Ayauhtona. Another Poreleaf?

Welcome to my 200th Post.

My initial reason for starting this Blog began with a single herb; Papaloquelite.

I first came across this herb when I was searching for cilantro substitutions and it was a book by a German chef (Christian Teubner) that introduced me to the first in this family, Quillquina (Porophyllum ruderale) (1).

  1. See Post Quillquina : Porophyllum ruderale

Richters Herbs in Canada has been growing and selling herbs since 1969 and they have an extensive range of seeds and plants available (1) and it was they who introduced me to Papaloquelite or Porophyllum macrocephalum (2) (as well as P.tagetoides – Chepiche – more on this variety later)

  1. check them out https://www.richters.com/
  2. See Post Pápaloquelite : Porophyllum macrocephalum

I loved reading their catalogues. Richters is a herb growers Tlalocan.

Now. On to Ayauhtona.

In a text (Pico etal 2000) I came across a reference to a herb called ayauhtona which had been identified (Estrada-Lugo 1987) as being Porophyllum tagetoides (1). Another text (Lascurain-Rangel etal 2022) notes the name ayauhtona (2) as being the plant Porophyllum linaria. This was exciting as P.linaria is a synonym of P.tagetoides so it was looking like I’d stumbled across this herb (chepiche) being used under another name.

  1. I have Posted on this particular variety of narrow leaved porophyllum previously. See Post Chepiche/Pipicha : Porophyllum tagetoides for more detail
  2. other common names on the list (Lascurain-Rangel etal 2022) included chepiche, escobita, pepiza, pipetza, pipicha, pipitza, pipizca

Tucker (etal 2020) then noted of ayauhton (1) that Porophyllum coloratum (P.seemannii) and Porophyllum tagetoides are possible candidates for this plant (2)

  1. also called ayauhtona or ayauhtonan

Things, however, began to unravel somewhat the deeper I looked.

Hernandez (1942) makes this notation regarding ayauhtona…..


Of the AYAUHTONA or plant with blue and purple flowers

The AYAUHTONA, which others call yacaquilitl, that is to say grass of the point and the Mechoacanenses call it eratihueni, has a thin and hairy root, thin, cylindrical stems and something purplish, narrow and long leaves similar to those of the cress (1), but a little longer, green on one side and blue on the other, and a blue and purple flower from which a fruit similar in shape and size to poppy heads grows.

It is eaten as a vegetable, raw or cooked, and provides a warm food (2) with a certain cilantro (3) flavor. They say that smeared cures fever and its spots, which can only be done by attracting the morbid humors (4) to the skin and evacuating it and also expelling them with urine (5). It is born in temperate regions such as Mexico, or in warmer ones, in cultivated and country places.

This in itself is somewhat encouraging as the suggestion of leaf shape and flower colour fits nicely with P.tagetoides

