Tag Archives: traditional mexican herbal remedies

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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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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Natural Healing — Cola de Caballo

Photo credit: Allen Gathman Equisetum hyemale subsp. affine

The other day in the market, I noticed several bound herb packets including te de limon and manzanilla. The third mound was unfamiliar to me, so I asked about it. The woman selling them said it was cola de caballo and was for kidney disease. All righty then, time for another plant study!

Cola de caballo (Equisetum spp) is also known as equiseto, limpiaplata, cien nudillos, cola de rata, caña carricillo, and candalillo in Mexico. This plant is believed to have been part of the staple diet of herbivorous dinosaurs. There are about 30 species and subspecies in the Equisetaceae family, which reproduce by spores rather than seeds. At least three varieties, Equisetum hyemale subsp. affine, Equisetum laevigatum and Equisetum myriochaetum, are native to Mexico. 

Traditionally in Mexico, it’s used as a diuretic, for kidney stones, and bladder or urinary tract infections. It’s also used in treatments for gout, wounds, hair loss, conjunctivitis, cough, diabetes type 2, and to increase energy. The young shoots are eaten as a vegetable. It has a grassy flavor, as to be expected.

A tea made from romerillo (Viguiera linearis) and cola de caballo (Equisetum laevigatum) is prescribed in Chiapas, Durango, and Sonora to treat urinary disorders. In Oaxaca, a tea prepared with 4 teaspoons dried or 8 teaspoons fresh of leaves, flowers, stems, and roots (Equisetum hyemale subsp. affine) in 1 cup of boiling water is given for kidney stones. Allow the infusion to steep from 5-20 minutes. Strain and drink daily before meals. In Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca, cola de caballo (Equisetum myriochaetum) is combined with barba de maíz (Zea mays), corn silk, for treatment of kidney ailments. Seven to 12 grams of each ingredient is added to ½ liter of water and boiled for 15 minutes. Two cups are prescribed daily. Yet another kidney stone treatment calls for a decoction made from cola de caballo (Equisetum myriochaetum), nopal paddle (Opuntia ficus-indica), and gobernadora leaves (Larrea tridentata) prepared every morning and cooled by the morning dew for 40 days.

A wash for wounds consists of 200 grams (Equisetum myriochaetum) boiled for 30 minutes in 2 liters of water. Because cola de caballo has a high silicone content, it is believed that drinking a daily infusion will promote shiny hair and strong nails.

Research on Equisetum arvense, the most commonly studied variety, has been shown it to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anticancer, cardioprotective, and antimicrobial. This variety has also demonstrated the ability to increase bone mineral density supporting its use in treating wounds including its application to bone healing.

Equisetum myriochaetum also shows promising health applications. It has anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, antioxidative, and diuretic activity. Equisetum hyemale is antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. It also lowers cholesterol. Most other species and subspecies have not been examined thoroughly, but undoubtedly will have similar properties.

Note: Individuals with low potassium levels should not use remedies with cola de caballo.


Interested in health? Learn traditional Mexican plant remedies used today for wellness with

Exploring Traditional Herbal Remedies Volume 1 & 2.

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