Aztec sweet herb – characteristics, cultivation, and use

Flowers of Aztec sweet herb
Flowers of Aztec sweet herb

The Aztec sweet herb is exotic among the herbs. The medicinal herb from Mexico makes a rather inconspicuous impression and grows above all barren, sun-exposed locations. In folk medicine, it is mainly used for colds and persistent cough. But even in the kitchen, the Aztec sweet herb can be used as an alternative to sugar. The herb has become known in recent years as a fertile alternative to stevia. It is a beautiful ornamental plant, exudes an aromatic honey-melon and minty scent and is suitable because of the long tendrils for hanging baskets.

Profile of Aztec sweet herb:

Scientific name: Phyla scaberrima, syn. Lippia dulcis

Plant family: verbena family (Verbenaceae)

Other names: bushy lippia, honeyherb, hierba dulce

Sowing time / Planting time: April – May

Flowering period: July – September

Harvest time: May – October

Useful plant parts: leaves, stems

Location: sunny to slightly semi-shaded

Soil quality: dry, humus rich soil

Use as a medicinal herb: bronchitis, colds, asthma, stomach upset, diarrhea

Use as aromatic herb: for sweetening drinks, sweets or desserts

Plant characteristics and classification of Aztec sweet herb

Occurrence and origin of the Aztec sweet herb

As the name suggests, the Aztec sweet herb comes from Central and South America. The Spanish doctor Francisco Hernandez was the first to discover and describe the plant in Mexico in the late 16th century. Numerous investigations at that time as well as today could prove that the Aztec sweet herb must have played an important role. It may have been used as a cure for many thousands of years ago.

The Aztec sweet herb is found wild today, especially between Mexico and Panama. It grows there preferably in warm, humid places, which are usually completely exposed to the sun.

Plant order of Aztec sweet herb

The Aztec sweet herb actually belongs to the vervain family. Amongst others, this family includes also the lemon verbena and the vervain (native to Europe). The scientific or botanical name of the Aztec sweet herb is not always consistent. In some parts of Europe the name Lippia dulcis is common. Especially in America, the name Phyla dulcis is used. The genus Lippia (or Phyla) is relatively species rich with about 200 species, but only very few species are described in detail.

Depending on geographical origin, one distinguishes between several varieties (subspecies), which usually differ only in biochemical terms. The best known varieties come from Mexico, Panama or Puerto Rico.

Characteristics of the Aztec sweet herb

Plant

Actually, the Aztec sweet herb is a pretty nondescript plant. The perennial, creeping herb can grow up to 60 cm (24 in) high and up to 100cm (40 inches) in width. The herb develops small sparse and shallow roots that are visually reminiscent of small tuft of hair.

Leaves

The leaves of the Aztec sweet herb can grow up to 3 cm (1.2 in) long. Their shape can be described as ovate to slightly lanceolate and the leaves margins are noticeably sawn. The color of the leaves can vary between rusty brown, red and green. Red sweet herb leaves are usually caused by intense sunlight and therefore not to be understood as a disease sign. Newly formed leaves and leaves that do not grow in full sun, usually remain green. The stems are initially mostly green and later turn reddish as well.

Flowering

During the flowering season, which is to be expected between the beginning of July and the middle of September, the Aztec sweet herb produces remarkably small white lipped flowers. As a rule, the flowers never become longer than 6mm (0.24 in). Each flower has four sepals and four stamens. Striking is the slightly sweet, partly smelling of honey flower scent.

Ripeness

After flowering, the fruits ripens from the calyx. Each calyx forms so-called drupes, which always contain a brownish-colored seed.

Aztec sweet herb – cultivation and care

The Aztec sweet herb can be cultivated relatively easily in the garden or on the balcony. When growing, it should be noted, however, that the herb calls the subtropical areas of Central America its home. The sweet herb tolerates many variations and is surprisingly adaptable.

Location

The optimal location for the Aztec sweet herb is a sunny location. In addition to full sun, a half-shade area is tolerated, but here the plant should be exposed to the sun for at least three to four hours a day. The soil on which the herbs grow should be well drained, slightly humous and rather dry. Loamy soils should therefore be mixed with aggregates such as quartz sand or lava sand. If the sweet herb grows on the balcony, a high-quality seed or herb soil is sufficient.

Sowing

The seeds can be scattered directly on the field or precultured on the windowsill. In the field, the seeds can be sown from the end of April. It is important that the soil has already stored heat, since the seeds only start to germinate at a temperature of about 20 ° C. (68 ° F). After 18 to 40 days the first shoots can be seen. In the field, planting distances of about 60 cm (24 in) should be kept, as the herb grows wide over time. For cultivation on the balcony wide and rather shallow pots or tubs are recommended.

