Quelite : Anís de campo : Tagetes filifolia

Tagetes filifolia

The Latin Tagētes is derived from the name of the Etruscan Tages, born from the plowing of the earth.
The species epithet, filifolia, is derived from the Latin, filum “thread” and folium “leaf” and describes the plant as having thread-like leaves

According to a legend, Tages was a wise child who sprung up from the freshly ploughed earth. Later he taught Etruscans divination.
Cicero reports the myth in this way:
“They tell us that one day as the land was being ploughed in the territory of Tarquinii, and a deeper furrow than usual was made, suddenly Tages sprang out of it and addressed the ploughman. Tages, as it is recorded in the works of the Etrurians (Libri Etruscorum), possessed the visage of a child but the prudence of a sage. When the ploughman was surprised at seeing him and, in his astonishment, made a great outcry, a number of people assembled around him, and before long, all the Etrurians came together at the spot.

The Etruscans, members of an ancient people of Etruria, Italy, between the Tiber and Arno rivers west and south of the Apennines, whose urban civilization reached its height in the 6th century BC.

The Etruscans were master bronzesmiths who exported their finished products all over the Mediterranean. Their achievements set the stage not only for the development of Roman art and culture but for the Italian Renaissance as well.

Etruscan influence on Roman culture was profound. the Romans inherited many of their own cultural and artistic traditions from the Etruscans . The spectacle of gladiatorial combat, hydraulic engineering, temple design, and religious ritual, amongst other things, stem from Etruscan culture. In spite of Rome’s progress and development, the old Latin aristocracy resented the Etruscan kings. The Romans had come to believe that the Etruscan monarchy was harmful to their concept of the public good and as a result, members of the Roman aristocracy began revolting against the Etruscan monarchy around 510 BC. The Etruscans were expelled from the city, and Rome became a republic. The rest, as they say, is history.

Common Names : anis, anisillo, anis de campo (field anise), anis de chucho, anis de monte, anis silvestre, anis serrano, cirucumín, curucumin, cominillo, flor de Santa María, hierba anís, limoncillo, pericón, periquillo, manzanilla, yauhtli (náhuatl); yöjtli, teyatli, shusa, xuluga xulinza, she anis, gi huats, cic’ak wamal, kulanto jomol, tzitz jomol, yubat

Indigenous names

  • Chiapas :  anix wamal, inajoantivo, vo’tus antivo; matzaniyoch’o (tzotzil), kulentu wamal, tusus wamal (tzeltal); yuch’ max (tzeltal/tzotzil), matzaniyo wamal;
  • Guerrero : tacua mishi (Mixtec)
  • Oaxaca: anis ujts
  • Oaxaca and surrounds : guía-laga-zaa, quije.laga-zaa (zapoteca)
  • San Luis Potosí :  ejtil anis (tenek – The Huastec or Téenek are an indigenous people in the La Huasteca region (including the states of Hidalgo, Veracruz)
  • Sonora: a’nishe (pima).
  • Michoacan : curujkeramani, putsuri (purépecha y tarasca)

All species of Tagetes originated in the Americas, where they occur from the North American Southwest to Argentina (Ferraro 1955). The main area of distribution and the area in which the greatest variety can be found is in southern Mexico (Neher 1968).

Herbarium specimens from different regions

Medicinal Use

The primary use for this herb seems to be the illnesses that fall under the umbrella “empacho”. Empacho is a series of digestive issues originating from a range of pathologies. See my Post Empacho for more information on these conditions.

The licorice-flavored tea makes a refreshing drink and is used to treat minor indigestion (Gentry, 1963) as well as to relieve stomach aches. The infusion is diuretic (Uphof, 1959) and the herb is considered to be “caliente” in nature (1). The fresh plant is preferred in the markets of central Mexico where, like many seasonal quelites (2), it is available only during the rainy season.

  1. The “temperate” nature of foods (frio/caliente/templado) refers to the nature of the food and how it affects the organism consuming it. This is somewhat similar to Hippocrates and his theory of humours. Illness is created by imbalance and we bring things back into balance by either heating or cooling (Kaplan & Kaplan 1960). My Post What is Curanderismo? delves into this in more detail.
  2. Quelites (Nahuatl – quilitl) are a range of wild herbs (although some are deliberately cultivated due to their popularity i.e. romeritos, papaloquelite). These herbs are often only available during the rainy season and many are delicate plants so they might only be available in certain regions (and unknown outside of these regions). Quelites, and one in particular (papaloquelite) were the impetus behind me starting this Blog in the first place. see my Post Quelites : Quilitl for a general rundown on these herbs. I focus on many of them individually as well.

For the treatment of resfrio (colds) and el dolor de estomago (stomach aches), dolor de cuerpo (body pain) susto (1), and kidney pain (dolor de riñón) take a hot cup of the decoction of stems (tallos) when you have pain and before going to bed.

