Epazote – Predigest Beans

You might want some epazote to help celebrate this July. July is National Baked Bean Month. It is also National Hot Dog Month, and a few others – but I digress. Why epazote with beans?  Because this interesting herb has been proven to help predigest the “gassy” compounds in beans.

Epa – what?

Epazote is pronounced eh-pa-zoh-tea. There. Now you know a word in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs! The name is the same in Nahutal, Spanish, and English. Botanically speaking, epazote is now considered Dysphania ambrosioides (formerly Chenopodium ambrosoides).



Word-Nerd Note: If you can say Mazatlan, you are also speaking Nahuatl! The name of the town translates to “deer place.”


Epazote in the Southwest

Epazote is in the same family as European spinach, and came into the Southwest from tropical Mayan lands back in ancient times. Quite possibly it was brought north by the Poschteca traders. These traders walked routes from Panama to Canada and also carried parrots to the Anasazi at Chaco in New Mexico. Father Kino was guided along these well known routes. Indeed, many of our highways today follow those ancient trading paths.

A book about Father Kino’s Herbs – Signed Copies!

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print, award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:

“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $20!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!

If you live in Tucson,consider purchasing your copy locally at Antigone Books, or Rillito Nursery (call first because they keep running out).

Popular For Cooking

By the time of European Contact, epazote had been cultivated for well over a thousand years in southern and southeast coastal Mexico. It was, and still is, a principle flavoring for a large number of Yucatan and Veracruz dishes, and is indispensable for cooking black beans. Epazote on our YouTube.


Epazote, like the Old World herbs of cumin and ginger, has the unique ability to help break down hard-to-digest vegetable proteins. These difficult proteins are found most often in beans, peas, and members of the cabbage family. A few leaves of epazote cooked in the pot with the potential offender can go a long way towards rendering the proteins harmless.

More about some of those hard to digest bean proteins in this post.  Also more about beans in this YouTube video Dr. Soule made.

Other Uses

Medicinally, epazote has been used as a decoction to help induce labor, and as an infusion (tea) for a vermifuge (against intestinal parasites) This second use may have lead to one of the common names “Jesuit wormseed.” This is also sometimes called “Mexican tea,” although it is not commonly used as a tea.


In the yard, this strongly scented herb is reported as a deer repellent. I can report that javelina, jackrabbits, cottontails and quail all avoid eating the plants.

Growing epazote is a topic for Gardening With Soule, and we will post the link once available. It’s easy to grow.

Harvest and Use of Epazote

Like cilantro, epazote is best when used fresh for culinary purposes. It loses some of it’s “digestive” properties when dried. At the end of the summer, I chop and freeze as many leaves as I can harvest for use all winter. It appears to have a higher efficacy when frozen than when dried. Here’s my YouTube video on preserving epazote.

Chop or mince leaves and add early to dishes that require long cooking, like beans, roasts, soups, or stews. Use one tablespoon minced leaves per cup of beans or to a two pound roast. Not used as a garnish, due to bitter taste.


Cook Local!

Use epazote to avoid using manufactured bean-digestive compounds in plastic packaging. Having the plants in your yard saves manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and all the associated waste of resources inherent in manufactured goods. Even greener, epazote is a way to capture carbon, the seeds provide food for birds, and the plant offer some lovely bright rabbit-proof leafyness for you to enjoy. If you have an alley, try scattering seed of epazote out there for a bird-feeding “weed.” I might not forage from the alley, but this is less allergenic than some other weeds commonly found in Southwest alleys.

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Legal Note

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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