  1. the original text noted “cress” as being mastuerzo. Mastuerzo might refer to the nasturtium (Trapaeolum majus), cress – or garden cress – Lepedium sativum) or watercress (natsurtium officinale)
  2. when talking about it being a “warm food” (alimento cálido) they are not referring to the temperature of the food or even its flavour being picante (as in the “heat” of chiles) but in the ability of the food to be “warming” or “cooling” to the body. There are foods that cool, foods that refresh, foods that heat, and foods that tend to be neutral, and the manner of preparation for each food (and other variables) also influence the thermal quality of the food. Due to the thermal nature of each food, which is not determined by its actual temperature, it will cause a different, more intensified thermal effect after digestion, creating different chemical, hormonal, and functional reactions. These are old medical theories that exist in a number of cultures (in one form or another)
  3. pre Google translation the word used in the original text is “culantro” (Eryngium foetidum)
  4. Humorism, the humoral theory, or humoralism, was a system of medicine detailing a supposed makeup and workings of the human body, adopted by Ancient Greek and Roman physicians and philosophers. The concept of “humors” (chemical systems regulating human behaviour) became more prominent from the writing of medical theorist Alcmaeon of Croton (c. 540–500 BC). His list of humors was longer and included fundamental elements described by Empedocles, such as water, air, earth, fire, etc.. The concept of “humors” may have origins in Ancient Egyptian medicine (van Sertima 1992), or Mesopotamia (Sudhoff 1926), though it was not systemized until ancient Greek thinkers codified them. The word humor is a translation of Greek χυμός, (Liddell & Scott 1940) chymos (literally juice or sap, metaphorically flavor). Ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine had developed a theory of three doshas (doṣas), which they linked with the five elements (pañca-bhūta): earth, water, fire, air, and space (Magner 2002)
  5. Dicen que untada cura la fiebre y sus manchas, lo cual no puede efectuarse sino atrayendo hacia la piel y evacuando por ella los humores morbosos y expeliéndolos también con la orina. “untada” = greased, smeared ,buttered, slathered; from “untar” (first-person singular present unto, past participle untat) (transitive) to anoint. (transitive) to smear, to grease. (transitive, figuratively) to bribe. (reflexive) to get greasy, to smear oneself. This likely refers to either a poultice/compress (For external application there are compresses, fresh herb mashed and smeared on gauze) or an ointment; in Latin unguentum , derived from the verb ungere, which means “to smear”. Ointments are preparations with a medicinal or cosmetic use. They are characterized by being made up of a mixture made with a base of fats or oils with a plant with medicinal properties. The two substances allow the remedy to achieve sufficient solidity so that it can be applied in topical use, that is, externally and locally on the skin.
P.tagetoides. Thin leaves, cylindrical stems and blue/purple flowers (and a certain cilantro flavour)


Each of these plants has a peppery or “biting” flavour. Check out my Post Quelite : Mexixquilitl for more information on these plants. None of them however has a flavour resembling that of cilantro. Mexixquilitl also makes an appearance in the Post Origins of the words Aztec and Mexico.


This herb has s definite cilantro flavour. It is a much sturdier herb than cilantro and can withstand long cooking times. Cilantro is a herb best used fresh. Its leaves do not like to be cooked as their flavour dissipates quickly. If added to a hot dish the leaves are best added just before serving. The roots and thicker stems at the base of the cilantro plant can bee cooked and make and excellent addition to sofritos.

See Post Culantro : A Cilantro Mimic. (you will also find a sofrito recipe here)

Pico (etal 200) then throws a spanner in the works.

Aromatic like the Papaloquiltil, the Ayauhtona (1) was consumed raw or cooked as a vegetable. This herb, found in warm cultivated areas, had cress-like leaves, blue and red flowers and, as Hernández asserted, “provides a stimulant food with a coriander- resembling flavor”. Its classification is confusing, and it has been reported to be Cuphea spp. No specific Cuphea variety is named though.

  1. also called “quelite of the fog”. Tucker and Janich (2020) note the name ayauhtona/ayauhtonan[yxiuh] (our-mother-of-the-fog’s herb)

Tlahui, a website focussing on the traditional medicinal practices of Mesoamerica (1) notes other names for ayauhtona (which is a Nahuatl word)……….

  • Eratihueni (Purhépecha: Michoacán, Mexico)
  • Taray (Spanish: Morelos, Mexico)
  • Tlanchana (Nahuatlism: Morelos, Mexico)
  • Yacaquilitl (Náhuatl: Mexico)
  1. http://www.tlahui.com/

……….and, under the name(s) taray/tlanchana (identified as Cuphea micropetala)

The people who live in the Sierra de Huautla, Morelos, Mexico (Maldonado, 1997, p. 51) consider that this plant is useful for inflammation of the liver and spleen, coughs, and cleanses. The leaves, stems, and flowers are used. 

and they also mention Francisco Hernández’ comments on the ayauhtona “It is eaten as a vegetable, raw or cooked, and provides warm food with a certain coriander flavor. and evacuating the morbid humors through it and also expelling them with urine”. 

