratory issues is prepared by boiling one tablespoon of bark in one liter of water for ten minutes. Sun-dried or comal-toasted leaves can be applied as a poultice to relieve rheumatism pain and sciatica. Fresh fruit in an infusion serves as a diuretic. The resin can be chewed like gum to heal mouth ulcers. A water extract made from the leaves is used to treat amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea. For sores and skin inflammations, the resin can be used topically, the ground leaves used as plasters, and a leaf infusion is made to wash the affected area. Pirúl has proven antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial effects.

The leaves have antimicrobial, antibacterial, antinociceptive, antimalarial, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Pirúl shows signs of immunomodulatory properties as it activates the immune system. The fruit is antioxidant and antimicrobial. It also demonstrates preventative potential against oxidative and inflammatory stress.  Additionally, Pirúl has an antidepressant-like effect as effective as commonly prescribed medications. 

Note: The fruit and leaves are potentially poisonous to pigs, poultry, fish, and calves. There have also been reports of children experiencing vomiting and diarrhea after eating the fruit. Individuals with low blood pressure should not use any remedies that contain pirúl. 


Learn more traditional herbal remedies in Mexico!

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Natural Healing — Palo de Brasil

Haematoxylum brasiletto Photo credit: Jim Conrad

Palo de brasil (Haematoxylum brasiletto) is also called azulillo, palo rojo, Brasilillo marismeño, and in Nahuatl quamóchitl (or cuamóchitl) and hoitzquánhuitl. This tree has yellow flowers and under certain conditions can bloom most of the year. It is native to Mexico and Central America.

In some areas it is known as palo tinto or palo de tinto, however this name leads to some confusion due to the fact that a very similar tree, Palo de Campeche (Haematoxylum campechianum), is also called palo tinto. The misnomer continues when translated into English. Palo de brasil (Haematoxylum brasiletto) is Brasilwood, while Palo de Campeche (Haematoxylum campechianum) is Mexican logwood. Both trees are used to make paint dye (hence palo de tinto). Many herb texts use the two interchangeably, which is incorrect.  

Palo de Brasil has been used traditionally for heart conditions and kidney disease. The Aztecs used the bark as a treatment for diarrhea. In Sonora, twigs are chewed for mouth sores and tooth infections. The bark is combined with licorice root for asthma attacks. A tea made from the branches is a common remedy for depression, fever, and urinary issues. Other areas in Mexico use palo de Brasil as an astringent to clean wounds, treat skin infections and genital warts. 
This tree has anti-bacterial properties and has been shown to be effective against E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus infections. Brazilwood is also used in the treatment of gastric ulcers and cancer in some areas of Mexico. Studies have proven it has anti-cancer properties supporting its use in cancer treatment. Scientists have also discovered that it is useful in the treatment of diseases caused by parasitic protozoan trypanosomes of the genus Trypanosoma such as Chagas disease.

Palo de Brasil Infusion for Kidney Problems

Boil ½ liter of water. 


12 to 15 grams of palo de Brasil woodchips 

Drink 1 cup 3 times a day after meals.


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 –Retama

The gorgeous yellow trumpet bush, locally known as retama, grows wild in La Yacata. It’s a favorite of hummingbirds, so I always am delighted when it sprouts up in the backyard. My husband, not so much. He says it’s only good to make tea to stimulate the appetite and that it’s a horrible tea to drink, speaking from experience.

That couldn’t be all this lovely plant was capable of, so off I went to track down its medicinal properties. The botanical name is Tecoma stans and it is native to the Americas. It is drought-resistant and prefers rocky soil, which makes La Yacata an excellent habitat for it.  Throughout Mexico, it is known by many names including flor amarillo, Hierba de San Pedro, Palo de arco, and tronadora. 

In Nahuatl, it was known as tecoma xóchitl (flower in the form of a vase), Candox, Nixtamal Xóchitl and used medicinally by the Aztecs. In Maya, it is K’anlol or Xk’anol.

In Mexico, traditional remedies still use the stems, flowers, leaves, branches, bark and root of this plant to cure. An infusion of the flower stems is given to reduce the effects of a hangover. Tea made from the roots is prescribed as a diuretic. The leaves are used to make a decoction drunk before breakfast for nine days to treat gonorrhea. 

To treat whooping cough, a decoction is made from the leaves of the retama, cabbage rose petals, and stems of tasajo cactus. Retama is also included in remedies to treat adult onset diabetes. The leaves and flowers are used to treat the common cold, fever, headache, kidney problems and jaundice. The flowers and leaves are also applied externally as a poultice to treat skin infections.  A tea made from the flowers is made to calm menstrual cramps. 

The leaves and flowers have both antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has a high level of pancreatic lipase inhibitory activity, making it an effective treatment for diabetes. The flowers are nephroprotective, making it an accessible treatment for kidney issues. 

It certainly seems a useful plant 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.

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Filed under Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing