An Herb with Many Uses Got Gas? Try this Mayan Remedy

Oops, Excuse Me!

If you’ve been gardening for a while, there’s a really good chance that you eat a lot of beans. They’re super easy to grow, they’re one of the easiest plants to grow from seed, and they store well. A gardener’s dream!

But if you’re someone who is prone to gas after eating beans, then that gardener’s dream can take a nightmarish turn…  You might call beans “a blessing and a curse.”

Read more: How to Use 50 lbs of Dry Storage Beans Fast

Epazote: A Mayan Miracle Plant

Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides) is a plant with a long and fascinating history. It was grown by the Mayans, the Incas, and the Aztecs – and it is still used to flavor many traditional dishes in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico – where it is known as hierba de Santa María.

It is used widely as both a culinary and a medicinal herb. Epazote is used to cure people and animals suffering from parasitic worms like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Because of its effectiveness in controlling worms, it is often added directly to animal feed.

A less openly discussed use for epazote is as a “carminative,” which means it relieves gas. This effect is likely why the herb has been used for thousands of years to flavor beans. Hippocrates said it best, “Let food be thy medicine…” Native cultures in the Western hemisphere recognized that Epazote lessened the discomfort of a bean-heavy diet, and started pairing this spice with beans thousands of years ago. People have described the taste of beans cooked with epazote as being “fuller and richer.” It’s a perfect pairing!

If you’re interested to learn more about epazote as a medicine or a spice, check out this fact sheet from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension:

Download the original PDF Here: Epazote.pdf

epazote

A Word of Warning: Epazote Spreads!

Epazote is easy to grow from seed or cuttings. It prefers a sandy soil with lots of drainage, and it doesn’t respond well to sitting in moisture for too long. But as long as you don’t keep it too wet, Epazote will thrive… and spread.

The inflorescence of epazote looks something like lamb’s quarter, with thousands of tiny green blooms clustered together. And the seeds of epazote are just as aggressive as lamb’s quarter, if not more so. Tiny, miniscule, black seeds – thousands of them.

Because of its love of dry conditions and its tendency to spread like crazy, epazote is a great candidate for growing outside your vegetable garden. Find a sunny spot with rocky or sandy soil, and give it a try in a place where you won’t mind if it takes over.

organic-seed-alliance-seed-saving-guide


Special thanks to Kurt Nolte of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension, for compiling and sharing the helpful sheet about epazote.

Image credit (featured): By T.Voekler – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4345903

Image credit (spreading): By H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9843502

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Michael Ford


Contributor

Michael has been the resident editor at The [Grow] Network since January 2015. Michael grew up in St. Louis, where he became a lover of nature - hiking and fishing his way through the Ozark hills in Missouri. He attended Baylor University in Waco, TX, and he currently lives in Austin. Michael has background experience in small-scale farming, commercial growing, vegetable gardening, landscaping, marketing, and software development. He received his Permaculture Design Certification from the Austin Permaculture Guild in 2013.


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7 Comments
  • Penny Gioja

    We live in central Illinois where there are lots of Guatemalan immigrants, descendants of Mayans. They recognized epazote growing as a weed in our yard. It makes their day if they can pick some sprigs of epazote when they buy a live chicken. We don’t worry too much about it invading because it’s so heavily picked.
    They also recognize and prize wormwood.
    Is there a common name for epazote? We have no idea where it came from, just appeared here.

    • Profile photo of Michael Ford

      That’s a cool story – thanks for sharing it. Volunteer plants are my favorites – some of them seem to find the perfect place to pop up!

  • Dr. Flora Mason Van Orden

    It helps when the beans are soaked overnight, with the soaking water thrown on the plants, as most people know, but it also helps to know that they are a member of the FODMAP family: fructo, oligo, di, mono, etc. which are like sponges: they absorb water like crazy, and if eaten with something sweet, ferment into alcohol. That’s where all the gas, distention, pain and embarrassing burps and farts come from. Rice and beans mixed with tea and sugar or honey is a recipe for gas! A bean burrito followed or accompanied by a sweet soda also is disastrous! Sugar and starch makes alcohol. Donuts frosted with sugar, apple pie, toast and jelly, cheerios and sugar, pasta and tomato sauce, orange juice and muffins, on and on…and then there’s the 10 o’clock blood sugar drop. Signal to stimulate again, and we’re on the road to addiction to the adrenaline high, without even tasting a drop of liquor!

  • Sandy

    It seems to me that I read somewhere that epazote is sometimes added to quacamole as an alternative to cilantro. and guacamole is commonly an accompaniment to beany mexican dishes so makes sense. I saw seeds being offered in U.S. catalogs a few years ago, but not recently. Haven’t tried it, but I do know that adding an extra amount of a vegetable oil like olive oil can help with digesting beans. Also adding miso, which is a delicious, flavor and digestion enhancing cultured food called miso. Though the best recognized forms of miso are soy based, there are some U.S. miso makers who offer traditionally cultured miso made WITHOUT soy. Both Great Eastern Sun and South River will mail order delectable and healthful varieties of organic miso with soy or without. Miso is cultured with rice inoculated with aspergillus oryzae. If you aren’t able to tote a tub of mixo around with you, the aspergillus is also available in a handy little squeeze bottle as a product called “Beano”.

    • CAROLYN KAY CHOI

      There is an easier and more available gas “remedy” prevention. Soak the dried beans with several slices of fresh ginger root. When ready to cook toss that water and the ginger, then add a few slices in with the cooking beans. This prevents the gas formation.

  • Joyce Duke

    Hello, Would likely try some epazote if I found it to see what taste it has, but doesn’t everyone know to add 1/4 tsp. ground ginger to a pound of dry beans they are cooking to avoid becoming known as Napoleion Blownaparte? The small amount of ginger is not noticeable in the beans, but the silence is wonderful!

  • Katherine

    I find that soaking the beans for 24 hours takes care of the problem.

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