Most individuals, no matter their nationality or origin, associate México with its food such as carne asada, tacos, guacamole, enchiladas, etc. However, what many are not acquainted with is México’s biological richness. México’s nature is well represented by the enormous number of plant species that can be found there. In fact, researchers rank México third afterBrazil and Colombia (both associated to be two of the most biologically rich countries in the world) and ahead of Indonesia, Australia, Zaire, and Madagascar 26. In México, researchers believe that there are between 20 and 50,000 species of vascular plants growing there 26. As I have learned, a vascular plant refers to any plant that has xylem and phloem; meaning the plant can conduct water andminerals and can conduct organic materials synthesized by the plant, respectively. The map below (from http://www.vivanatura.org/Plants_richness%20and
%20endemism.html) illustrates the distribution of plant biodiversity within México. As can be seen, the distribution is not even; some of the states with the highest concentrations of species (highlighted in green) are Chiapas with 8200 species, Oaxacawith 8000 species, and Veracruz with 7400 species 27. A few of the states with a lower number of species (also highlighted in green) are Yucatan with 1120 species, Quintana Roo with 1240, and Campeche with 940 27.
Given México’s undeniable biodiversity, it would be a mistake to believe that somehow among all of those species, medicinal herbs and plants were not used. Indeed,tribes dating back to pre-Hispanic history used herbs and plants to cure physical ailments. In fact, in the era in which the Conquistadores came to México, the Spaniards discovered that each of the different indigenous tribes had a codex (an official list of medicines, chemicals, etc.) describing treatments for many conditions, some of which had no known cure in the Old World at the time 24.Moreover, the well-known Aztecs (dated around 12th century CE (AD) and the 15th century) and the Mayas (dated around 11,000 B.C) developed a very successful system of using plants as medicines to cure physical and spiritual ailments 24. In fact, to the Aztecs and Mayas, preventative medicine was their principal strategy 24.
Millions and thousands of years have gone by, and today, herbs and plants arealmost as basic in México as they were in pre-Hispanic days. A noteworthy segment of the Mexican population believes that curing with plants can be slower but safer, and significantly less expensive that using drugs made in a laboratory, which as we have learned in class, are often derivatives/ composed of the same plants 24. These “homemade” or “everyday” cures are practiced all over México andare especially appreciated because they are known to cause fewer side effects than modern medicine 24. However, it is important to note that high dosages of these herbs/plants can have great consequences and irreversible effects, depending on each
consumer 24. The following medicinal plants of México will be discussed: Arnica, Aguacate, Sabila, Maguey, Doradilla, and Plantain.
Of all themedicinal plants of México, I consider Arnica to be the utmost important one. I can guarantee that every single Mexican family has Arnica in their household. Arnica also known as Mexican Arnica, False arnica, Árnica mexicana, Árnica del país, is derived from the species named Heterotheca inuloides, that grows wild in many parts of México 19. The plant is a perennial (a plant that persists for manygrowing seasons 2), that grows to a height of 1-2 feet 25. It has yellow-orange flowers 25 similar to daises as can be seen in the illustration (from http://www.herbalsafety.utep.edu/facts.asp?ID=44). Its stems are characterized as round and hairy, ending in one to three flower stalks, with flowers two to three across 25. The plant has bright green leaves: the upper leaves are toothed and slightly...