12 julio, 2024

Zoapatle: what it is, characteristics, uses and contraindications

What is the zoapatle?

He zoapatle (Montanoa tomentosa Cerv.) It is a species of plant belonging to the Asteraceae family, native to Mexico and much of Central America. It is a shrub with small yellow or white flowers that is used in traditional herbal medicine.

The name zoapatle derives from the Nahuatl cihuatl (woman) and phatli (medicine), which would translate into Spanish as «women’s medicine». According to each region, it is known as cihuapatli, ciguapatle, cacahpachtle, chapus, land gordolobo, hierba del to, zihuapatle, zoapatle or zuhuapatli.

It is a medium-height, highly branched shrub with pubescent stems, branches and leaves and a downy appearance. The highly aromatic brittle leaves and clustered flowers are characteristic of the species.

In traditional Mexican medicine it is a plant used for its properties in the so-called diseases of women. It is used to solve problems related to childbirth, either to induce it or to expedite it, and it is even used as an abortifacient.

Usually, it is used to relieve menstrual problems, activate vaginal discharge, stimulate menstruation, regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce pain. It is useful to increase the secretion of breast milk and to apply postpartum sitz baths. In addition, it prevents rheumatism.

Characteristics of the zoapatle

It is a branched shrub from 1 to 2 m high, with pubescent stems. The leaves of the deltoid or corbate type are broader at the petiole level and pointed at the end.
The leaves are brittle in appearance, have jagged edges, and are strongly aromatic. The surface of the bundle is pubescent and on the underside it has very fine bristles with a tomentose appearance.
The flowers of different sizes grow in clusters at the end of the stem, yellow for the smaller ones and white for the larger ones. The fruit is a compressed oblong achene, with a single, dark-colored seed.
The zoapatle is native to Mexico, adapted to the conditions of temperate and semi-warm climates. It is located at altitudinal levels between 1,200 and 4,000 m asl
It is a shrub associated with grassland and xeric scrub ecosystems. Likewise, it is located in forests of oak and pine, mixed oak-pine, and in forests of junipers or junipers -junipers-.
The chemical analysis of the species Montanoa tomentosa Cerv. shows the presence of an essential oil made up of various terpenoids. Among them, a and b-pinene, a-terpineol, a-tujene, borneol, camphene, limonene, linalool, myrtenol, myrcene and ocimene, as well as the sesquiterpenes b-caryophyllene, a-copaene, b-cubebene and b-endesmanene.
At the level of the roots and leaves, diterpenes, grandiflorenic, kaurenoic, kauradienoic and monogynoic acids have been detected. Diterpenes, sesquiterpenoids and sterols have been identified in the leaves, and diterpenes in the roots.
Laboratory analyzes have made it possible to isolate compounds with pharmacological activity in zoapatle plant material. Kaurenoic and monogynoic acids —which regulate fertility in mammals—, angeloylgrandifloric acid —which acts on the contraction of the uterus—, and sesquiterpene lactones —with cytotoxic activity.


In traditional culture, the use of zoapatle for the treatment of natural ailments of women is common. It is used to alleviate problems related to childbirth, being effective in promoting, hastening and expediting labor.
The traditional way of ingesting it is as an infusion made from leaves and roots, accompanied by chocolate and cinnamon. It is recommended to consume at the time of contractions, and when a complicated labor is looming.
In the postpartum phase, it is advisable to ingest a zoapatle tea prepared with branches and leaves of epazote —paico— and rue flavored with piloncillo (panela). Taken before and after childbirth, it cleans the womb and prevents postpartum hemorrhage.
The ancestral beliefs of Mesoamerican cultures highlight the zoapatle and chocolate baths in the temezcal —traditional steam bath. In fact, this practice allows contractions to be accelerated when labor is at term and the woman has not dilated the cervix.
The zoapatle has an emmenagogue principle, since it allows to regulate menstrual disorders, normalize the cycle and speed up the menstrual flow. In this case, it is recommended to ingest a thick decoction of young leaves and branches on an empty stomach for a period of three days.
This same infusion diluted in a larger amount of water is used to activate late menstruation. The addition of leaf buds to the infusion relieves menstrual pain or cramps and uterine contractions.
The decoction of zoapatle leaves is very effective for healing wounds after childbirth, and stimulates the production of colostrum.
Besides, it is used to soothe pain caused by rheumatism and constipation. It is said to be useful for removing laziness.

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Due to its size and large foliage, the zoapatle plant is planted in coffee and cocoa plantations to provide shade.
It is used as a fence around pastures or demarcation of various farms.
The shoots and flowers are appreciated in traditional cooking as a food supplement due to their high protein and lipid content. The flowers are boiled, stewed or fried and used in garnishes for traditional dishes as a gastronomic alternative.
In gardening, zoapatle plants are grown in parks and gardens. The soft, fine and moldable wood is used to make crafts, kitchen utensils and traditional figures of Mexican culture.


There is experimental evidence that zoapatle decoctions stimulate contractions and dilation of the uterus, as well as its abortifacient effect. This plant has toxic effects due to the presence of toxins at the level of the bark and seeds.
The presence of a tubocurarine-like alkaloid, also known as d-tubocurarine or DTC, causes semi-paralysis in some people.
Consumption of highly concentrated decoctions can cause muscle paralysis, inhibit nerve impulses, respiratory paralysis, suffocation, and even cause death.
the species stormy mountain It is considered a very dangerous abortive plant. The infusion of zoapatle mixed with apple leaves and corn roots, consumed on an empty stomach, induces early abortion.


Garcia Rios, Yesenia. Cihuapatli or Zoapatle (Montanoa tomentosa Cerv). Traditional and Alternative Medicines. Recovered in tlahui.com.
Vibrans, H., Hanan Alipi, AM and Mondragón Pichardo, J. Asteraceae = Compositae. Montanoa tomentosa Cerv. Zoapaxtle. Weeds from Mexico. Retrieved from conabio.gob.mx.

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