At the beginning of Tlahuis entry regarding ayauhtona the identification of the herb is put forward as being Cuphea micropetala Kunth Family: Lythraceae but later in the Post it is stated that “The ayauhtona of Francisco Hernández could correspond to Cuphea jorullensis Kunth, a synonym of Cuphea micropetala Kunth”

The Cuphea species has some medicinal utility. Estrada-Muñiz (etal 2012) notes of the species

Ethnomedicinal uses of Mexican plants employed empirically (1) Cuphea aequipetala – used for Gastrointestinal ailments (including gastritis); Cuphea pinetorum – used for Intestinal infections (diarrhoea) and under the heading “Different plants used to treat specific types of cancer” that Cuphea aequipetala has utility in the treatment cervix, colon, laryngeal, nasopharynx and prostate cancers. González Stuart backs this up by noting the Common Name of C.aequipetala as being Hierba del cáncer and that it is used for its use as an antiseptic, a treatment for boils and skin “tumours”, for the treatment of diarrhoea (leaf infusion used), and for the treatment of wounds. He also gives WARNINGS about the plant. DO NOT use medicinally in children or pregnant women. Berenice (etal 2007) notes that Cuphea aequipetala is considered to be a “commercialised” medicinal plant in Mexico (no other information given). Other medicinal Cupheas include….Cuphea calophylla, Aerial parts of Cuphea calophylla, Tibouchina kingii, and Pseudelephantopus spiralis have been used in Colombian traditional medicine for inflammation (Ramírez-Atehortúa 2018). Cuphea koehneana oil may be the richest natural source of a single fatty acid, with 95% of its content consisting of capric acid. Currently the plant is not commonly used for medicinal effects; however, chemical analysis of its fatty oils suggest the plant could possibly serve as an algicidal, fungicidal or antibiotic agent.(2)

  1. by means of observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. : “empirically tested methods”
  2. Wikipedia (no citation given)

Cuphea aequipetala is a quite different plant to that of C.jorullensis (see images above and below). My main interest is in the (possibly) cilantro flavoured C.jorullensis so we’ll leave this species alone for now.

Ayauhtona (1) also makes an appearance in the Voynich Manuscript (2). Tucker & Janick (2020) note that previous (and incorrect) identifications of ayauhtona to be Cuphea sp. (C. aequipetala or C. jorullensis); Ipomopsis pinnata of the Polemoniaceae, or Porophyllum coloratum (P. seemannii) of the Asteraceae. Tucker & Janick think that “A better fit (for the identification) would be a species of Polemonium of the Polemoniaceae, such as P. melindae

  1. also ayauhtonan, aiauhton and our-mother-of-the fog’s herb (I wonder if this name “mother of fog” bears any relationship with that of yauhtli – Tagetes lucida – which is also known as hierba de nube or “cloud herb” which is closely related to both Tlaloc and Xochipilli)
  2. The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an otherwise unknown writing system, referred to as ‘Voynichese’. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438). Every page in the manuscript contains text, mostly in an unidentified language, but some have extraneous writing in Latin script. The bulk of the text in the 240-page manuscript is written in an unknown script. The overall impression given by the surviving leaves of the manuscript is that it was meant to serve as a pharmacopoeia or to address topics in medieval or early modern medicine. However, the puzzling details of the illustrations have fuelled many theories about the book’s origin, the contents of its text, and the purpose for which it was intended. The first section of the book is almost certainly herbal, but attempts have failed to identify the plants, either with actual specimens or with the stylized drawings of contemporaneous herbals. Various claims have been made (and debunked by others) that the manuscript has been decoded. Most agree that it is a medical treatise and there are claims that it is composed in a language that is a combination of Nahuatl–the language of the Aztecs, and Spanish. The Voynich Manuscript is thus one of the largest and most detailed surviving indigenous Mesoamerican medical texts.

I do have to say that the central image doesnt sit well with me as the phytomorph (1) (image on the left) is quite different to the botanical drawing (image on the right) that was supplied as a comparison. The phytomorph image has a lot in common (to me anyway) with the Porophyllum species plant/flower.

  1. Phytomorph : : a conventionalized representation of a plant (Merriam Webster); The representation of a plant in art (Wiki) : phyto – pertaining to or derived from plants and -morph – from Ancient Greek μορφή (“form, shape”).

So. Short story long. Not a poreleaf.

For those interested………Ayurveda and the Doshas


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