  1. Susto is a condition prevalent in the practices of curanderismo. There is no real equivalent in Western allopathic medicine See my Posts What is Curanderismo? and Glossary of Terms used in Herbal Medicine. for further information on this condition.

Other conditions that this herb is used for are respiratory illnesses that worsen in the winter season; these include, but are not limited to, fever, cough, and bronchitis. Other plants most used to combat these conditions are mullein (Gnaphalium attenuatum), bugambilia (Bougainvillea glabra) and xometl or elder (Sambucus mexicana). (Navarro Pérez etal 2002)

The Popoluca of Veracruz, México use the tea to treat stomach ache and oral infection (Leonti 2002). The tea (or infusion) is also used in Guerreo and Michoacan for stomach ache. It is recommended that a cup be drunk when the pain occurs. The herb is also used in Oaxaca to treat stomach ache but the leaves are macerated in alcohol and a small amount of this liquid is drunk instead of the tea. In Morelos the infusion is recommended to be administered three times a day to children when they have colic.

Moreno-Salazar (etal 2008) notes in “Plant folk medicines for gastrointestinal disorders among the main tribes of Sonora, Mexico” that the plant is called anisillo and that the Pima people use a tea made from its “branches” to treat stomach ache. It is to be taken when pain is felt and a cup is to be drunk just prior to going to bed.

Herbs with characteristic anise aroma were highly valued in Sonora and adjacent regions during the 18th century. The roots of “anis”, known as “guamusi” in the Opata language (1), were taken either in tea or chewed and the saliva swallowed to aid digestion and to relieve gastrointestinal disorders, “empacho” (intestinal blockage) and “dolor del vientre precedido de frio” (gastrointestinal pain caused by cold) (Nentuig, 1977). This plant may be eaten (usually as a flavouring for corn and corn based dishes such as atole) but medicinally speaking it is either taken as an infusion or the longer cooked decoction, however, in Morelos, they advise the cooking of the aerial parts of the plant and to consume this, whilst still hot, before each meal to treat digestive issues.

  1. Ópata is either of two closely related Uto-Aztecan languages, Teguima and Eudeve, spoken by the Opata people of northern central Sonora in Mexico and Southeast of Arizona in the United States.

Pio-Leon (etal 2018) notes in “Wild plants consumed as recreational teas by ranchers in Baja California Sur, Mexico” that this plant is a relajante general (general relaxant) and that it is used as an antigripal (anti flu) and contra la tos (against cough)

In Guatemala this plant is known as anis de chucho. The leaves and aerial parts of the plant are used as an infusion primarily for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. It is used for stomach pain and colic, flatulence/gas, indigestion and general dyspepsia and for diarrhoea and dysentery (Caceres etal 1990). WARNING : Dysentery can be a serious medical condition which may possibly result in death. Diarrhoea is a common health condition in which a person suffers from watery and loose bowel movements. Dysentery, on the other hand, is an infection or inflammation of the intestine that can lead to the presence of blood in the (watery) faeces. Dysentery almost always requires antibiotic treatment and intravenous antibiotics may be needed in severely ill children. If you see blood in your bowel movements seek medical attention immediately.

The dried leaves of Tagetes filifolia are used by the people of the Callejón de Huaylas (1) against stomach ache and intestinal pain or discomfort. In other parts of Peru, this plant has been used with quids of Erythroxylum coca var. coca (Plowman, 1984).

  1. The Santa Valley (Quechua Sancta) is an inter-andean valley in the Ancash Region in the north-central highlands of Peru. Due to its location between two mountain ranges, it is known as Callejón de Huaylas, the Alley of Huaylas. “Huaylas” refers to the territorial division’s name during the Viceroyalty of Peru.

In parts of Ecuador this plant is known as Sacha an´ıs and the infusion made from its leaves and stems is used to treat menstruation pain. (Tene etal 2007)

Like other aromatic plants in the quelite family (see Posts Pápaloquelite : Porophyllum macrocephalum and Chinchweed : Pectis papposa) this plant has visible oil glands. These glands hold the essential oils responsible for the scent and flavour of the plants.

Culinary Use

Mexicans seem to love an anis flavour profile. From certain avocado leaves to others in the Tagetes species (most notably pericon Tagetes lucida)(1) and imported seeds such as aniseed and star anise you will find this flavour in everything from savoury dishes like mole and atoles (2) to sweet dishes such as pan de muerto (3).

  1. Quelite : Pericón : Tagetes lucida
  2. Atole de Grano. Check this one out for a recipe.
  3. Dia de Muertos IS NOT Halloween


Other Anis flavoured herbs and spices

Aniseed has a delicious sweet liquorice-like flavour and is a commonly used and very safe herbal remedy that is well suited for all age groups from children to the elderly.

