Botanical Name: Dysphania ambrosioides
Species: D. ambrosioides
Synonyms: Chenopodium ambrosioides
Indian Names: Hindi: Sugandha-vastooka • Kannada: guddada voma, huli voma, kaadu voma, • Manipuri: Monshaobi-manbi • Marathi: Chandanbatva • Mizo: Buarchhimtir
Habitat:Dysphania ambrosioides is native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico.It grows in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States (Missouri, New England, Eastern United States), sometimes becoming an invasive weed.It is mainly found on dry wasteland and cultivated ground.
Epazote is an annual or short-lived perennial plant (herb), growing to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall, irregularly branched, with oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 12 cm (4.7 in) long. The flowers are small and green, produced in a branched panicle at the apex of the stem.
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Epazote is eaten as a leaf vegetable, an herb and an herbal tea for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anise, fennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. It has also been compared to citrus, savory, or mint.
Although it is traditionally used with black beans for flavor and its carminative properties (less gas), it is also sometimes used to flavor other traditional Mexican dishes as well: it can be used to season quesadillas and sopes (especially those containing huitlacoche), soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chile, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes and enchiladas.
Seed – cooked. The seed is small and fiddly, it should be soaked in water overnight and thoroughly rinsed before it is used in order to remove any saponins. An infusion of the leaves is a tea substitute.
Epazote is commonly believed to prevent flatulence. It has also been used in the treatment of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, malaria, chorea, the now discredited diagnosis of hysteria, catarrh, and asthma.
Some of its chemical constituents have been shown in the laboratory to affect certain cancer cell lines, and it has also been reported to be highly carcinogenic in rats. A Nigerian group, however, concluded in 2007 that it is neither mutagenic nor cytotoxic.
Oil of chenopodium is derived from this plant. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a colorless or pale yellow toxic essential oil of unpleasant odor and taste, … formerly used as an anthelmintic”.
In the early 1900s it was one of the major anthelmintics used to treat ascarids and hookworms in humans, cats, dogs, horses, and pigs. Usually, oil of chenopodium was used. It was sometimes referred to as Baltimore Oil, because of the large production facility in Baltimore, Maryland that specialized in extracting the oil from the plant. Chenopodium was replaced with other, more effective and less toxic anthelmintics in the 1940s.
Chenopodium is still used to treat worm infections in humans in many countries. In Honduras, as well as other Latin American countries, the whole plant or the leaves are ground and added to water. This mixture is then consumed. In a few areas in Latin America, the plant also is used to treat worm infections in livestock.
Epazote essential oil contains ascaridole (up to 70%), limonene, p-cymene, and smaller amounts of numerous other monoterpenes and monoterpene derivatives (?-pinene, myrcene, terpinene, thymol, camphor and trans-isocarveol). Ascaridole (1,4-peroxido-p-menth-2-ene) is rather an uncommon constituent of spices; another plant owing much of its character to this monoterpene peroxide is boldo. Ascaridole is toxic and has a pungent, not very pleasant flavor; in pure form, it is an explosive sensitive to shock. Allegedly, ascaridole content is lower in epazote from Mexico than in epazote grown in Europe or Asia.
Other Uses: The essential oils of epazote contain terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities. A study from the University of California found that the compound ascaridole in epazote inhibits the growth of nearby plants, so it would be best to relegate this plant at a distance from other inhabitants of the herb garden. Even though this plant has an established place in recipes and in folklore, it is wise to use only the leaves, and those very sparingly, in cooking.
Companion plant: Epazote not only contains terpene compounds, it also delivers partial protection to nearby plants simply by masking their scent to some insects, making it a useful companion plant. Its small flowers may also attract some predatory wasps and flies.
Known Hazards: The essential oil in the seed and flowering plant is highly toxic. In excess it can cause dizziness, vomiting, convulsions and even death. The plant can also cause dermatitis or other allergic reactions. The leaves and seeds of all members of this genus are more or less edible. However, many of the species in this genus contain saponins, though usually in quantities too small to do any harm. Although toxic, saponins are poorly absorbed by the body and most pass straight through without any problem. They are also broken down to a large extent in the cooking process. Saponins are found in many foods, such as some beans. Saponins are much more toxic to some creatures, such as fish, and hunting tribes have traditionally put large quantities of them in streams, lakes etc in order to stupefy or kill the fish. The plants also contain some oxalic acid, which in large quantities can lock up some of the nutrients in the food. However, even considering this, they are very nutritious vegetables in reasonable quantities. Cooking the plant will reduce its content of oxalic acid. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.
.Overdoses of the essential oil have caused human deaths (attributed to the ascaridole content),the symptoms including severe gastroenteritis with pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.