Epazote, wormseed, Jesuit's tea, Mexican tea, Paico or Herba Sancti Mariæ is an herb native to Central America, South America, and southern Mexico.
It is an annual or short-lived perennial plant, growing to 1.2 m tall, irregularly branched, with oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 12 cm long. The flowers are small and green, produced in a branched panicle at the apex of the stem.
As well as in its native areas, it is grown in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States, sometimes becoming an invasive weed.
Epazote is used as a leaf vegetable, an herb and a tisane 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, it is also sometimes used to flavor other traditional Mexican dishes as well: it can be used to season quesadillas and sopes, soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chile, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes and enchiladas.
Epazote has largely been viewed as medicinal herb rather than a culinary plant. In general, its leaves used in the cooking to counter indigestion and flatulence effects of beans, high-fiber and protein food. Nonetheless, the herb has many intrinsic plant nutrients which when used optimally would benefit to overall health and wellness.
The herb is very low in calories. 100 g leaves just contain 32 calories. Its plain leaves provide a good amount of fiber, 3.8 g per 100g.
Its leaves compose of many monoterpene compounds such as ascaridole (60-80%), isoascaridole, p-cymene, limonene, and terpinene. Ascaridole is toxic to several intestinal worms like roundworm, hookworms, pinworm, etc. Native Mayans drank its infusion regularly to keep off from worm infestation.
The herb parts, especially young leaves are an excellent source of folic acid, provide 215 µg or 54% of daily recommended values. Folic acid takes part in the DNA synthesis and cell division. Expectant mothers, however, may be advised to avoid epazote greens in their diet since it causes uterine cramps and possible risk of termination of pregnancy. (Medical disclaimer).
Epazote has small amounts of vitamin A, and some flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as beta-carotenes. Together, they act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and in various disease processes.
The herb has a good amount of minerals like calcium (27% of RDA), manganese, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, and selenium. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
It has small but adequate levels of other B-complex vitamins, particularly pyridoxine and riboflavin. These vitamins function as co-factors in the enzymatic metabolism inside the body.
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