According to the German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, Pimpinella anisum is indicated for cough and bronchitis, fevers and colds, common cold, inflammation of the mouth and pharynx, dyspepsia, loss of appetite. All of these actions and conditions are very similar to those of T.filifolia (and T.lucida for that matter). The seed is antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, pectoral, stimulant, stomachic and tonic. It is of great value when taken internally in the treatment of asthma, whooping couch, coughs and pectoral affections as well as digestive disorders such as wind, bloating, colic, nausea and indigestion. Externally it is used to treat infestations of lice, scabies and as a chest rub in cases of bronchial disorders. A strong decoction of the seeds can be applied externally to swollen breasts or to stimulate the flow of milk.

Aniseed is a particularly useful tonic to the whole digestive system and its antispasmodic and expectorant effects make it of value in the treatment of various respiratory problems. The seed is the part used, generally in the form of an extracted essential oil. The essential oil comprises 70 – 90% anethole, which has an observed oestrogenic effect whilst the seed is also mildly oestrogenic. This effect may substantiate the herb’s use as a stimulant of sexual drive and of breast-milk production. WARNING : The essential oil should not be used internally unless under professional supervision and the seeds are best not used medicinally by pregnant women, though normal culinary quantities are quite safe.

In Mexico there is also a variety of avocado leaf that has an anise flavour. It is used in a manner similar to Bay leaves (Laurel). Not all avocado leaves are suitable to be used in this manner. The leaves of your Hass avocado tree for instance could not be used this way.

Atole de grano (See Post link above) is a traditional (but slightly different) atolli in that it is made with masa.

The following recipe comes from Mrs. Rafa Ortíz who is originally from the Sierra Gorda of Queretaro. This drink is traditionally taken on Dia de Muertos accompanied by some freshly baked pan de muerto. It is a little unusual in that it uses fécula de maíz rather than the masa typically used to make atolli.

  • 2 litres of milk
  • 5 star anise pods
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ cup of fécula de maíz
  • 1 cup of cold water
  • 400 grams of sugar
  • 1 5cm long stick of canela (cinnamon)


In a pot, place the milk in a pot and heat over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Do not let it boil.

Add the star anise, the cloves and the cinnamon stick and warm gently for 10 more minutes to infuse the flavours of the spices. Stir it with a wooden spatula constantly. Take care it does not boil or stick to the bottom of the pot.

Dissolve the corn starch in the cold water very carefully so that it does not form lumps. Add this slowly to the warmed, spiced milk mixture and stir constantly (again very carefully so that it does not form lumps)  until it thickens to your preferred texture (some like it runny, some like it thick). Take care it does not boil or stick to the bottom of the pot, this can happen very quickly once the fécula de maíz has been added.

Fécula de maíz, corn starch, maize starch, or cornflour is the starch derived from corn grain. The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, often used to thicken sauces or soups. Masa (or masa harina) is made from the whole nixtamalised corn kernel.

An anise flavoured dish using avocado leaves

Oaxacan-style Black Beans.

(This is a rip off of a Rick Bayless recipe. It is also a bit of a cheats version as it uses canned beans instead of freshly cooked black beans (which you could do too I guess). I’m a single mother so I like to cheat (in cooking that is). When looking for a canned bean just check the ingredient list on the back of the can and ideally it should contain nothing but beans and water. This might make a difference when seasoning the dish later with salt (see point 4 in the cooking instructions)


  • 6 medium-size dried avocado leaves
  • 1 to 2 árbol chiles, stemmed (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-rendered pork lard, bacon drippings or vegetable oil
  • ½ medium white onion, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • Salt


  1. Set a 10-inch pan over medium heat.  When hot, add the avocado leaves and turn every few seconds until they brown lightly and release their aroma, about 1 minute.
  2. Transfer to blender jar.  Lay the chiles in the pan and dry roast them until they are aromatic and lightly browned, about 1 minute.  Take care not to burn them (it will change the flavour of the dish). Transfer the chiles to the blender. 
  3. Add the lard, drippings or oil to the pan and, when hot, add the onion and whole garlic cloves.  Stir regularly until richly brown, about 7 minutes.  Scrape into the blender, leaving behind as much oil in the pan as possible. 
  4. Add the canned beans with their juice (and a little water if necessary) to keep the mixture moving through the blades.   Blend as smoothly as possible.  Scrape the blended bean/chile/spice mix into the pan with the fat and cook over medium heat, stirring a few times, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of soft mashed potatoes (10 to 15 minutes maybe).  Taste and season with salt. Don’t salt the dish too early as the amount you will need will depend on the saltiness of the canned beans.  

These beans are wonderful (and common in Oaxaca) spread on crisp tostadas or Oaxacan tlayudas topped with fresh cheese (crumbled) or Oaxacan quesillo (pulled into strings) and roasted tomatillo salsa made with serrano chiles or the smoky chile pasilla oaxaqueño.


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