Updated: May 25, 2021
Since launching Hungry Gene, I have received multiple questions regarding an herb called Epazote. Quite honestly, I had never heard of this so-called Epazote before. So naturally, I ran to Google to fill up on herbaceous knowledge. To say the least, what I found is intriguing. Epazote is a very versatile herb and has a massive array of health benefits that definitely caught my eye.
What is Epazote?
Epazote is an herb native to Central America that has long been grown and cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses. Used most popularly in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and along the Yucatan peninsula, this herb can grow up to 4 feet tall and be used in a wide variety of applications such as foods, topical ointments, teas, and strong essential oils.
The name Epazote derives from the Mexican Aztec language, Nahuatl, translating in English to “stinky sweat”. Though names vary regionally, all focus on the “stinky” factor, calling on its strong, pungent, oregano-like flavor. In English, Epazote has also been called wormseed or Mexican Tea which alludes to its mysterious medicinal properties. Keep reading to find out more about this fantastic herb!
Cooking with Epazote
As previously mentioned, Epazote is characterized by a somewhat pungent flavor profile, carrying notes of oregano, anise, citrus, mint, tarragon, (and even tar or creosote). Flavor is drawn best from fresh leaves and stems, however dried Epazote can also be used and is often easier to find. Epazote is generally viewed as a versatile seasoning agent for its multitude of flavors.
Epazote is frequently found in soups, tamales, egg dishes, chilies, moles, and quesadillas. However, the most notable of recipes involving Epazote are bean dishes, not only for its delicious flavor addition, but it's gastrointestinal effects (which we will dive deeper into in the following sections). Additionally, most cultures around the world that use this herb steep it into an Epazote tea - an energizing and spicy variety known for its relief for intestinal cramps and other stomach/liver issues.
Not only can Epazote be used in a diverse set of applications, but the organic and nutritional components that it contains makes it a wonderful and beneficial addition to your diet!
Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits
First off, let’s talk about the basic nutritional facts and content of Epazote. This herb possesses a vast range of minerals and vitamins including vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. It also contains dietary fiber and a small amount of protein. This means that Epazote can actually have positive effects on immunity, bone health, metabolic activity, and blood pressure.
The moderate levels of vitamin A, carotenes, and antioxidants in Epazote can help protect the skin from free radical damage, and can also neutralize free radicals that lead to various types of chronic diseases.
Epazote contains significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese which contribute to bone density and can even fend off osteoporosis, keeping your bones strong and healthy into your later years.
The B-Complex of vitamins is generally associated with the strength and efficiency of the metabolism. Luckily, Epazote contains notable amounts of 6 B vitamins, specifically folic acid. In fact, a single serving of this herb contains over 50% of the daily recommended amount of folic acid which is essential to proper development and growth.
Blood Pressure and Heart Health
Moderate levels of potassium can be found in Epazote which just happens to be one of the most essential minerals in the body. Potassium can act as a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system, subsequently lessening the chances of heart attacks and stroke.
Gastro - intestinal Effects
Now for the big one! While Epazote is technically viewed as an herb, it shares many qualities with leafy, green vegetables. One of which is the significant amount of fiber that helps to improve digestive health and stimulate smooth movement of the bowels. This helps Epazote in reducing constipation, cramping, bloating, and even more serious conditions.
However, Epazote is most traditionally utilized in effects of reducing flatulence and indigestion. This is one of the reasons that many enjoy putting Epazote in bean dishes. The herb contains compounds that allow it to break down the proteins in beans that are typically broken down by intestinal flora (which is what causes flatulence!). So, the use of Epazote in your cooking can allow you to enjoy that bean dish without all of the gastrointestinal distress!
In addition to reducing flatulence, Epazote has traditionally been used to treat worms of all different varieties. Specifically hookworms and roundworms have and can be treated by the active ingredients in Epazote. This makes it an ideal dietary addition for those who live in areas where water filtration is poor or basic sanitary conditions are not available.
As a final note, I’d like to add that Epazote is not traditionally used in westernized medicine because it can actually be toxic when consumed in unusually large amounts due to its high levels of certain organic compounds and the potency of essential oils that can be extracted. However, in normal serving sizes, Epazote can make a delicious addition to a wide variety of dishes and provide you with many essential vitamins and minerals.
Hungry Gene is proud to include Epazote in our variety of premium spices.