Epazote Mexican Herb to Relieve Gas is popular as a fresh herb in southern Mexican cuisine. It is most famously used in black beans, and is said to have a “carminative” effect. Carminative herbs and spices are medicines that, in the terms of European herbology prevent the development of gas in the gut. Carminative herbs and spices also help people that find it difficult to expel gas, and instead suffer painful bloating in either the stomach or intestines. As such Epazote can be a kitchen herb useful for people with IBS, and in general is an excellent culinary herb for Vata dosha types in Ayurveda who are prone to gas and bloating.

Epazote Mexican Herb to Relieve Gas in Mexican Cuisine

In addition to black beans, Epazote is used in Mexico, especially in Oaxaca and Chiapas,  and parts of Central America in an array of dishes– such as simple cheese Quesadillas and Sopes, (especially with Huitlacoche, the delicious edible fungus that grows on corn) in Omelettes, to soups and stews. I like using it in baked fish, paired with onion, garlic, green chile, tomato, and oregano. I also find it delicious along with, or in place of Cilantro/Coriander Leaf in Chicken rice soup.

In the below photo, taken in the market town of Pochutla, in the Coastal Oaxacan region known as the “Costa Chica” this woman was making sopes of fresh corn, black bean, and Oaxacan cheese, to which she added, towards the end, a leaf of epazote. Salsa was on the side.

Epazote with Black Beans

Black Bean with Epazote-in Pochutla, Oaxaca

Epazote is an ingredient in a green mole of Oaxaca called  mole de olla. Olla is spanish for leaf. Epazote is found in sauteed rice dishes, and is used in ground with Chile and other ingredients in salsa in southern Mexico the way cilantro/coriander leaf is used in Nortenyo/Northern Mexican cuisine.

The common Spanish name Epazote is derived from the Nahuatl word “Epazotl” spoken by indigenous people in Southern Mexico and Central America.  I first learned about Epazote when traveling in the beautiful state of Oaxaca, in Southern Mexico, where its sold in markets along with other fragrant herbs like the fabulous Hoja Santa, Chiplin, Purslane, Mint, and of course, Cilantro.

Epazote is sold in its fresh form in many Mexican markets in Southern California. I am not sure about other parts of the USA, but Epazote is very easy to grow, and will reseed itself. In fact, in some places its considered an invasive weed. I grow it in full sun in cactus soil. It does like frequent watering. I let some of it go to seed and then sprinkle them in other parts of the garden.

Epazote as a Digestive Kitchen Medicine

Epazote’s efficacy as a digestive herb is a function of two things, its pungency, and its fragrant aroma. The aroma of plants derives from their essential oils, which in the case of Epazote includes thymol, camphor (as do clove and cardamon) limonene, ascaridole, and terpinene. This is quite an array of intense fragrances.

The Nahuatl name, Epazotl, means “skunk sweat.” Like the the Indian spice Hing/Asafoetida, found in Ayurveda’s herbal formula Hingwastak, which is also used to prevent gas, and which smells a bit like arm pit odor, Epazotl has a funky fragrance. Its resinous, and a bit reminiscent of turpentine, I admit. In fact the first time I smelled Epazote I doubted it was edible. Suffice to say that it takes some getting used to, but once you are used to it, you will find it quite delicious..

I would describe the fragrance of Epazotl as a combination of thyme, fennel, and tarragon, with undertones of rubber and turpentine. Like the man said, it takes getting used to, but once I did, I now really love it, and find that, like Oregeno or Thyme, it pairs well with other strong smelling foods, like fish, chicken, and corn tortilla. It also pairs well with bland stuff, like frilojes negro/black bean, or the kind of white cheese used in Oaxaca in Quesadilla and Sopes.

Epazote for Intestinal Parasites

Epazote is also an anti-helminthic herb. This means its used to treat parasites, in humans as well as livestock. For this purpose the fresh leaf is ground in purified water, and drunk. Its essential oil was once used for parasites as well, but as it has high levels of toxicity, it has been replaced. The toxicity issue with Epazote is limited to use of the essential oils.  As far as eating Epazote in food, a little amount goes a long way, so I have not come upon any toxicity issues there.

Dried Epazote as Medicine for Gas, Bloating, and Intestinal Parasites

As for drinking Epazote tea from dried leaves, dried leaves are quite low in essential oil compared to fresh. The seeds are also used in tea for parasites, and are sometimes referred to as “worm seed.” I think anyone who is treating any kind of intestinal parasite naturally, or does not have access to western medicine for same, could consider Epazote. If you want to use it in cooking beans or soup, and don’t have access to the fresh leaf, you could use boil the dried leaves in water and strain them out, and then use that “tea” for your soup or beans. You can also brew the dried leaves as a digestive, and as a treatment for chronic rectal gas and bloating.

More on the essential oils found in Epazote:

Epazote is rich in essential oils, which accounts for its unique fragrance and flavor.  According to Joseph E.Laferrière in ” Nutritional and pharmacological properties of yerbaníz, epazote, and Mountain Pima oregano” in Seedhead News 29:9. the essential oil of Epazote contains ascaridole (up to 70%), limonenep-cymene, and smaller amounts of numerous other monoterpenes and monoterpene derivatives (α-pinenemyrceneterpinenethymolcamphor and trans-isocarveol). 

Where to Buy Dried Epazote

My favorite purveyor of dried herbs is Mountain Rose. Here is a link to their Epazote page, which, I notice, is on sale, as of August 28, 2017.


copyright eyton shalom august 2017 san diego california all rights reserved use with permission

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