Tlatlaolton. Which Porophyllum Are You?

Cover Image from the Voynich Manuscript

Also called : Chepiche, escobilla, pipicha, pipizca

Are you even a Porophyllum?

It appears so. But let’s investigate.

Tlatlaolton has been classified as Porophyllum coloratum (1) (Kunth) DC (2).

  1. Esparza Villarreal (2019) : Synonyms : Kleinia colorata Kunth; Porophyllum seemannii Sch. Bip.: Porophyllum simplex M.E. Jones
  2. P.gracile, P.tagetoides, P.seemanii and P.viridiflorum have all been put forward as contenders in the identification of this herb. In some cases these names refer to the same plant.

The common names pipicha (pipizca) and chepiche refer generally to P.tagetoides which is a narrow leaved variety of porophyllum. P.coloratum is considered a synonym of P.macrocephalum which is a broad leaved variety of pore leaf and this adds to the confusion that can surround the naming of the porophyllum species. See Post Pipitzcaquilitl (P.obtusifolium).

Godinez Salazar (2017) notes the P.viridiflorum identification.

In Anno M.DCC.LXXXX. (which as I understand it is the incorrect use of Roman numerals) Francisco Hernandi notes of Tlatlaolton

De Tlatlaolton, seu Herba simili Tlaolli.

Radicem profert cauli parem crassitudine, cubitalem, et capillatam, et ex ea cubitales, ac teretes ramos, folia tenuia, et longa, flosculos purpureos, et exiles in postremis stipitibus, qui admodum tenues sunt. Tusa haec Herba, et mista Neuhticxihuitl, et Coltotl, redacta in emplastri formam, et ventri admota flatum discutit, ac subsidere cogit ventrem tumentem ob illius redundantiam. Calidarum enim virium esse reperitur.

Of Tlatlaolton, or a plant similar to Tlaolli.

The root of the stem produces an even thickness, cubital and hairy, and from it cubital and rounded branches, thin leaves, and long, purple flowers, and slender in the rear stems, which are very thin. This herb tusa, mixed with Neuhticxihuitl and Coltotl, having been reduced into a plaster form, and applied to the belly, disperses the breath, and compels the swollen belly to subside on account of its overflow. For it is found to be of hot forces.

This herb appears in the Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis of 1552. This book, more commonly known as the Codex De la Cruz-Badiano, was composed in the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco and is the first illustrated and descriptive scientific text of Nahuatl medicine and botany produced in the Americas. The botanical aspects of the manuscript are significant and demonstrate that the Mexica had a highly sophisticated botanical classification system.

The image of tlatlaolton as it appears in the manuscript definitely depicts the flower structure of the porophyllum species.

This herb was used to assist with the “dispelling of flatulence” and its use in this manner reflects others in the species that are used to address gastrointestinal problems.

In the Nahuatl Dictionary (1), tlatlaolton is noted as being “an herb that was used to reduce chest pain” (2).

  2. Martín de la Cruz, Libellus de medicinalibus indorum herbis; manuscrito azteca de 1552; segun traducción latina de Juan Badiano; versión española con estudios comentarios por diversos autores (Mexico: Fondo de Cultural Económica; Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 1991), 41 [27v].

UNAM (1) In their “Comments on the work of Francisco Hernandez” (2) has this to say of tlatlaolton.

LI. From the tlatlaolton or tlaolli-like herb [II:171] : Miranda, F. and J. Valdés. 1964

They comment that Hernandez’s tlatlaolton seems to be the same plant as the one figured in the Badiano codex under the same name, which Emmart says has been suggested to be of the genus Porophyllum and supported by Reko.

