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Mexican Thistle

Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD

Scientific Name:



Other Common Name:

Rattlesnake master, snakeroot (Quattrocchi, 2012; White, 2002; Schoenhals, 1988).

Common names in Spanish:

Hierba del sapo, raíz del sapo, escorzonera, cabezona, cardón, espinosa (Argueta, 2014: White, 2002; Schoenhals, 1988).

Where is it found?

The genus Eryngium comprises more than de 250 species, some of which are employed as spices and medicinal plants in different parts of the world (Seidemann, 2005). Two species of annual herbs, E. heterophyllum and E. carlinae, are found throughout Mexico and in some parts of the United States (Estrada and Morales, 2002).

Parts of the plant used:

The whole plant

How is it used?

The stems and leaves are decocted in water and taken as a tea. Sometimes the root is also decocted and taken as a tea (Jimenez, 2012; Mendoza- Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011).

What is it used for?

The tea made from the leaves is taken to treat coughs, pertussis (whooping cough), urinary infections, and to lower cholesterol (Estrada and Morales, 2002). The roots are edible and are candied as sweets or boiled or roasted. The juice extracted or decocted from the root is drunk as an aphrodisiac, for its diuretic action, and to induce uterine contractions. The plant is combined with other medicinal herbs for the treatment of gonorrhea (Mabberley, 2008; Martinez, 1989). Mexican thistle is taken to dissolve kidney and gall bladder stones, to treat cancer, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, for angina and to prevent atherosclerosis (Argueta, 2014; Jimenez, 2012; Mendoza-Castelán and Lugo-Pérez, 2011; Berdonces, 2009).

A study undertaken by Klein-Junior et al (2016) concluded that various Eryngium species, due to their monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitory action, have potential application as a source of promising central nervous system bioactive secondary metabolites, especially related to the treatment of various neurodegenerative disorders.

Various species of the genus eryngo are used for the treatment of snakebite, as well as to repel snakes (Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008). Additionally, some species are employed as spices and used for the treatment of diverse health issues including asthma, burns, fever, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, and malaria. Some are a rich source of diverse types of phytochemicals, including flavonoids, tannins, saponins, and triterpenoids, among others. The plants’ essential oil possesses important antimicrobial and antiseptic actions (Erdem et al., 2015; Celik et al., 2011).

Studies have shown that the methanolic extracts of E. heterophyllum possess active ingredients that have promising action for the treatment of infectious protozoan diseases, such as trypanosomiasis, for example (Molina-Garza, et al, 2014).


Safety / Precautions


  • The safety of using this plant during pregnancy and lactation has not been established (Estrada and Morales, 2002).
  • Avoid during pregnancy, as it may cause uterine contractions (Martinez, 1988).
  • Do not use continuously for more than 8 weeks, as it can cause kidney damage (Jiménez, 2012).
  • Products made from this plant may cause skin allergies in susceptible people (Estrada and Morales, 2002).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!



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México, D.F.: UNAM; 2014; pp. 77-78.

Berdonces JL. Gran Diccionario de las Plantas Medicinales.
Barcelona, Spain: Editorial Oceano; 2009; p. 586.

Celik A, Aydınlık N, Arslan I. Phytochemical constituents and inhibitory activity towards methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains of Eryngium species (Apiaceae).
Chem Biodivers. 2011; 8(3):454-9. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201000124.

Erdem SA, Nabavi SF, Orhan IE, Daglia M, Izadi M, Nabavi SM. Blessings in disguise: a review of phytochemical composition and antimicrobial activity of plants belonging to the genus Eryngium. Daru. 2015 Dec 14;23:53. doi: 10.1186/s40199-015-0136-3.

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Mexico City: EDIMICH/InterWriters; 2002.

Jiménez A. Herbolaria mexicana 2a ed.
Madrid: Mundi-Prensa; 2012; p. 239.

Klein-Júnior LC, Dos Santos Passos C, Tasso de Souza TJ, Gobbi de Bitencourt F, Salton J, de Loreto Bordignon SA, Henriques AT. The monoamine oxidase inhibitory activity of essential oils obtained from Eryngium species and their chemical composition. Pharm Biol. 2016; 54(6):1071-6. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2015.1102949.

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London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 317.

Martínez M. Plantas Medicinales de México.
México, D.F.: Editorial Botas; 1989; pp. 178-179.

Mendoza-Castelán G, Lugo-Pérez R. Plantas Medicinales en los Mercados de México.
Chapingo, Estado de México: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo; 2011; pp. 482-483.

Molina-Garza ZJ, Bazaldúa-Rodríguez AF, Quintanilla-Licea R, Galaviz-Silva L. Anti-Trypanosoma cruzi activity of 10 medicinal plants used in northeast Mexico. Acta Trop. 2014 ;136:14-8. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2014.04.006.

Quattrocchi, U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants, Vol 3.
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; pp. 121-122.

Schoenhals L. A Spanish-English Glossary of Mexican Flora and Fauna.
Mexico City: Summer Institute of Linguistics: 1988; p. 59.

Siedemann J. World Spice Plants.
Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 2005; p. 147.

White R. Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Names of North America Including Mexico.
Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2003; p. 78.