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Chenopodium ambrosioides (Chenopodiaceae)
(Syn.: Teloxys ambrosioides, Atriplex ambrosioides)
English: Skunkweed, Mexican tea, epazote, Westindian goosefoot, hedge mustard,
Jerusalem parsley, sweet pigweed, wormseed French: Epazote, The du Mexique
Dutch: Welriekende ganzenfoet, Amerikaans wormsaad, wormkruid, wormsaad
Spanish: Epazote, paico, yerba de Santa Maria Portug: Formigueira, erva formigueira,
erva de Santa Maria, mastruco, mentruz
Chinese: Chou ching, Chau hahn
German: Mexikanischer Traubentee, Mexikanisches Teekraut, Jesuitentee, Karthäusertee,
Pharmaceutical definition: Chenopodii ambrosioides herba, Chenopodii oleum
An annual or perennial shrub, grows up to 1m high, leaves simple, alternate, occasionally
opposite, lacking stipules, 2 - 12 cm long, 2.5 – 9 cm wide, blade linear to broadly triangular in
outline, margins entire serrated, serrate-dentate or lobed, with inflated glands, in senescence
silvery shining. Inflorescences green, herbaceous, widely ramified, branches with flowers
originate in the axilles of great leaves which are reduced in their upper parts. The bracts of the
fruits green or brown, seeds one per flower, reddish brown,
Plants parts used:
Dried leaves, flowers, and seeds. Fresh parts for tea.
: The main component of the whole plant
is ascaridol (45-70%). Its content is very
variable and depends from the environment and the time of harvesting. Because of its toxicity the
content should not exceed 62 – 65 % for pharmaceutical preparations.
In the aerial parts
the content of ascaridol varies between 0.8 % - 1 % of dry matter. The seeds
have a higher content.
In organic extracts of aerial parts
further monoterpenes of lower content were found. Their
derivatives are alpha-pinen, thymol, myrcen, cymen, terpinen, campher, trans-isocarveol (2).
The content of ascaridol in the epazote from Mexico is said to be lower than in the epazote from
Asia or from Europe.
: An assay with the ethyl acetate extract for flavonoids in fresh leaves
Chenopodium ambrosioides afforded two kaempferol glycosides with a yield of 0.046 %. One of
them, until up being unknown was named ambroside (23). In an other oil
compounds were found: Phenols 17 %, a C29 – paraffin, heptacosane-14-one, alpha-spinasterol
and triacontylalkohol (26).
The essential oil
: A colourless or yellow fluid with a bitter taste and a characteristic smell, mp
221 - 2230 C. Today it is only used in veterinary medicine, no more with men.
A commercial sample of oil from Madagascar
, analysed by GC, mainly consisted of ascaridole
(41.8 %), isoascaridol (18.1 %), p-cymen (16.2 %), alpha-terpinene (9.7 %) and limonen (3.8 %)
Mexican tea or Epazote is a native herb of Central America and Mexico. It is one of the most
popular plants there. Its flavour is pungent and a little bit resinous. It can grow in other warm or
subtropical countries as an invasive weed.
Residents transplant bushes in their houseyards and villagers regularly drink “bush tea” against
stomach discomfort and especially against intestinal worms (15 - 20 g fresh leaves for 1 L water,
boiling for 1 Minute). This species is used as a vermifuge throughout the Caribbean (named sime
kontwa), in Mexico and in Guatemala (3). In New Mexico Hispanic and Mexican people use
Chenopodium ambrosioides plants against many disorders according to the recommendations of
the indigeneous healers, so called curanderos, as emmenagogue and abortifacient. Mexicans hold
it in high regards as a remedy afflicting various problems of women. Infusions (30 g for 1 L
water) of this plant are said to bring on their periods if pregnancy is suspected. Leaves are
preferred to the seeds (3). The variety “ambrosioides” (Spanish: epazote) is popular as an dietary
condiment, especially in many bean dishes, because of its carminative effect.
The essential oil of Chenopodium ambrosioides prepared by water steam destillation of the fresh
plants is included in the United States National Formulary and in the British Pharmacopoeia:
”It is a pale yellow to orange yellow liquid, having a peculiar, unpleasant odour, and a bitter,
burning taste. It dissolves in 8 volumes of 70 % alcohol. It becomes brownish by aging. It should
be used exclusively as an anthelmintic, especially against roundworms of dogs. It has a burning
taste and causes salivation and gastric irritations and should be used with care because of the
danger of poisoning, especially with children and aged or malnourished persons” (24,25).
Reports on toxicity of the oil are contradictory. Besides the Pharmacopoeias there are no exact
informations in newer literature on serious toxic reactions in humans (4). But here are other new
informations about the toxicity of the oil against other organisms.
Nowadays one can order Mexican tea (herb) via internet (www.wildacker.de).
