North America’s herbal medicine story is rooted in Hispanic and pre-Hispanic culture. The use of medicinal herbs was first recorded in the new world by the pre-Hispanic cultures of the Aztecs. The history of herbal medicines in North America cannot be fully understood without looking at the large part Hispanic cultures have played in understanding these herbs as natural medicines, alongside their many uses.
Hispanic traditional herbal medicine has been called “survival medicine” by experts. Particularly, when looking at the survival of early lower-income Hispanic communities in the United States. Plant medicines made as herbal remedies in the home were largely the only option available to these communities due to prejudice and low income. Those who struggled to stay healthy during cold winters in poor conditions or worked long hours relied on homemade teas and ointments for the health of their families.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we look to highlight the phenomenal healing power of the traditional herbs of Hispanic natural medicines and cultivate gratitude for their origins. We hope these herbs—many of which are now commonplace in North American natural medicine—will inspire you to learn more about the origins, beliefs, histories, and people behind them.
While many herbs rooted in Hispanic culture are widely used for traditional purposes, here are some of the most common herbs and their uses:
Found in many parts of Latin America and the southwestern United States, sage is deeply rooted in Hispanic traditional natural medicines. This is because its unique earthy flavor and aroma have a lot to offer in both the traditional and shamanic healing schools. Boasting antibacterial and astringent qualities, the many varieties of sage out there are great to consume in teas or as natural poultices.
You may have used chamomile to calm down, battle mild anxiety, or provide a deep sense of relaxation for stress relief or sleep support. Chamomile’s healing power comes from being a mild sedative. Many Hispanic communities believe drinking chamomile on a regular basis leads to longer. Considering the link between stress and mortality rate, we understand why this daisy-like wonder has become such a staple in traditional healing herbs.
Commonly used in Hispanic cooking, this deep spice is known for easing gastrointestinal issues as well as delivering notable amounts of vitamins A, C, and E. Besides cooking, cumin is often made into tea. While useful during cold season, thanks to antiseptic and antioxidant properties, cumin tea is often used in Hispanic traditional medicine to help women into labor.
Added to a cup of hot water, cinnamon or canela is often the first thing reached for in Hispanic traditions at the beginning of a cold. Simmered until a deep brown, cinnamon tea packs potent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and benefits.