Epazote is an annual or short-lived perennial plant that grows up to four feet tall. It is native to Southern Mexico, Central and South America. As well as its native areas, it is grown in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States, sometimes becoming an invasive weed. Epazote is used medicinally, but it is more commonly used as a spice in traditional Mexican dishes. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to anise, fennel or even tarragon, but stronger. Epazote’s fragrance is strong but difficult to describe. A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. The etymology of the name also provides some insight: The Spanish name epazote is derived from the Nahuatl word epazotl, translated as “skunk sweat.” It is traditionally used when preparing black beans as the herb has carminative properties and can help prevent flatulence.
The whole leaf and stem
Added to any dish as a spice, or used as a tea
The Aztecs used epazote both as a spice as well as medicinally. This herb can be poisonous in large quantities. Epazote is known to have insecticidal properties. In addition to containing known insecticidal alkaloids, the plant is also used as a companion plant. The plant is so pungent that it can mask the scents of nearby plants to insects and other pests.