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, also known as flor de nochebuena
, is a plant of Mexican origin
and one of the most stunning flowers due to its deep red color, which makes it perfect for decorating our homes during the Christmas season
. However, this flower was not always linked to Catholic holidays.
Before Colonial times, this red flower was widely used due to its medicinal properties
and it was a highly important element for rituals
among warriors, for it was part of the altars
for those who died in battle. On the other hand, for the Mexica, flor de nochebuena
was also a symbol of the blood shed during the sacrifices in honor of the Sun.
Years later, in the 17th century, Spanish colonizers adopted the use of poinsettia
to decorate nativity scenes. Later on, people began to link nochebuenas
with Christmas and, thus, they became a symbol of the holiday season.
In Náhuatl, poinsettias
are known as cuetlaxóchitl
, which means “the flower that withers
.” Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla, and Michoacán are the main producers of poinsettia in Mexico. There are over 30 varieties of this Mexican flower that is full of medicinal properties.
The Medicinal Benefits of Nochebuena
According to the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (Conabio), poinsettia
, an ornamental plant that is highly popular in Mexico and the world, is linked to the treatment of skin conditions
and inflammatory processes
Moreover, the Digital Library of Traditional Mexican Medicine mentions that some people use flor de nochebuena
to increase breast milk production. In this case, poinsettia petals are boiled in water to make tea.
The Atlas of Plants of Traditional Mexican Medicine points out that people in Puebla, Michoacán, Guanajuato, and the State of Mexico use poinsettia for healing wounds, sores, infections, cold sores, warts, and moles. Poinsettia
can be prepared as a tea, often combined with bougainvillea and mullein, for treating respiratory diseases like cough or sore throat. It is also used for mumps, rabies, and cardiovascular conditions.
Although more research is required, according to the Digital Library of Traditional Mexican Medicine, “antibiotic activity was detected in an ethanolic extract against Bacillus cereus, Bacillus megaterium, and Staphylococcus albus.”
Nochebuena, a plant with a long story
Although nowadays poinsettia
is mostly used to decorate our homes during Christmas time
, this gorgeous flower has a story of its own that goes way beyond the holiday season
In the 16th century, Bernardino de Sahagún asserted in his book General History of the Things of New Spain that this beautiful red flower
was used to increase breast milk production. Later, Francisco Hernández confirmed Sahagún’s assertions by pointing out that wet nurses ate the flower to produce more milk.
Moreover, the Digital Library of Traditional Mexican Medicine mentions that in the 19th century, the Mexican Society of Natural History used poinsettia
for treating “exanthematous viral infections as a galactagogue, galactophore, and reducing inflammatory response.”
Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the intake of this flower in large amounts can be toxic and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of delusion. Likewise, it must be kept away from pets like cats and dogs.
Keep in mind that this article seeks to promote Mexican culture, so consuming these remedies is not encouraged. Always seek medical advice to look after your health.