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The species is most popular in Mexico as a remedy for various gastrointestinal disorders. The modern name estafiate is derived from the Nahua term "iztauhyatl" "bitter/salty is its water" and refers to the bitter taste of the leaf extracts. In the following section the uses of this plant in historical and modern times is discussed.

Uses Before the 19th Century

For the history of the uses of this plant in the period before and after the conquest we have to rely on some colonial codices. The best known ones are the Codex Cruz Badiano and the Codex Florentino. The first is a herbal written in Nahuatl by the Aztec healer Martin de la Cruz from Tezcoco, who was at the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco. It was translated into Latin by Juan Badiano and given to the King of Spain Carlos I in 1552. It was written rather hastily and has numerous colour illustrations of medicinal plants. There have been several attempts to identify plants from this herbal (Viesca Trevino, 1992; Valdes et al., 1992; Pineda, 1992) and most of the identifications seem to be botanically sound. The major problem with this source is that by this time the European conquest of Mexico-Tenochtitlan 30 years previously had already had an impact. In addition the Nahuatl author attempted to show "European sophistication" in his work (Ortiz de Montellano 1990).

Another important source is the work of Fray Bernadino de Sahagún; he was a Franciscan missionary who arrived in Mexico in 1529 and worked there until his death in 1590. It is certainly the best source available for the early historical period. De Sahagún left several codices (among them the Codex Florentino, compiled ca. 1570) and on the basis of these documents he wrote the "Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España" (publ. 1793). From an ethnobotanical point of view this source is somewhat more difficult to use than the Codex Cruz Badiano since there are fewer botanical identifications and these are less secure. The strength lies more than anything else in its description and analysis of medicinal concepts (Ortiz de Montellano, 1990; Heinrich, 1996). The third important early source is the "Historia Natural de Nueva España" by Francisco Hernandez, the personal physician to Philip II of Spain. He was sent to Mexico and between 1571-1577 gathered information on plants, animals and minerals of the New World. The complete work was never published and the original manuscript was destroyed during a fire at the Escorial palace, but several abridged and amended versions were published in later centuries.

A. ludoviciana ssp. mexicana is not included as a botanically identifiable drawing in the Codex Cruz Badiano, but iztauyatl (Miranda and Valdés, 1991) is mentioned several times in this source (Folios 26r, 35r, 37r, 37v, 50r, 55v) as well as in the Codex Florentino. Uses in the Codex Cruz Badiano mentioned are: for debility of the hands (together with two other plants), for rectal problems ("ani uitium emendatur herbis" and "vitium sedis"; with 5 other plants), for aching piles [with 12 other plants, 3 types of "stones" (minerals) and one type of earth], as a remedy of second choice in order to recover from tiredness (together with 4 plants and 3 types of stones), for those injured by lightning and against lice (prepared in grease together with one plant and the ashes of the head of a mouse) and for treating "excessive heat". In the Codex Florentino the plant is considered to be useful to get rid of phlegm, headache (?), "inner heat" as well as for cleaning the urine and together with another plant (cuauhyayahuae) to help with heart problems. Applied externally it is listed for abscesses of the neck and in cases of dandruff (Codex Florentino ca. 1570: X,165,140; XI149,165). Gregorio Lopez (1542-1596) advised that the plant should be taken if one feels sick or dizzy or if there is retention of urine. It can also be used as an infusion against rheumatism. Juan de Esteyneffer (1664-1716) used the plant for numerous illnesses: as an anthelmintic and stomachic, against paralysis, vomiting, constipation, liver obstruction, dropsy, for "mal de loanda" etc. (Anzures y Bolanos, 1978). In the 18th century it was said to give strength and boldness, to strengthen the spirit, to alleviate tiredness, to "correct" the menstrual cycle and for fever (Ricardo Ossado cited in Argueta, 1994). Fray Juan de Navarro, whose manuscript bears the date 1801 and who based his studies on the earlier works lists Yztauyatl as useful to treat gastrointestinal pain caused by colics and for pain of the flanks. Some combined preparations with other plants are also listed (Navarro, 1992)

