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Synonyms: Ambrina ambrosioides, A. parvula, A. spathulata, Atriplex ambrosioides, Blitum
ambrosioides, Chenopodium anthelminticum, C. integrifolium, C. spathulatum, C. suffruticosum
Common Names: Epazote, erva-de-santa maria, wormseed, apasote, chenopode, feuilles a
vers, herbe a vers, meksika cayi, paico, pazote, semen contra, semin contra, simon contegras,
mexican tea, american wormseed, jesuit’s tea, payco, paiku, paico, amush, camatai, cashua, amasamas, anserina, mastruco, mastruz, sie-sie, jerusalem tea, spanish tea, ambroisie du mexique, wurmsamen, hierba hormiguera
Parts Used: Leaf, whole plant, seed
From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:
| EPAZOTE |
| HERBAL PROPERTIES AND ACTIONS |
||Decoction: 1/2 cup once daily
||increases breast milk
||kills cancer cells
Epazote is an annual herb that grows to about 1 m in height. It has multi-branched, reddish stems covered with small, sharply toothed leaves. Epazote bears numerous small yellow flowers in clusters along its stems. Following the flowers, it produces thousands of tiny black seeds in small fruit clusters. It is easily spread and re-grown from the numerous seeds it produces which is why some consider it an invasive weed. The whole plant gives off a strong and distinctive odor.
Epazote is native to Mexico and the tropical regions of Central and South America where it is commonly used as a culinary herb as well as a medicinal plant. It has been widely naturalized throughout the world and can be found growing in parts of the southern United States. In Brazil the plant's name is erva-de-santa-maria or mastruço; in Peru its called paico. It is known throughout Mexico and Latin America as epazote. The Siona name of this plant means worm remedy and here in America it is referred to as wormseed - both referring to it long history of use against intestinal worms.
TRIBAL AND HERBAL MEDICINE USES
In the Yucatan, indigenous Indian groups have long used epazote for intestinal parasites, asthma, excessive mucus, chorea (a type of rheumatic fever that affects the brain) and other nervous afflictions. The Tikuna Indians in the Amazon use it to expel intestinal worms and as a mild laxative. The Siona-Secoya and Kofán Indian tribes in South America also use epazote for intestinal worms (usually by taking one cup of a leaf decoction each morning before eating for three consecutive days). The Kofán Indians also use the plant as a perfume-tying it to their arm for an 'aromatic' bracelet. (However, most Americans consider the smell of the plant quite strong and objectionable - calling it skunk-weed!) Creoles use it as a worm remedy for children and a cold medicine for adults while the Wayãpi use the plant decoction for stomach upsets and internal hemorrhages caused by falls. In Piura a leaf decoction is used to expel intestinal gas, as a mild laxative, as an insecticide, and as a natural remedy for cramps, gout, hemorrhoids, intestinal worms and parasites and nervous disorders. Some indigenous tribes bathe in a decoction of epazote to reduce fever and will also throw a couple of freshly uprooted green plants onto their fires to drive mosquitoes and flies away.
In herbal medicine systems throughout Latin America epazote is a popular household remedy used to rid children and adults of intestinal parasites, worms and amebas. The plant is also used in cooking - it is said to prevent intestinal gas if the leaves are cooked and/or eaten with beans and other common gas-forming foods. The leaves and seeds of epazote have long been used in Central and South American medicine as a vermifuge (to expel intestinal worms). In Brazilian herbal medicine, it is considered an important remedy for worms (especially hookworms, round worms and tape worms) and is also used for coughs, asthma, bronchitis and other upper respiratory complaints; for angina, to relieve intestinal gas, to promote sweating and as a general digestive aid. It is used for similar conditions in Peruvian herbal medicine today. Local people in the Amazon region in Peru also soak the plant in water for several days and use it as a topical arthritis remedy. In other South American herbal medicine systems the plant is used for asthma, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, and menstrual disorders. Externally it has been used as a wash for hemorrhoids, bruises, wounds, contusions and fractures.
The plant's ability to expel intestinal worms has been attributed to the essential oil of the seed and 'Oil of Chenopodium' has been used for several centuries worldwide as a worm remedy. The oil was once in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a drug used against amebas, roundworms and hookworms. The therapeutic dose of the essential oil however does have other toxic effects, therefore it fell from favor as an internal remedy many years ago. Intake of 10 mg of the oil has been known to cause cardiac disturbances, convulsions, respiratory disturbances, sleepiness, vomiting and weakness and even death.
