What is Estafiate?
If you have never heard of estafiate, you are certainly not alone. The herb has largely been ignored by modern herbalists but it does have a long history of use among Native Americans. ‘Estafiate’ is one of several common names given to a herb which is known scientifically as Artemisia ludoviciana.
It is also known variously as prairie sage, Louisiana sage, white sagebrush and Mexican wormwood. Its Latin name of ludoviciana actually means Louisiana but despite its very location specific moniker, it can be found all across North America and parts of Central America. It is especially popular in Mexico where it is used to treat a range of issues from diabetes to PMS.
The plant typically grows to a height between one and two feet and thrives best in sandy and rocky soils. The plant produces leaves in a variety of shapes and also small yellow or green colored flowers. The plant itself is covered in microscopic hairs which help lend the plant its distinctive silvery green appearance. Despite the fact that many of its common names include sage and the fact that it resembles the plant, estafiate is not related to sage in any way at all.
It is usually the leaves in either fresh or dried form that are used for medicinal purposes but the flowers are also occasionally used.
Estafiate has long been valued by native Americans and traditional healers because of its wide range of uses and its dependable availability throughout the year. Traditionally the plant was associated with magic and dreaming and to this day it is burned as a ceremonial smoke is some parts of the world.
Some native tribes refer to the herb as women’s sage and the name is apt since it can provide women with a variety of benefits. It is considered to be a great ally for women dealing with the symptoms of menstruation while a tea or an infusion made from the leaves is believed to be good for regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Estafiate also has antimicrobial properties and it has been used for external reasons as well as internal conditions. It also has anti-inflammatory abilities which is why it has often been used in salves to treat minor wounds, burns, and bruises and also to help treat muscle and joint pains.
Because it also has stomachic properties, estafiate has traditionally been drunk as an infusion to help deal with stomach upsets and food poisoning.
Active Compounds in Estafiate
Estafiate contains glycosides including santonin and artemisinin which are known to be antimicrobial and anti-parasitic and are probably responsible for the bulk of estafiate’s medicinal properties. Estafiate also contains a compound called thujone which is toxic in very high doses but is also antimicrobial and beneficial to the body in lower amounts. Research has found that thujone can inhibit several types of bacteria and fungus including Candida albicans.
The Health Benefits of Estafiate
When it comes to scientific study, there are precious few research articles related to the health benefits of the herb. The bulk of the therapeutic benefits stem from its traditional usage. That is not to say that estafiate is ineffective and there have actually been a few notable studies including one on its ability to relieve pain and another on its ability to treat malaria. The following are some of the most common uses for the herb.
1) To Relieve Pain
Estafiate has traditionally been used in Mexico for numerous conditions including pain relief and digestive complaints. A very recent animal study published in 2016 found that the essential oil of the herb had a significant pain-relieving effect possibly resulting from the opioid effects of the herb. (1)
Another study published in 2012 demonstrated that estafiate had antispasmodic qualities when it was tested on rats. (2)
2) To Regulate a woman’s Menstrual Cycle
Traditionally, estafiate has been used to help women overcome some of those familiar symptoms of PMS. Women with delayed or irregular menses are also advised to take estafiate tea in order to regulate their periods. According to traditional use, the nutrients and chemical compounds found in estafiate can help the body get into a better hormonal rhythm which can help to properly regulate menstruation.
3) For Diabetes
In Mexico, estafiate has traditionally played a role in treating diabetes and it is still in popular use today. Several studies have been done on animals to validate its use in controlling blood glucose levels with the results proving very promising. As is often the case, the traditional use of an herbal remedy is being supported by modern science.
A recent study published in 2014 demonstrated that preparations made from estafiate had hypoglycemic effects as well as antihyperglycemic actions. The researchers believe that these effects explain why the herb is such an effective diabetic treatment in modern Mexico.
According to researchers, some of the compounds found in the plant act synergistically on various molecular targets involving insulin liberation and the absorption of glucose. (3) Other animal studies have revealed similar positive results but testing in humans has not been done as yet.
4) Antimicrobial Uses for Stomach Issues
Estafiate is popularly used as a remedy for various stomach complaints. It has a well-deserved reputation for being a potent bitter tonic with stomach healing properties. An infusion or a tea made with the plant can do a great job in relieving the symptoms of food poisoning including cramps and nausea and it is a popular Mexican remedy for diarrhea.
Estafiate has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions as well as carminative properties that can soothe various digestive conditions including flatulence, dyspepsia, dysentery and gastric inflammation.
5) For Diarrhea
Estafiate is a popular remedy in Mexico for diarrhea and experiments seem to suggest there is a good reason for this. Experiments on animals show that extracts from estafiate have antispasmodic actions and the ability to calm the stomach. Estafiate is also used in Mexico to help treat diarrhea and researchers concluded that its ability to ease diarrhea is probably related to the plant’s antiparasitic and antimicrobial properties. (2)
6) For the Skin
Not only does estafiate work on your body internally but it can also be applied to great effect topically. Because of its excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory actions, a cold infusion made from the herb can be applied topically to treat wounds, grazes, bites and bruises. The properties of the plant make it ideal to prevent the spread of bacteria and expedite the time it takes for a wound to heal.
7) For Rheumatism and Arthritis
Traditionally, estafiate has also been used to great effect to deal with the painful symptoms of conditions like rheumatism and arthritis. It probably works because of the anti-inflammatory abilities of the plant. If you are suffering from one of these conditions, you can sip on the tea each day. An alternative treatment option is to apply a cold infusion directly to the affected joints whenever you feel the need.
How To Use Estafiate
- You can use the flowering tops and the dried leaves of the plant to make a herbal tea. The taste is extremely bitter however so you may want to add a sweetener like honey to taste.
- Use a teaspoon of the dried leaves and flowers for each cup and allow the drink to steep for at least 15 minutes.
- It is recommended that you start off slowly with around a quarter cup a day and increase your dosage gradually over time.
- You can also apply the tea directly to wounds, bites and aching joints.