Fertilizer

In terms of nutrient consumption, the Aztec sweet herb is very undemanding. If the herb grows outdoors,it is advisable to incorporate, every two seasons, a little of a not so strong organic or organomineral fertilizer in the soil. Even potted cultures should not be fertilized regularly. Before the flowering in July, a commercial herbal fertilizer can be used, which is sufficient in most cases.

Watering

Basically, the Aztec sweet herb has a great tolerance in terms of water supply. It is best, however, if the soil is not permanently watered. Occasional dehydration does not harm the plant. Too frequent watering is often tolerated, but promotes the formation of diseases.

Diseases and pests

The Aztec sweet herb is especially susceptible to rust and mildew. Often, improper watering or higher humidity promote the formation of various fungal diseases. In pot cultures, the addition of natural water storage additives such as perlite, vermiculite or zeolite may help.

Wintering

The Aztec sweet herb does not tolerate frost fluctuations, requiring some measures for wintering. In the field, the plant should be covered with brushwood and bark. Pot or pot cultures can be wintered in the basement or in a warmed room. The plants tolerate only temperatures up to about 8 ° C (46° F).

Harvest

If the Aztec sweet herb is used as a medicinal or kitchen herb, you only harvest the leaves and stems. For healing purposes, the herb can be dried. For the kitchen, however, only fresh leaves are to be used, as the sweetness is significantly lower when drying.

Aztec sweet herb and its use

Aztec sweet herb as a kitchen herb

The Aztec sweet herb stands out above all by its slightly sweet taste, which has a weak bitter note. It is significantly milder than, for example, stevia or licorice root. The sweetish taste of the leaves is caused by the two ingredients hernandulcin and hydroxyhernadulcin. Both substances are about 1,200 times sweeter than commercial sugar.

Use in the kitchen find only the leaves and flowers. These should always be used fresh, as the taste reduces when dry. The leaves can be used to sweeten quark dishes, tea, fruit salads, smoothies or other cold desserts.

The leaves sweet the teas and adds a minty melon flavor to the tea. The tea also gets a toning and relaxing effect.

Even if the expectation is great, it is unfortunately very difficult to cook or bake with the herb. The sweet-tasting decomposes from a temperature of 140 ° C (284 ° F) and is difficult to dissolve in water.

The Aztec sweet herb is not a long-term substitute for sugar. It is harmless to occasionally consume the herb or to use it as an ingredient for sweetening. However, care should be taken not to use the Aztec sweet herb for a longer period or in larger quantities, since the containing camphor can cause Nausea, shortness of breath and nervous restlessness.

Aztec sweet herb as a medicinal herb

The importance of Aztec sweet herbs as a medicinal herb is far greater than as a kitchen herb. There are numerous indications that the herb has been used as a medicinal plant in the early Middle and in the north of South America.

The first written record comes from the explorer of the herb, Francisco Hernandez. In 1578 he described the Aztec sweet herb under the Aztec name tzopelic-xihuitl. He has learned from Aztec physicians that the herb was administered for fever, cough and loss of appetite.

To this day, the Aztec sweet herb plays a major role in the traditional medicine of Mexico. Tees from the plant should help against cough, flu infections, stomach and intestinal complaints, bronchitis, asthma or used for menstrual disorders.

Aztec sweet herb contains some effective ingredients that make the herb for today’s herbal medicine a possible medicinal plant.

Aztec sweet herb can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • colds
  • colic
  • constipation
  • cough
  • indigestion
  • shortness of breath

Medicinal properties

  • Expectorant / mucolytic
  • improves circulation
  • menstruation promoting
  • reassurin
  • relaxing
  • relieving
  • toning

For healing purposes, the leaves, flowers and roots are used. The most common dosage form is the preparation of a cold water extract. The leaves or flowers must be in the water for two to three hours before sipped. These extracts are used for cold symptoms and general coughing. A tincture of the leaves helps with gastrointestinal problems. But there are usually better and more effective medicinal plants for this problem.

With colds or flu-like infections one can support the healing process, if one chews some leaves of the herb during the day.

Side effects

Aztec sweet herb should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Too many doses of the herb can cause amnesia, epileptic seizures, twilight and confusion states. It is not recommended to take the plant for a long time.

Disclaimer:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Buy Aztec sweet herb – What to pay attention to?

Through its sweet-tasting leaves and flowers, the Aztec sweet herb has reached a certain notoriety. In some plant centers, in the plant trade trade as well as on markets there are already potted plants to buy. Seed producers sometimes offer seeds.

When buying fresh plants, be sure to look at the back (underside) of the leaves. If you notice white dots, small holes, or brownish edges, you should withdraw from buying it. If the plants are not properly watered or are planted in an unsuitable soil, rust fungi have easy play. Reddish leaves are perfectly normal for the Aztec sweet herb.

Some traders offer dried leaves of the plant. Refrain from buying, as the taste reduces when dry.

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