Epazote is rich in chemicals called monoterpenes. The seed and fruit contain a large amount of essential oil which has a main active chemical in it called ascaridole. This chemical was first isolated in 1895 by a German pharmacist living in Brazil and it has been attributed with most of the vermifuge (worm-expelling) actions of the plant. Ascaridole has been also documented with sedative and pain-relieving properties as well as antifungal effects. Application of the oil topically was reported to effectively treat ringworm within 7-12 days in a clinical study with guinea pigs. In other in vitro clinical studies, ascaridole was documented with activity against a tropical parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi as well as strong anti-malarial and insecticidal actions.
The main chemicals found in epazote include alpha-pinene, aritasone, ascaridole, butyric-acid, d-camphor, essential oils, ferulic-acid, geraniol, l-pinocarvone, limonene, malic-acid, menthadiene, menthadiene hydroperoxides, methyl-salicylate, myrcene, p-cymene, p-cymol, safrole, saponins, spinasterol, tartaric-acid, terpinene, terpinyl-acetate, terpinyl-salicylate, triacontyl-alcohol, trimethylamine, urease, and vanillic-acid.
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND CLINICAL RESEARCH
A decoction and infusion of the plant was analyzed in vitro to determine if they had toxic effects. At various concentrations the extracts caused cellular aberrations in the test tube, indicating possible toxic effects. However, in the 1970's the World Health Organization reported that a decoction of 20 g of leaves rapidly expelled parasites without any apparent side effects in humans. In 1996 extracts from the leaves of epazote were given to 72 children and adults with intestinal parasitic infections. A stool analysis was performed before and eight days after treatment. On average, an antiparasitic efficacy was seen in 56% of cases. With respect to the tested parasites, epazote leaf extract was 100% effective against the common intestinal parasites, Ancilostoma and Trichuris, and, 50% effective against Ascaris.
In a study in 2001, thirty children (ages 3-14 years) with intestinal roundworms were treated with epazote. Doses given were 1 ml of extract per kg of body weight for younger children (weighing less than 25 pounds), and 2 ml of extract per kg of body weight in older children. One dose was given daily on an empty stomach for three days. Stool examinations were conducted before and 15 days after treatment. Disappearance of the ascaris eggs occurred in 86.7%, while the parasitic burden decreased in 59.5%. In addition, this study also reported that epazote was 100% effective in eliminating the common human tapeworm (Hymenolepsis nana).
In other research epazote has been documented with toxic effects against snails. and was shown to have an in vitro toxic action against drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In 2002, a U.S. patent was filed on a Chinese herbal combination containing epazote for the treatment of peptic ulcers. This combination (containing Chenopodium essential oil) was reported to inhibit stress-induced, as well as various chemical and bacteria-induced ulcer formation. The most recent research has documented the anticancerous and antitumorous properties of epazote. In one study an extract of the entire plant of epazote showed the ability to kill human liver cancer cells in the test tube. Another study reported that the essential oil of epazote (as well as its main chemical, ascaridole) showed strong antitumorous actions against numerous different cancerous tumor cells (including several multi-drug resistant tumor cell lines) in the test tube.
CURRENT PRACTICAL USES
Due to the toxicity of the essential oil (usually distilled from the seeds), the oil of this plant is no longer recommended for internal use. The leaves of the plant (containing smaller amounts of essential oil) is the preferred natural treatment for intestinal parasites in herbal medicine systems today throughout the world. It is best to find a source for only epazote leaves, as products sold as 'whole herb' can contain a significant amount of seeds (and resulting essential oil) depending on when it was harvested. For intestinal worms and parasites, most herbalists and practitioners recommend ½ cup of a standard leaf decoction taken in the morning on an empty stomach for three days in a row. On the fourth day, a mild laxative is given to evacuate the bowel (and the dead and dying parasites and worms). This is repeated two weeks later to address any worm eggs that may have survived and hatched.