Results of experimental studies
Effects of the whole plant and the leaves:
Among 20 South African plants used to treat pulmonary diseases an acetone extract of C.
ambrosioides was effective against a resistant H37Rv strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis at
0,1 g/mL (5).
In an inquiry among the rural population of the costal area in Bahia State, Brazil about treatment
of cutaneous ulcers induced by Leishmania braziliensis a list of 49 plants was collected. Among
these 33% of the people identified “mastruz” (C.ambrosioides) as the main plant they use to
apply. The range of mentioned plants was 65-2% (6).
The leaves of Chenopodium ambrosioides (mastruz) are traditionally used for the treatment of
many diseases including the cancer. But there are no such results on tumour development in vivo.
In a study authors report the effect of C. ambrosioides treatment on Ehrlich tumour cells in mice.
In the Swiss mice the tumour cells were implanted in the left footpad (solid tumour) or in the
peritoneal cavity (ascitic tumour). To determine the tumour growth the footpad was measured
each 2 days until the fourteenth day. Then the feet were weighed. The ascitic tumour
development was evaluated after 8 days by quantification of the ascitic fluid and the number of
the cells in it. The C. ambrosioides extract –no information about its preparation- was
administered intraperitoneally before or after the tumour implantation. Compared to control mice
the inhibition could be seen in ascitic volume and ascitic tumour cell number, in the tumour
bearing foot size and foot weight. The treatment increased the survival of tumour-bearing mice.
The authors conclude an antitumoral effect of C.ambrosioides (7)
Effects on cell cultures
Paico (Chenopodium ambrosioides L.) a traditional medicine from Peru with many applications
like anthelmintic, antirrheumatic, and other qualities contains ascaridole as the active principle
Ascaridole isolated from C.ambrosioides was found to be a potent inhibitor of the in vitro
developmen of Plasmodium falciparum. After 3 days the development was arrested by a drug
concentration of 0.05 µM, and at 0.1 µM. No parasites were visible in the in vitro culture. At
lower concentrations cultures could not continue to develop normally and ceased to grow at a
later stage. The authors judge that the peroxid group of ascaridole is the active part of the
In contradiction herbal infusions and ascaridole-free extracts of C.ambrosioides at nematocidal
concentrations did not show a detectable effect on a system of carbachol-induced contractions in
rat gastrointestinal smooth muscles. C. ambrosioides infusions are said to be safer as a vermifuge
than the use of the essential oil (10).
In human lymphocyte cell cultures –negative controls included- infusions and decoctions of
C.ambrosioides were tested for genotoxic effects. Decoctions and infusions of the aerial parts
were prepared in the following manner:
10 g air-dried plant material per 100 ml water, for decoction 10 minutes at 1000C,
for infusion boiling water was poured over 10 g of the leaves and left standing for 10 minute.
The concentrations of both extracts added to the cultures were 1, 10, 100, 1000 µL extract/ml
culture. Following this procedure percentages of lymphocyte cells with sister chromatide
exchange and chromosomal aberrations increased, but the mitotic index of the cells decreased,
nor was the cell proliferation index modified. C. album showed no similar effects. It was used as
negative control, therefore (11, 12).
In another work a methanolic extract of C.ambrosioides showed cytotoxicity against human
hepatocellular carcinoma cell line HEP G2 (22).
Effects of the essential oil
The essential oil of C.ambrosioides is irritant to the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal
tract, kidneys and liver. It is used in medicine almost exclusively as an anthelmintic. It must be
stored in tight containers and be preserved from excessive heat (24,25).
In an in vitro test out of 16 essential oils assayed for their fungitoxicity against Trichophyton
rubrum and Microsporon gypseum C.ambrosioides oil showed a strong activity. In formulations
of ointments it was able to cure an experimental ringworm infection in guinea pigs within 7 to 12
The development of Lucilia serigata, a widely distributed Egyptean arthropode, can be inhibited
in its third larval state by the use of 70 ppm of the volatile oil. This application is recommended
by the author instead of the use of chemicals for controlling the insecticidal pest (14).
For the protection of maize kernels against Aspergillus flavus among 11 oils C. ambrosioides
(here synonym Teloxys ambrosioides) caused a total inhibition of fungal development. The
optimal concentration was 3 to 8 %. No phytotoxic effect on germination or corn growth was
An emulsifiable concentrate (UDA-245) based on essential oil extract of C. ambrosioides was
tested against insect parasites in greenhouses and compared with commercially available
pesticides. UDA-245 with 0.5-1 % oil from C.ambrosioides was more effective than Neem
oil or endosulfan against aphides or mites. It was not phytotoxic against plants cultivated in the
green houses. Authors recommend this material in the pest management of greenhouses instead
of chemicals (16,17).
