January 29, 2019
By: Christina Ellis, MS, RD, CNSC
Epazote: Latin America’s Ancient Medicinal Herb
Originating from Mexico, epazote is widely available across Central America and has been used as a medicinal herb in Latin American dishes and teas for thousands of years. It's said that this was actually used by the Aztecs! Epazote stems from the botanical family of Chenopodium ambrosioides L, the form typically seen in Mexican teas. In some countries, alternative names for epazote include skunk weed, pig weed, and goosefoot. As a Mexican-American dietitian, I incorporate the use of traditional plants, flowers, and fruit in my everyday practice.
Epazote is commonly used for relieving flatulence, treating parasites, and alleviating abdominal cramps. This herb is routinely added to traditional dishes such as beans, quesadillas, or mole de olla due to its carminative activity. It also provides an extra boost of folate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. A one ounce serving offers about 15% of the daily value (DV) for folate, 8% DV for calcium, 9% DV for magnesium, and 4% DV for potassium.
How it tastes
Epazote adds a punch of pungent flavor to foods that is hard to miss. Some people have also compared it to fennel, licorice, or oregano.
Who Should Limit Consumption?
Some suggest that epazote should be eaten in small quantities due to potential toxicity from saponins. However, the saponin content is small and is not well absorbed. The plant is quite good in moderation! Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid frequent consumption of epazote, specifically the oil extracted from epazote, due to the presence of ascaridole. Ascaridole can be a toxic compound that may induce uterine contractions, lead to abortion, and cause vomiting.
- “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release.” USDA Food Composition Databases.
- Nolte, Kurt. “Epazote.” Cals.arizona.edu, Yuma County Cooperative Extension.
- “Plants for A Future:Chenopodium Ambrosioides - L.” Pfaf Plant Search.
- Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy. (n.d.). UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation.