The Aztecs were the first to cultivate amaranth.

Ancient Remedies: 10 Native Herbs or Foods to Ease Common Ailments


This is Part I of a series on natural, Indigenous remedies.

1. Amaranthus

RELATED: Awesome Aztec Superfood Is Also Beautiful in Your Garden

Amaranthus was once a staple of the Aztec diet. The wild pigweed can grow six feet in height, its foliage varying from green to shades of purple, red and gold, and occasionally bearing flowers.

The Aztecs believed the plant to hold supernatural health- and strength-giving properties, incorporating the seeds into a ritual, in which mixtures of amaranth seed, honey and blood were made into images of gods and then eaten, reported But Aztecs later found the Christian ritual of communion disturbing, and hence banned the cultivation of amaranth, as it was tied to their similar tradition.

Inca and Mayan civilizations also enjoyed the plant as a vegetable and grain, according to The Incas considered the Amaranthus seed sacred. Each year, the first seed was planted by the king using a golden spade.

Edible raw or cooked, today it is regularly found in healthy cereals—the seeds ground into a meal. Amaranth produces prolific small seeds, a little larger than poppy seeds in various colors: black, red or ivory. The seeds cook rapidly and are used as a food, prepared like a grain, especially for hot cereal or flour. They can also be popped like popcorn or toasted.

The vegetable can be sautéed, much like spinach or rhubarb with its similar reddish stem and deeply veined leaves. Because the leaves contain oxalic acid and may contain nitrates, if grown in nitrogen-rich soil, the water should be thrown out after boiling.


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builds-the-fire's picture
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
My grandmother could tell you what your dreams meant, how to heal illness, and for a while--as they were growing up--made all of her children's clothing. She walked on many years ago. I wish I'd listened more to her.

aliberaldoseofskepticism's picture
Submitted by aliberaldoseofs... on
On 3, I should still point out coconut is high in saturated fat. Some 90% of its oil is saturated fat. Coconut oil isn't *as* bad as palm oil, from an environmental and labor perspective, but still, it can't be gotten locally. On 9, homeopathy? Really? Homeopathy is basically what happens when this German dude, Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, had a bad reaction to chinchona bark (from which quinine is derived) which was similar to symptoms of malaria. (It's now known this is a fairly rare metabolic disorder.) From this he concluded that symptoms provide a doctrine of signatures, and that something which causes a symptom will also cure a disease with the same symptom. After this, he found that his patients, well, died, so he started diluting his substances. A lot. Dilute by ten, whack the underside of it the mason jar, dilute that by ten, whack the underside, repeat 30+ times. Unfortunately, after 30 dilutions by ten, you need a sphere of water roughly the size of the solar system to get even one atom of the original substance. After 90, give or take, you have more than the total number of atoms in the known universe. Some homeopathic remedies dilute by one hundred over 100 times. All of this because of his own idiopathic reaction. Seriously. He did have better success than his contemporaries, but that has little to do with the value of homeopathy. It has everything to do with the poor quality of medicine in the 18th century, since everyone was still relying on leftovers from alchemy.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
My grandmother chewed mint to help with upset stomach, raw garlic to help fight respiratory infections and honey for small cuts and scrapes. She came from a time when the medicine chest was found outdoors in nature.

jofloresz's picture
Submitted by jofloresz on
This is the way my Grandmother Elder taught us if you have a walk way anywhere or put one in your back yard that you can walk on with no stones between you and the earth. Yes, this means shoes as well and walk on your path and what ever you need will grow there. Just let the weeds grow and look them up and you will see what that weed helps with you will be surprised what will grow. I have an immune problem and echinacea grew. haha true!! Our Elders are the best scientist on the planet!!! Thank you God for allowing me to grow up native!!!!! I tell everybody all the time if you can grow the plant don't you dare eat the pill!!! My Grandfather was a medicine man he would have to study with his grandpa while my grandmother went out to dances with her sisters! Poor grandpa!! Gotta love our medicine people, the white people think when a doctor takes 8 years of school they know it all hahaha, My grandpa started his training when he WAS 8!!!

Valerie Goodness
Valerie Goodness
Submitted by Valerie Goodness on
aliberaldoseofs, The Mayo clinic makes it very clear that there are a number of different saturated fats; some of which are good for you in healthy amounts. Coconut is one of those. Which is very different than meat saturated fats. To equate the two is very wrong indeed. Coconut saturated fat is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. The Mayo Clinic recommends that nut oils and coconut oil be a good substitution for less desirable fats. Also....Your "malaria" contribution seems unfair since Indigenous people have a very different perspective of it and Quinine plants used to remedy it. Malaria is not rare and the chinchona bark is only one remedy of hundreds that Indigenous people used for it. The number one remedy was to stop developing wetlands and to honor Indigenous human carrying capacity laws handed down through generational oral history. Something colonizers and settler colonialists can't wrap their brains around. Want to end disease? Stop overpopulation and stop over development....