Among 14 plants of Moroccan folk medicine tested for molluscicidal activity the hexan extract of
C. ambrosioides was most active against the schistosomiasis-transmitting snail Bulinus truncatus
with LC 90 of 2.00 and 2.23 mg/L (18).
Results of clinical studies
In a rural community of Huaraz, Peru, a therapeutical clinical trial about the efficacy of “Paico”
(Chenopodium ambrosioides) compaired with the chemical Albendazol (INN: methyl-5n-
propoxythio-2-benzimidazol-carbamat) was performed during May and August 2000.
60 children being between 3 and 14 years old were randomly divided in a group treated with
Paico (n = 30) and another group treated with Albendazol (n = 30). But no placebo group was
included. All children were positively tested for Ascaris lumbricoides in faeces. The treatment
consisted in Paico juice (no information about its preparation):
1 ml/kg for children, less than 10 kg,
2 ml/kg for larger children.
One dose before breakfast for 3 consecutive days.
The Albendazol administration was a single dose of 400 mg in children over 5 years and
200 mg in younger ones.
The stool examinations were performed in all cases on entering the study and 15 days after the
The primary target parameter was the complete disappearance of Ascaris eggs and the
additional quantitative paramete
r was the decrease of the parasitic burden.
The investigations were executed in the laboratory of the Regional Health Authority in Ancash.
The eradication rates of Ascaris for Paico and Albendazole were around 86 %. The quantitative
effectiveness was 59.5 % for Paico and 58.3 % for Albendazole.
The authors conclude that Paico and Albendazole have a similar efficacy against Ascaris
lumbricoides. Paico had the additional benefit of being effective against Hymenolepis nana, too
In two villages near Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru another study about the efficacy of Paico
(Chenopodium ambrosioides) was performed. Extracts from the leaves of “Paico” (no
informations about the preparation) were given to 72 patients with intestinal parasitic infections.
Their stools were examined before and 8 days after the intake. With respect to the parasites tested
the efficacy was100 % for Ancylostoma and Trichuris, and 50 % for Ascaris. There was no
significant difference in age or sex (20).
Dosages and instructions for the use
15-20 g fresh leaves in 1L water, needed to be boiled for 1 minute.
Against roundworm infestation in adults
Two or three doses from 0.2-0.3 ml each, at intervals of one or two hours.
Against hookworms in adults
For children or malnourished persons doses should be reduced according to the age: For children 0.5 ml per year of age divided into two or three parts.
Maximum single dose: 0. 5g
Maximum daily dose: 1.0g
Application against intestinal worms
: As many droplets as years of age, at most 10 droplets
: 8 droplets once or three times daily, with intervals of 3 hours.
Convenient doses should be administered in gelatine capsules.
The application must be followed by a salinic purgative such like magnesium sulfate
(5-20 g dissolved in water).
It must not be repeated in less than two or three weeks (24, 25).
With proper care Chenopodium oil is a relatively safe anthelmintic.
Symptoms of poisoning by Chenopodium oil, which usually begins several hours after the
intaking of the oil are nausea, vomiting, headache, and ringing in the ears. Respiration becomes
slow and blood pressure falls. Haematuria and albuminuria or jaundice was observed.
In most cases of the milder forms of poisoning the symptoms usually pass off spontaneously.
In fatal cases there are convulsions and coma. In this situation a treatment with magnesium
sulfate, a high fluid intake and circulatory stimulants like atropin and epinephrine are
According to older reports before 1946 twelve cases of serious poisoning could be found of
which nine ended fatally (24,25).
There are no exact informations about the quantity of Chenopodium herb, fresh or dried which
could be effective against worm infestations in men, nor the content of ascaridole in the juice of
Chenopodium applied in Huaraz, Peru is known. One can only say the applied dose was
equivalent to an amount of the chemical Albendazol (19).
Chenopodium is a widely distributed herb in the Caribbean countries, in Middle and South
America. It is used, fresh or dried, by indigenous people for tea preparations. The permanent use
of this tea can be irritant for the mucuous parts of the intestine. The drinking must be
Chenopodium oil is known as an effective anthelmintic because of its content of ascaridole.
It is widely used. But the application must be followed by a treatment with a salinic purgative,
immediately. (24, 25).
for tea preparations
as anthelmintic together with
a salinic purgative
1. Cavalli JF, Tomi F, Bernardini AF, Casanova J (2004) Combined analysis of the essential
oil of Chenopodium ambrosioides by GC, GC-MS and 13C-NMR spectroscopy
Phytochem. Anal. 15: 275-9
2. Ahmed AA (2ooo) Highly oxygenated monoterpenes from Chenopodium ambrosioides
J Nat Prod 63: 989-991.
