Mexican culture today may be the most herb dependent of all modern civilizations. Each tribe of native Mexicans originate from different regions, each with its own unique herbal remedies based on their indigenous plants. These all come together in Mexico City, the most dense urban environment on earth where poverty is epic. The ability to consult modern medicine is beyond the reach of most, so folk healers, known as curanderos, are still alive and well.
Fresh herbs on the sidewalk just off the Zocalo.
The demand for fresh herbs is every day in Mexico City. With no refrigeration or modern packaging, market farmers bring them into the city where they are sold on the street and in the market. Many of these plants retain the same psychoactive qualities as they did when Nahuatl shamans used them for divination. These same qualities are strong medicine in the hands of a skilled curandera that can relieve pain and other symptoms.
Today’s fresh chamomile and mustard.
In the markets certain herb vendors bring fresh materials in every day. Layers of newspaper divide the fresh materials from that of days before. They are not thrown away because even dry, the herbs are still useful. If a vendor does not have what he or she needs for a customer in fresh material, they can delve into the dried stuffs to fill an order.
A wide range of dried herbs are carried in the markets for the healer’s trade.
An excellent reference on herbs used by Mexicans which includes the folk names for the plants is Los Remedios: Traditional Herbal Remedies of the Southwest by Michael Moore published by Red Crane Books of Santa Fe. http://www.redcrane.com/herbal/herbal.htm