Natural Medicines From the Aztec, Maya, Zapotecs and Mixtec

In a way, my mother was a kitchen pharmacist combining an herb and a spice to cure what ails you

By Chef Elly Pendankar, Spicy Cilantro
Published on LatinoLA: September 10, 2012

Natural Medicines From the Aztec, Maya, Zapotecs and Mixtec

Originally published at Spicy Cilantro

I remember my mother reaching into the kitchen cabinet for Canela (Cinnamon sticks), and going in our backyard to get some Yerba Buena (Mint), and she would make a tea when we had tummy aches, so spicy warm and comforting and of course with the two spoonfuls of sugar, made it that more enjoyable .

In a way my mother was a kitchen pharmacist combining an herb and a spice to cure what ails you. Cinnamon's health benefits include helping to soothe flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea. Mint is used to calm the digestive tract as well as helping those with irritable bowel syndromeÔÇô it also slows the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi that like to hang out in digestive tractsÔÇô so mom was right on the money. I once heard her speaking to a friend on the phone that was having a hard time with a fussy baby, she told her to make a pot of Manzanilla which translated into Spanish means (little apples). In English it is called chamomile. Let it cool and add it to bath water and bathe the baby in it. Its calming effect seems to relax and soothe.

In her book "Homegrown Healing: Traditional Home Remedies from Mexico," author Annette Sandoval describes how the Aztec king Montezuma kept a garden of thousands of medicinal plants during the 15th century, and how priests conducted pharmacological research on such plants. The Spanish conquistadors arrived with their own medical traditions, and tried to obliterate indigenous science in the name of enlightenment. Later, Spanish missionaries collected and documented indigenous medicinal plants while preaching their own medical beliefs and practices.

In addition, different indigenous groups populated different regions--the Aztecs in the central-south, the Maya in the southeast, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs mostly in the southern state of Oaxaca.


Tropical fruits found in this part of the country like the Papaya fruit is applied to the skin for relief from insect bites, while papaya leaves are boiled and applied on a chest wrap to treat asthma. A tea made from banana peels is believed to help with vesicular problems, while a tea made from mango rinds is used to treat stomach problems.


The high mountainous area where not smaller plants are found the branches of specific trees like the boiled branches of bret??nica are said to be good for dysentery, as is boiled chalahuite rind. For cuts, boiled arnica is applied to the injured area.


Desert plants are used in local medicinal treatment. Like using the chunks of the stem of the chaparro amargo scrub brush that is boiled into a tea used to treat amoebas. Teas made from sunflower are used against various ailments, including headaches, colds and tonsillitis.

I still make sure I have plenty cinnamon sticks and have fresh mint growing on my window sill. Just in case.

So now you know, that the best remedies for what ails us, come from our favorite family and traditional natural recipes.

ÔÇôChef Elly

All Rights Reserved, ?® 2012, Spicy Cilantro

About Chef Elly Pendankar, Spicy Cilantro:
Chef Elly Pendankar, Elly's Eclectic Eats, Manhattan, NY
Author's website

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