3. Quinlan MB, Quinlan RJ, Nolan JM (2002) Ethnophysiology and herbal treatments of
intestinal worms in Domenica, West Indies J Ethnopharmacol 2002: 75-83
4. Conway GA, Slocumb JC (1979) Plants used as abortifacients and emmenagogues by
Spanish New Mexicans J Ethnopharmacol 1: 241-61
5. Lall N, Meyer JJ (1999) In vitro inhibition of drug-resistant and drug-sensitive strains of
Mycobacterium tuberculosis by ethnobotanically selected South African plants J Ethnopharmacol 66: 347-54
6. Franca F, Lago EL, Marsden PD (1996) Plants used in the treatment of leishmanial ulcers
due to Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis in an endemic area of Bahia, Brazil Rev Soc Med Trop 29: 229-32
7. Nascimento FR, Cruz GV, Pereira PV et al. (2005) Ascitic and Ehrlich tumour inhibition by Chenopodium ambrosioides L. treatment Life Sc 2005, Nov 21 8. Okuyama E, Umeyama K, Saito Y et al. (1993) Ascaridole as a pharmacologically active principle of “Paico”, a medicinal Peruvian plant Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 41: 1309-11 9. Pollack Y, Segal R, Golenser J (1990) The effect of ascaridole on the invitro development of Plasmodium falciparum Parasitol Res 76: 570-72 10. MacDonald D, Van Crey K, Harrison P A.O. (2004) Ascaridole-less infusions of Chenopodium ambrosioides contain a nematocide that is not toxic to mammalian smooth muscle J Ethnopharmacol 92: 215-21 11. Gadano AB, Gurni AA, Carballo MA (2006) Argentine folk medicine: Genotoxic effects Plasmodium falciparum Parasitol Res 76: 570-72 10. MacDonald D, Van Crey K, Harrison P A.O. (2004) Ascaridole-less infusions of Chenopodium ambrosioides contain a nematocide that is not toxic to mammalian smooth muscle J Ethnopharmacol 92: 215-21 11. Gadano AB, Gurni AA, Carballo MA (2006) Argentine folk medicine: Genotoxic effects of Chenopodiaceae family J Ethnopharmacol 103: 246-51 12. Gadano AB, Gurni A, Lopez P et al. (2002) In vitro genotoxic evaluation of the medicinal plant Chenopodium ambrosioides J Ethnopharmacol 81: 11-16.
13. Kishore N, Mishra AK, Chansouria JP (1993) Fungitoxicity of essential oils against dermatophytes Mycoses 36: 211-15 14. Morsy TA, Shoukry A, Mazyad SA, Makled KM (1998) The effect of the volatile oils of Chenopodium ambrosioides and Thymus vulgaris against the larvae of Lucilia sericata (Meigen) J Egypt Soc Parasitol 28: 503-10 15. Montes-Belmont R, Carvajal M (1998) Control of Aspergillus flavus in maize with plant essential oils and their components J Food Prot 61: 616-9 16. Chiasson H, Bostanian NJ, Vincent C (2004) Acaricidal properties of a Chenopodial-
based botanical J Econ Entomol 97: 1373-7
17. Chiasson H, Vincent C, Bostanian NJ (2004) Insecticidal properties of a Chenopodial- based botanical J Econ Entomol 97: 1378-83 18. Hamamouchi M, Lahlou M, Agoumi A (2000) Molluscicidal activity of some Moroccan medicinal plants Fitoterapia 71: 308-14 19. Lopez De Guimaraes D, Neyra Llanos RS, Romero Acevedo JH (2001) Ascariasis:
Comparison of the therapeutic efficacy between Paico and albendazol in children of
Huaraz Rev Gastroenterol Peru 21: 212-19
20. Giove Nakazawa RA (1996) Traditional medicine in the treatment of enteroparasitosis
21. Kliks MM (1985) Studies on the traditional herbal anthelmintic Chenopodium ambrosioides
L.: Ethnopharmacological evaluation and clinical field trials Soc Sci Med 21: 879-86
22. Ruffa MJ, Ferraro G, Wagner ML et al. (2002) Cytotoxic effect of Argentinean medi cinal plant extracts on human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line J Ethnopharmacol 79: 335-9 23. Arisawa M, Minabe N, Saeki R et al. (1971) Studies on unutilized resources V. The components of the flavonoids in Chenopodium genus plants (1) Flavonoids of Cheno- podium ambrosioides Yakugaku Zasshi 91: 522-24 24. British Pharmacopoeia 1953 p 134 Gen Med Council The Pharm Press London 25. The Dispensary of the United States of America 24th Edition p 251-53 Lippincott- Company London 1947 26. Blaschek W, Hänsel R, Keller K, Reichling J, Rimpler H Hagers Handbuch der Pharm
Praxis volume V Folgeband 2 Springer Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg, New York 1998 p 343 ff
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