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Dysphania ambrosioides

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Dysphania ambrosioides
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Amaranthaceae
Genus: Dysphania
D. ambrosioides
Binomial name
Dysphania ambrosioides
(L.) Mosyakin & Clemants
  • Ambrina ambrosioides (L.) Spach
  • Ambrina parvula Phil.
  • Ambrina spathulata Moq.
  • Atriplex ambrosioides (L.) Crantz
  • Blitum ambrosioides (L.) Beck
  • Botrys ambrosioides (L.) Nieuwl.
  • Chenopodium ambrosioidesL.
  • Chenopodium integrifolium Vorosch.
  • Chenopodium spathulatum Sieber ex Moq.
  • Chenopodium suffruticosum subsp. remotum Vorosch.
  • Chenopodium suffruticosum Willd.
  • Orthosporum ambrosioides (L.) Kostel.
  • Orthosporum suffruticosum Kostel.
  • Teloxys ambrosioides (L.) W.A. Weber
  • Vulvaria ambrosioides (L.) Bubani

Dysphania ambrosioides, formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides, known as Jesuit's tea, Mexican tea[2] or wormseed,[3] is an annual or short-lived perennial herb native to the Americas.


Dysphania ambrosioides is an annual or short-lived perennial plant (herb), growing to 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in) tall, irregularly branched, with oblong-lanceolate leaves up to 12 cm (4+12 in) long. The flowers are small and green, produced in a branched panicle at the apex of the stem.

As well as in its native areas, it is grown in warm temperate to subtropical areas of Europe and the United States (Missouri, New England, Eastern United States),[4] sometimes becoming an invasive weed.


The species was described in 1753 by Carl Linnaeus as Chenopodium ambrosioides.[5] Some researchers treated it as a highly polymorphic species with several subspecies. Today these are considered as their own species within genus Dysphania (e.g. American wormseed, Chenopodium ambrosioides var. anthelminticum is now accepted as Dysphania anthelmintica).[6][7]

The generic name Dysphania was traditionally applied in the 1930s to some species endemic to Australia. Placement and rank of this taxon have ranged from a mere section within Chenopodium to the sole genus of a separate family, Dysphaniaceae, or a representative of the Illicebraceae. The close affinity of Dysphania to "glandular" species of Chenopodium sensu lato is now evident.[8]

The specific epithet ambrosioides refers to the plant's resemblance to unrelated plants of the genus Ambrosia, in the aster family.


The common Spanish name epazote (sometimes spelled and pronounced ipasote or ypasote) is derived from the Nahuatl word epazōtl (pronounced [eˈpasoːt͡ɬ]).


Culinary uses[edit]

Ideally collected before going to seed, D. ambrosioides is used as a leaf vegetable, herb, and herbal tea[9] for its pungent flavor. Raw, it has a resinous, medicinal pungency, similar to oregano, anise, fennel, or even tarragon, but stronger. The fragrance of D. ambrosioides is strong and unique.[9] A common analogy is to turpentine or creosote. It has also been compared to citrus, savory, and mint.

Although it is traditionally used with black beans for flavor and its antiflatulent properties,[9] it is also sometimes used to flavor other traditional Mexican dishes: it can be used to season quesadillas and sopes (especially those containing huitlacoche), soups, mole de olla, tamales with cheese and chili peppers, chilaquiles, eggs and potatoes, and enchiladas. It is often used as an herb in fried white rice, and it is an important ingredient for making the green salsa for chilaquiles.


Humans have died from overdoses of D. ambrosioides essential oils (attributed to the ascaridole content). Symptoms include severe gastroenteritis with pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.,[10] dizziness, headache, temporary deafness, kidney and liver damage, convulsions, paralysis, death.[11]

Agricultural use[edit]

The essential oils of D. ambrosioides contain terpene compounds, some of which have natural pesticide capabilities.[12] The compound ascaridole in epazote inhibits the growth of nearby species, so it is best to grow it at a distance from other plants.[13]

Companion plant[edit]

Dysphania ambrosioides not only contains terpene compounds, but it also delivers partial protection to nearby plants simply by masking their scent to some insects, making it a useful companion plant. Its small flowers may also attract some predatory wasps and flies.

