Epazote is a popular herb that is native to Central America and some parts of Mexico. The herb grows annually and can be used in cuisines, as an essential oil and skin ointment, as well as a tea base. While epazote is most often considered as an herb, it can also be used as a leafy vegetable in some meals and is commonly used in egg dishes, soups, chilies, tamales, quesadillas, and moles.
Epazote possesses a strong pungent smell with a high hint of petroleum and mint smell. Whether fresh or dried, its leaves and young shoots are used as a seasoning in the many meals. Although the flavor of the herb is hard to place a hand on, it is often compared to a citrus or mint flavor, making it beneficial as a flavoring agent. Interestingly though, in most cultures that use this herb, it is used as a base for epazote tea, an energy-boosting and spicy herb that is quite loved across the world.
The health benefits of epazote include its ability to minimize flatulence, reduce menstrual discomfort, alleviate respiratory issues, aid in weight loss, inhibit cancers, destroy parasites, boost the metabolism, enhance immunity, and treat wounds.
The Health Benefits of Epazote
Let’s take a closer look at what makes epazote so beneficial to human health.
Improves the Gastrointestinal System
Similar to most leafy, green vegetables, epazote has high amounts of fiber content, which helps to boost the digestive process and ease bowel movements. By boosting the efficiency of the gastrointestinal system, epazote can minimize constipation, bloating, and cramping, as well as other worse conditions. As a matter of fact, epazote is most commonly used to treat flatulence and indigestion.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Potassium is an essential mineral needed in the body. The relatively small levels of potassium present in epazote can function as vasodilators, relaxing the blood vessels and lowering the strain on the cardiovascular system. When this happens, it reduces the chances of developing atherosclerosis which, in turn, protects against heart attacks and strokes.
Aids in Weight Loss
Did you know that 100 grams of epazote herb contain only 32 calories? Yet, the leafy green plant is loaded with nutrients and organic compounds that the body requires. For people looking to lose some weight, stay healthy, and feel full, epazote is a fiber-rich plant that would be of immense help.
Contains Parasitic Properties
One other well-known health benefit of epazote is its ability to treat various types of worms such as roundworms and hookworms, as well as other parasitic worms found in the body. The active ingredients in the herb help to neutralize the worms, making it an ideal dietary option for people who may not have the opportunity for water filtration and basic sanitary conditions.
Boosts the Metabolism
B-complex vitamins are a very essential element in overall body health and are generally linked with the potency and efficiency of the metabolism. Epazote contains significant amounts of 6 different B vitamins, particularly folic acid, which is vital for proper development and growth.
Epazote contains moderate levels of vitamin A, as well as many other carotenes and antioxidant compounds, which make this herb essential for the immune system. The antioxidant activity of epazote protects the skin against the damage caused by free radicals, and also effective in neutralizing free radicals that lead to certain types of cancer and other serious health issues.
Improves Bone Health
The wide range of minerals present in epazote implies that it can be very effective in protecting the bones, especially as you age. There are appreciable levels of calcium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, and manganese in epazote that contribute to bone mineral density and fight off osteoporosis. Epazote keeps the bones strong and healthy even in old age.
How to Cook with Epazote
Epazote has a somewhat pungent smell with a taste which many people describe as similar to that of anise, oregano, mint, citrus, or even concrete or tar. The fresh or dried leaves of epazote can also be used to season dishes. Although, it advised to use the leaves sparingly as epazote has a very strong small. Compared to the younger leaves, the older leave of epazote have a stronger taste.
Since the leaves’ flavor compounds are unable to withstand heat for a long time, it is better to add epazote when dishes are almost done. People who wish to try epazote should simply start by making a batch of epazote tea. It is important to remember that the consumption this herb should be in moderation to avoid the side effects.
Side Effects and Precautions
Generally, epazote herb does not have any side effects when used in normal food quantities. However, an excessive consumption the herb can lead to headaches, dizziness, vertigo, skin problems, and mouth and throat irritation.
If you take the herb, do not forget that:
- The dried leaves of the epazote herb should be handled with caution as it can lead to allergies in some people.
- The consumption of epazote can result in serious side effects, including hearing problems and renal damage when used in excess amounts.
- The high levels of some organic compounds present in epazote, such as folic acid, can be dangerous if consumed in large amounts. In fact, gastroenteritis and other gastrointestinal problems have been reported by people who have consumed very large amounts of the herb or the essential oil.
- In addition, in spite of its rich folic acid content, epazote is not recommended for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Consuming the herb in pregnancy might result in bleeding, contractions in the uterus and even miscarriage. Epazote can get into the breast milk and lead to unpalatable health issues on the baby.
- Epazote oil is highly toxic and should not be used internally.
- People who intend to combine epazote and beans in traditional meals, it is important to adhere to preventive measures to minimize the amount of dangerous lectins that you may end up taking in.
Therefore, as we always advise, seek the advice of a medical professional before incorporating a new herb into your regular diet.