The Medicinal benefits of: Mugwort, Eucalyptus, Epazote and Lemon Balm, by Diego Merino
Estifate, Ajenjo, Artemesia Mexicana, Artemisa absinthium, or better known as mugwort, is a perennial, upright, shrubby and vivacious weed that is constantly looking for sunlight to inhibit growth. (1,3) As a weed, mugwort can grow anywhere, even when light and water is scarce1. It can grow in the sandy soil of a meadow, next to roads and at high and low altitude. The main chemical components of mugwort are: Tuyon, Tuyol and Artabsina. (1,3) Other chemical components of the plant include: Valeric acid, and flavonoids, which also give the plant its medicinal values. (1,3) Flavonoids are part of the phytonutrient group, which help fight off diseases in the body while producing a lot of anti-inflammatory properties and being very rich in antioxidants10,11. Valeric acid is what gives mugwort its unpleasant smell10.
In the peninsula of Mexico, the Mayans would use this plant for ritual and medicinal purposes, but this paragraph will focus be on the medicinal values of mugwort (1).
Some of the medicinal uses of mugwort include: appetite stimulant, it helps against scorpion or snake bites, can help women regulate their menstrual cycle and can be used as an abortive, it can act as an antibacterial, and can help fight stomatitis, gingivitis and cankers, and can help with various stomach ailments such as diarrhea and can help reduce stomach pain (1).
Appetite stimulant: either break up and combine with food, or cook the plant in water, drinking a small glass of mugwort water before each meal. Using this method has been known to have to “tonic” or synergistic properties due to its bitter taste (1).
For a snake or scorpion bite: make incisions around the bite/sting. After making the incisions, put the mugwort leaves directly on top of the incision (1).
To regulate menstrual cycle or help with stomach pain/diarrhea: Brew the leaves into a tea and drink two small cups throughout the day (1).
To get its antibacterial effects: Brew the leaves, and drink three small cups throughout the day, but do not drink it with your meal. If the infection is on the outer part of the body, after brewing the leaves, apply the liquid brewed on the infected parts (1).
To alleviate stomatitis, gingivitis and cankers: Brew the leaves and gargle the liquid vigorously and thoroughly throughout the mouth (1).
Eucalyptus or Eucalyptus globus labill, is one of the hundreds of species of eucalyptus that exist, but Eucalyptus globus labill, is the most common one and is the one that is most popular in Europe and North America. Of Australian and Tasmanian descent, the eucalyptus tree is known to be an invasive specie in California(CA) (so take advantage of the many eucalyptus trees around Santa Cruz, to make some chronic all natural medicine!). The reason it has become an invasive specie in CA is due to the mediterranean weather that exist on the CA coast. Eucalyptus trees also thrive in marshy environments, where there is a lot of water, since the tree’s roots are very extensive and require lots of water. All the medicinal properties are in the leaves of the tree2. Although eucalyptus has been been used for thousands of years by the aboriginals of Tasmania and Australia, Eucalyptus oil as medicine, first appeared in the 1885 edition of British Pharmacopeia (2).
Traditional use of the Eucalyptus:
The best way to use the eucalyptus to get the most medicinal and psychological effects is through a form of “vibrational medicine” (2). The didgeridoo or the yidaki is the aboriginals wind instrument of choice2. Playing this instrument which is made out of the trunk of an eucalyptus, influence brain waves putting whoever hears the instrument in an altered state of mind (2). Playing this instrument or hearing it was believed to help people who had trouble sleeping, get a better night sleep (2). The Aboriginals believed that it would also help fix any psychological ailments, like hysteria or any kind of phobia (2). Before there was a cure for malaria, the Aboriginals had very superstitious beliefs, that the Eucalyptus would give off natural energies to fend malaria ridden mosquitoes away and help purify the air helping get rid of fever germs (2). This makes sense since the leaves of the Eucalyptus are known to be natural disinfectants. This also shows that planting Eucalyptus trees may be beneficial in controlling pest mosquito populations.
Modern day Eucalyptus uses:
Eucalyptus oil is one of the most common and efficient ways to get all the benefits that eucalyptus provides. Eucalyptus oil can be: antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, and has been purported to cure anything from Halitosis (or bad breath) to tuberculosis (2).
Eucalyptus can also provide forms of aromatherapy. Inhaling eucalyptus vapors can act as an inhalant and help with chest and bronchial congestions. Inhaling the vapors can also help against the common cold, asthma and other respiratory diseases (2). The best way that I’ve experienced Eucalyptus vapors, is crushing the leaves while taking a hot shower and hanging the leaves directly above my shower head.