Chemical constituents[edit]

Dysphania ambrosioides MHNT

Epazote essential oil contains ascaridole (up to 70%), limonene, p-cymene, and smaller amounts of numerous other monoterpenes and monoterpene derivatives (α-pinene, myrcene, terpinene, thymol, camphor and trans-isocarveol). Ascaridole (1,4-peroxido-p-menth-2-ene) is rather an uncommon constituent of spices; another plant owing much of its character to this monoterpene peroxide is boldo. Ascaridole is slightly toxic and has a pungent, not very pleasant flavor. In pure form, ascaridole decomposes violently upon heating, but this is relatively weak in regards to energy release, since breaking the oxygen bond will not destroy the entire molecule.[14] Ascaridole content is lower in epazote from Mexico than in epazote grown in Europe or Asia.[15]


  1. ^ "Tropicos - Name - Dysphania ambrosioides L." tropicos.org.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ "Dysphania ambrosioides". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2024-06-23.
  4. ^ Mrs. M. Grieve. A Modern Herbal. FRHS. p. 854. ISBN 0-486-22798-7.
  5. ^ L.Tooltip Carl Linnaeus (1753) Species Plantarum, Tomus I: 219.
  6. ^ Steven E. Clemants & Sergei L. Mosyakin (2003): Dysphania sect. Adenois - online. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.): Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 4: Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1. Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-517389-9, p. 269.
  7. ^ Steven E. Clemants & Sergei L. Mosyakin (2003): Dysphania anthelmintica - online. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.): Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 4: Magnoliophyta: Caryophyllidae, part 1. Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 0-19-517389-9, p. 269.
  8. ^ "Dysphania in Flora of North America @ efloras.org". efloras.org.
  9. ^ a b c Nyerges, Christopher (2016). Foraging Wild Edible Plants of North America: More than 150 Delicious Recipes Using Nature's Edibles. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 73–75. ISBN 978-1-4930-1499-6.
  10. ^ Tampion, John (1977). "Chenopodium ambrosioides L.". Dangerous Plants. David and Charles. p. 64. ISBN 0715373757.
  11. ^ Abid Aqsa, Mushtaq Ahmad, Muhammad Zafar, Sadia Zafar, Mohamed Fawzy Ramadan, Ashwaq T. Althobaiti, Shazia Sultana, Omer Kilic, Trobjon Makhkamov, Akramjon Yuldashev, Oybek Mamarakhimov, Khislat Khaydarov, Afat O. Mammadova, Komiljon Komilov, and Salman Majeed (December 2023). "Foliar epidermal and trichome micromorphological diversity among poisonous plants and their taxonomic significance". Folia Horticulturae. 35 (2): 243–274. doi:10.2478/fhort-2023-0019. ISSN 2083-5965.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Isman, Murray B. (2020-04-01). "Commercial development of plant essential oils and their constituents as active ingredients in bioinsecticides". Phytochemistry Reviews. 19 (2): 235–241. Bibcode:2020PChRv..19..235I. doi:10.1007/s11101-019-09653-9. ISSN 1572-980X. S2CID 209596487.
  13. ^ J. Jimenez-Osorio, Am. J. Bot. 78:139, 1991[full citation needed], cited in Mueller, Cynthia W. (June 2012). "Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides)". Aggie Horticulture. Texas A & M University. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  14. ^ "Epazote: Organic Peroxides from a Plant". YouTube. 29 October 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. YouTube video name: 'Epazote: Organic Peroxides from a Plant'
  15. ^ Laferrière, Joseph E. (21 June 1990). "Nutritional and pharmacological properties of yerbaníz, epazote, and Mountain Pima oregano" (PDF). Seedhead News. No. 29. Native Seeds/SEARCH. p. 9.

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