This member of the goosefoot family has been called “skunkweed,” but the odd name belies its many beneficial properties.
Epazote is a native herb of Central America, South America and southern Mexico. It was brought to Spain by conquistadors in the 17th century and is now commonly grown in temperate and subtropical areas of Europe and the United States.
Because epazote has a strong, musky flavour, some call it “skunkweed.” Others draw comparisons to such herbs as rosemary, cilantro and anise. Its young shoots and leaves are so packed full of flavor that they make a delicious addition to soups, while the herb’s more mature leaves, with their more distinctive flavor, can be added to bean, fish and corn dishes.
Flavoring, however, is just one of epazote’s many beneficial qualities.
Bursting at the proverbial seams with nutrients, epazote contains vitamin A, B complex, C, proteins, calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
The nutrient rich composition of epazote is in keeping with the Paleo diet’s philosophy of eating natural, non-toxic, high fiber foods; perfect for keeping the body lean and healthy.
Epazote’s primary, direct benefit is its ability to improve the digestive process. It can also help to alleviate abdominal pain and cramps, while inhibiting flatulence. In fact, adding epazote to bean dishes is a tradition; it serves to “defuse” the beans before they can cause gas.
When eaten in combination with other Paleo food stuffs, which are also high in fiber, epazote helps to relieve overall gastrointestinal discomfort, contributing towards a more balanced functionality in the gastrointestinal tract.
In the early 1900s, oil of chenopodium, extracted from the epazote plant, was used to kill intestinal worms in the United States. It contains toxins, such as ascaridole, which is lethal to species of worms like roundworm and hookworm.
While the oil was replaced by more effective substances in the 1940s, oil of chenopodium is still used as a treatment for intestinal worms throughout large parts of Latin America.
Wider Medicinal Benefits
In addition to the nutritional value, digestive effects and intestinal benefits of epazote, the herb is used to treat a wide range of afflictions, including amenorrhea, malaria, chorea, catarrh and asthma. It can also aid in the prevention of a number of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, anaemia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The distinctive flavor of epazote makes it the perfect herb to give Paleo diet meals such as salmon that little something special. Forms available range from seeds, fresh leaves and stems, crushed dried leaves and powder to loose or bag tea, capsules and essential oil.
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