  1. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  2. Volume VII. Eighteenth Book. :

In the Badianus Manuscript tlatlaolton is noted as a treatment for “pain in the chest”. At first I took this to be cardiac pain but Calzada Leon (2003) has noted that the mix (as noted in the image above) was utilised for neonatal breast swelling (1)

Pubertal development : Neonatal breast swelling with milk secretion (witch’s milk) in breast-feeding children (named chichihuayalotl, meaning breast secretion) was frequently found, and it was treated by local compresses; if there was pain, the physician used a mix of herbal infusion (tzitzicton, tlatlaolton and ayauhtli) and recited a magic chant: “Green butterfly, yellow butterfly, white butterfly. How to fortify the venerability of the son of the gods? You are not required here; over there you are necessary, in the place of the authentic greenfly (2)(3)(4)

  1. What causes swelling in a breast in a newborn? – They are almost always benign and due to exposure to maternal hormones in the womb. The same hormones that cause the mother’s breasts to swell and milk glands to be stimulated can do the same to the baby’s breasts. These lumps and enlarged breasts in the baby may be quite noticeable at birth. How long do newborn breasts stay swollen? – Normal course: swollen breasts can last for 2 to 4 weeks. In breast-fed babies, some breast swelling can last for 6 months. Caution: Never squeeze or massage the breast or nipple. Reason: this can cause a serious infection that needs antibiotics. Calzada Leon, Raul. (2003)  Pediatric Endocrine Diseases in Pre-Hispanic Aztecs : Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, 16, 487-494 : Pediatric Endocrinology Service, Instituto National de Pediatria, Mexico 
  2. Ruiz de Alarcon H. Tratado de las Idolatrias, Supersticiones, Dioses, Ritos, Hechizerias y Otras Costumbres Gentilicas de las Razas Aborigenes. Mexico: Fuente Cultural, 1933 (from the original of 1629). Translated into English as Andrews JR, Hassig RN. Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions. University of Oklahoma Press, 1984; 6-7.
  3. Lopez Austin A. Textos de Medicina Nahuatl [Texts of Nahuatl Medicine], Mexico: SEP, 1971.
  4. Lopez Austin A. Cuerpo Humano y Ideologia [Human Body and Ideology], 2 vol, 3rd  Ed.


  • Bye, Robert y Edelmira Linares. “Códice De la Cruz-Badiano. Medicina prehispánica”, primera parte. Arqueología Mexicana, edición especial 50 (2013): 1-91.
  • Emmart, Emily Walcott (1940) The Badianus Manuscript (Codex Barberini Latin 241) : An Aztec Herbal of 1552. Baltimore, John Hopkins Press
  • de Esparza Villarreal, Rosario Ruiz. (2019) Plantas medicinales usadas en México prehispánico para tratar padecimientos del aparato musculoesquéletico. Una visión histórica y su presencia actual (Tesis). Programa de maestría y doctorado en Ciencias Médicas, Odontológicas y de la Salud Humanidades en Salud Historia de las Ciencias de la Salud . UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTÓNOMA DE MÉXICO
  • Gates, William. An Aztec herbal. The Classic Codex of 1552. Traducción y comentarios de William Gates. Introducción de Bruce Byland. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000. Originalmente publicado como “The de la Cruz-Badiano Aztec herbal of 1552. Maya Society 23 (1939).
  • Godinez Salazar, Daniel Alberto (Lic.) (2017) Recursos Vegetales Culturamente Utiles en la region de La Piedad Michoacan 1860 – 1950. Tesis que para optar por el grado de Maestria en Arquelogia. El Colegio De Micoacan A.C.
  • Miranda, Faustino y Javier Valdés. “Comentarios botánicos”. En Martín de la Cruz Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis: Manuscrito azteca de 1552; Traducción latina de Juan Badiano; Versión española con estudios y comentarios por diversos autores, 2ª ed., 1ª reimp. Editado por Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 107-148. Cd. de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica; Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 1996. Primera publicación Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, 1964.
  • Reko, P. “Nombres botánicos del manuscrito Badiano”. Boletín de la Sociedad Botánica de México 5 (1947): 23-43.

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