Modern Internal Uses for Gastrointestinal Complaints in Mexico

In modern Mexico this species is widely used and frequently sold in markets or little shops as a medicinal plant. Mexicans generally use the infusion of the leaves as a bitter stimulant, against gastrointestinal colics and the powdered flowers as a vermifuge, stimulant and emmenagogue (Argueta V. et al., 1994: 626, Aguilar et al., 1994, Heinrich et al., 1998). Ruiz Salazar (1989), for example, mentions the following uses: lack of appetite, stomach-ache and parasites, stomach and liver infections. On the market of Sonora (México D.F.) the plant is sold for the treatment of dysentery and vomiting. The flowers are traded as useful remedies for colic, dysentery, diarrhoea, indigestion, pain and stomach-aches (Bye 1986; Linares et al., 1990). A tea, prepared from the leaves, is sold in the markets for treating various gastrointestinal disorders (Heinrich et al., 1992b, Nicholson and Arzeni, 1993). The flowers and other aerial parts of the plant are used by the lowland Mixe as tea for stomach-ache and vomiting (Heinrich, 1989). The flowers are used for the treatment of intestinal parasites "lombrices" in Morelos and in numerous other parts of Mexico (Baytelman, 1979). It is also used as a laxative, but should be avoided during pregnancy because of its emmenagogic effects (Cabrera, 1984). In "Izucar de Matamoros" it was used as an infusion to cure "bilis", and stomach-ache (Rivera, 1943). The Huastec treat vomiting and gastrointestinal pain with the root (Alcorn, 1984), the Huichol the same syndrome with the leaves (Casillas Romo, 1990). Also, its uses as an anti-emetic, anthelmintic and for dysentery and dysmenorrhoea are reported from Veracruz (Amo, 1979).

Modern Internal Uses for Other Illnesses in Mexico

There are only a few scattered reports on other uses available in the literature: for colds (Rivera 1943; Morton, 1981), bronchitis (Amo, 1979), chest congestion (Bye, 1986), heart diseases (Morton, 1981), sudden fright and some other "culture-bound" syndromes (Aguilar et al., 1994) as well as menstrual complaints (e.g. Ruiz Salazar, 1989).

Modern External Uses in Mexico

The leaves are frequently used to treat earache. In central Mexico it seems to be an important remedy for the folk illness "aire" which is said to be associated with headache, dizziness and vomiting (Argueta, 1994). Other uses include as an analgesic, for externally cleansing swellings, infections, and inflammations, for headaches, sudden fright, for ritual cleansing ceremonies and in the treatment of swollen feet (Alcorn, 1984; Amo, 1979; Linares et al., 1990; Nicholson and Arzeni, 1993; Pimentel Tort, 1988).

PH YTO CHEMISTRY Sesquiterpene Lactones

Detailed phytochemical studies were first undertaken in the early sixties (Sanchez-Viesca and Romo 1963) and yielded estafiatin (3). In the late sixties and early seventies several further sesquiterpene lactones (Geissman and Saitoh 1972, Lee and

Geissman 1970, Romo et al., 1970, Romo and Tello, 1972, Romo de Vivar et al., 1977) were isolated: arglanin (5), armexefolin (9), armexine (7), artemixifolin (8), artemorin (J), chrysartemin-A (4), douglanine (6), ludalbin (13), ludovicin-A (10), ludovicin-B (11), ludovicin-C(22), tulipinolide (2) and - a report which has been substantiated by other reseachers - a-santonin (Kelsey and Shafizadeh, 1979). Mata et al. (1984) additionally reported three new eudesmanolides [8 a-acetoxyarmexi-folin, a-epoxyludalbin and armefolin (14)], the known eudesmanolides arglanin, artemixifolin, ludalbin as well as santamarin (25), known from several other members of the Compositae. Ruiz-Cancino, et al. (1993), reported the new 3 a-hydroxyreynosin as well as 1 a-,3 a-dihydroxyarbusculin B, santamarin, arglanin, artemorin, chysartemin B, armefolin and ridentin. There is some variation with regard to the compounds isolated from the different collections, but the data available are insufficient to decide whether this is due to seasonal, chemosystematic, climatic or other factors.


Ruiz-Cancino, et al. (1993), isolated the flavonoids eupatilin (16) and jaceosidin (17). An unspecified subspecies of A. ludoviciana yielded naringin (Jakupovic, et al., 1991).

Essential Oil

The essential oil of this taxon has not been studied in detail. According to Guillermo Delgado (Dept. de Química, UNAM, México, D.F.; personal communication), the essential oil of the fresh plant contains at least 70 different compounds, but most have not yet been identified. Jakupovic, et al. (1991), reported the presence of camphor, borneol, vanillyl alcohol, several monoterpenes, and two jonone derivatives from an unspecified subspecies of A. ludoviciana collected in Texas.

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