As a kid, I always remember that my grandmother and my mother would add this “strange green plant” to the pot of black beans. When I asked my mother what it was, she said: epazote. When I asked her what it was for, she told me that it was to “get rid of the farts” that the beans produces. Astonished, I asked her who had taught her this type of ancient sorcery! She told me that my grandmother had taught her to put epazote en los frijoles when she was a little girl. I then proceeded to ask my grandmother who had taught her to put epazote in the beans, she told me that her grandmother had taught her that, and that it was to help get rid of the gasses produced in our stomach by the beans. Unless I created a machine to go back into the past, I would never be able to keep on asking past generations who had taught them this trick until I got to the source of the person who first decided to put epazote in their pot of beans.
Epazote contains lots of vitamins and minerals, which include vitamin A, vitamin B, calcium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium and potassium, which are vital to human health (4,5).
Gastrointestinal effects: Epazote, like every other leafy green, has lots of fiber, which can help with bowel movements, and can reduce constipation, cramps, bloatings (4,5). Which is why my mother and grandmother would put this herb in the pot of beans.
Promotes weight loss: There are 32 calories in a 100 gram serving of epazote. Since this herb is full of vitamin, minerals and fiber, it is the perfect way to stay full and energized while keeping a low calorie diet (4,5).
Remedy of Helminthic infestation: Epazote has also been known to help various kinds of parasitic worms, including hookworms and roundworms. Half or one cup of an epazote brew is given each morning before eating breakfast for three consecutive days (4,5).
Keeps bones healthy: Epazote has a wide range of minerals like: Calcium, Phosphorous, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese can help keep bones dense as people age and can fend off osteoporosis (4,5).
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, or better known as the “calming herb” is a shrubby perennial plant from the Labiatae family, which is in the same family as mint (7,9). If looking at a picture of mint and lemon balm, there are many similarities, including the leaf structure which are practically similar. It is native to southern and central Europe, and it grows well in the middle of weeds, in organic rich soil and in shady places, like the forest (7). The herb is thought to have originated in ancient Ephesus or what is modern day Turkey (9). Lemon balm has also been known to help with keeping bees happy. Lemon balm plants would be planted around beehives because according to Pliney the elder, bees would favor lemon balm over any other herb, due to it sweet citrusy smell which is due to the terpene citral and limonene (8,9). The chemical components of lemon balm consists of caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, oleanolic acid, rosmaric acid, succinic acid, ursolic acid, linalool(alcohol), citronellol(alcohol), geraniol(alcohol), beta-sisosterol(alcohol),tannins, catechins, thymol and terpenes (6,8,9). Terpenes in general have been known to help with helping ease pain and with being a sleep aid (8). The main terpenes in lemon balm are: citral, geranial, nerol, neral and limonene (6,8). The terpene limonene has been known to promote weight loss, prevent cancer, treat cancer, treat bronchitis as well as being a great natural anti-inflammatory (8).
Lemon balm and its natural components can provide some of the best natural/alternative medicine that is out there today. The best way to consume lemon balm, is by extracting it and making it into an oil tincture, or brewing the leaves in a very refreshing tea. Lemon balm is notorious for helping manage stress, helps with insomnia, tachycardia or palpitations, muscle spasms, it helps with digestion especially if someone has an upset stomach or when a person is very gassy (9). It helps ease toothaches and can help control vomiting (9). The best way(in my opinion) to get the full medicinal benefits is to infuse the the leaves with other medicinal herbs like rosemary or mint to make a tonic, synergistic drink that can help with many ailments.
- Cabezon, C. Dr. (2010). “Las plantas y la medicina”. Almuzara. Pg: 30-31
- Knowles, H. F. (2010). “La biblia de las plantas medicinales y curativas”. Gaia ediciones. Pg: 270-273.
- Cleversley, Keith. “Artemisia Mexicana – Mexican Wormwood – Entheology.com.” Entheologycom. N.p., 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- “Epazote Herb Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits.” Nutrition And You.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- @OF_OrganicFacts. “Health Benefits of Epazote | Organic Facts.” Organic Facts. N.p., 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- “Lemon Balm.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- Morrison, Melissa. “History of Lemon Balm.” History of Lemon Balm. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- Richards, Byron J. “D-Limonene: Help for Digestion, Metabolism, Detoxification, Anxiety & Breast Cancer Prevention.” Wellness Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- S.L., Botanical-online. “LEMON BALM PROPERTIES.” Properties of Lemon Balm. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- Szalay, Jessie. “What Are Flavonoids?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
- “What Are Phytonutrients? Types and Food Sources.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.