| EPAZOTE PLANT SUMMARY |
Main Preparation Method: infusion or capsules |
Main Actions (in order):
antiparasitic, vermifuge (expels worms), insecticidal, digestive stimulant, hepatoprotective (liver protector)
Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
- for intestinal worms and parasites
- for skin parasites, lice, and ringworm
- to tone, balance, and strengthen the liver (and for liver flukes and parasites)
- to tone, balance, and strengthen the stomach and bowel ( and for acid reflux, intestinal gas, cramping, chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, etc)
- for coughs, asthma, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory problems
amebicide, antibacterial, anticancerous, antimalarial, antiparasitic, antitumorous, ascaricide (kills Ascaris parasitic worms), insecticidal, molluscicidal (kills snails), vermifuge (expels worms)
Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
analgesic (pain-reliever), antacid, anti-inflammatory, antihepatotoxic (liver detoxifier), antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiulcer, carminative, contraceptive, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive stimulant, diuretic, gastrototonic (tones, balances, strengthens), hepatoprotective (liver protector), laxative, lactagogue (promotes milk flow), menstrual stimulant, nervine (balances/calms nerves), sedative, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions), wound healer
Cautions: It should not be used during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. Don't use essential oil internally.
Traditional Preparation:: For intestinal parasites: one-half cup of a leaf decoction once daily on an empty stomach for three days. A decoction of the leaves is employed (in ½ cup dosages) for menstrual, respiratory, and digestive problems on an as-needed basis.
Drug Interactions: None known.
- The plant and essential oil should not be used during pregnancy and lactation. Not only does the plant have toxic activity, it has also been traditionally used to induce abortions.
- While epazote has been used by indigenous tribes as a contraceptive, this use is not verified by clinical research (nor should it be relied on for such). However, the use of the plant is probably contraindicated for couples trying to get pregnant.
- The oil of epazote is considered extremely toxic and should not be taken internally.
WORLDWIDE ETHNOMEDICAL USES
||for digestive problems, hangovers, intestinal gas, intestinal parasites, and as a sedative|
||for abortions, angina, bacterial infections, bronchitis, bruises, circulation problems, colds, coughs, contusions, digestive sluggishness, dyspepsia, falls, flu, fractures, gastric disorders, hemorrhoids, hemorrhages, increasing perspiration, insomnia, intestinal gas, intestinal parasites, laryngitis, menstrual difficulties, palpitations, sinusitis, skin parasites, skin inflammation, skin ulceration, spasms, throat inflammation, tuberculosis, worms, wounds, and as an insect repellent and sedative|
||for indigestion, intestinal gas, intestinal worms, slow digestion|
||for parasites, skin sores, stomachache, worms, and as an antiseptic|
||for colic, increasing perspiration, menstrual disorders, nerves, parasites, toothache, tumors, water retention, worms|
||for asthma, dysentery, worms|
||for abscesses, arthritis, birth control, blood cleansing, cholera, colic, contusions, cough, cramps, diabetes, diarrhea, digestive problems, dysentery, edema, excessive mucous, fractures, gastritis, gout, hemorrhoids, hysteria, increasing perspiration, intestinal gas, liver support, lung problems, memory, menstrual disorders, nervousness, numbness, pain, paralysis, parasites, pleurisy, rheumatism, skin disorders, spasms, stomach pain, tumors, urinary tract inflammation, urinary infections, vaginal discharge, vomiting, water retention, worms, wounds, and as an antacid and antiseptic, insect repellent, and sedative|
||for amebic infections, asthma, childbirth, dysentery, dyspepsia, fatigue, fungal infections, lung problems, palpitations, sores, worms|
||for asthma, digestive problems, menstrual difficulties, nervous disorders, worms|
||for childbirth, increasing milk flow, menstrual disorders, nerves, pain, parasites, worms|
||for aiding digestion, worms|
||for abortions, amebic infections, anemia, appendicitis, arthritis, asthma, breathing difficulty, bug bites, childbirth, cholera, colds, colic, conjunctivitis, coughs, cramps, dyspepsia, dysentery, fatigue, fever, fungal infections, hookworms, increase perspiration, intestinal parasites, intestinal gas, intestinal ulceration, lactation aid, malaria, measles, menstrual irregularities, nervousness, neurosis, pains, palpitations, paralysis, rheumatism, roundworms, snakebite, stomach problems, spasms, tonic, tumor, water retention, worms, and as an antiseptic, insecticide, and sedative|
The above text has been quoted from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
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Last updated 12-17-2012