Nurhíteni Tea: P'urhépecha Tradition and Culture

03/06/2021

Purepecha therapists are profound connoisseurs of a vast medicinal flora, both from the lake region and the vast P'urhépecha plateau of the state of Michoacán as well as from other regions of Mexico. 

Among these plants used in Mexican traditional medicine, nurhíteni tea (nuriten or nurite tea) is one of the most important medicinal plants for the P'urhépechas. P'urhépechas. Generally, its leaves are used to prepare an infusion leaves are generally used to prepare an infusion, hence it is known as "nurite tea". as "nurite tea".

Nurite tea, whose botanical name is Satureja macrostema, is a plant that grows in forests in regions of humid temperate climate, being a semi-woody plant, about 70 to 1.70 cm high, with lance-shaped leaves 2.5 to 3 cm long. It has a mint-like aroma when crushed. Its flowers are orange and 2.5 cm long with protruding stamens. It is a plant that grows all year round and blooms from November to January in the P'urhépecha region.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, nurite tea was already used as an efficient aperitif and to fight intestinal infections; it is known to favor digestion, it is also taken to eliminate the discomfort produced by the ingestion of alcoholic beverages, for which it is sometimes called "drunkard's herb". But, the great fame of this plant lies mainly in the fact that its use is attributed to aphrodisiac and anti-infertility properties. From this use, it is known by the name of "garañona".

Drinking nurite tea in Purepecha communities is associated with tradition and culture since it is prepared as a drink in large celebrations and family gatherings... "The event brings together family and friends to live together to the sound of a Pirekua, enjoying a rich neurite tea, atole, bread, tamales, which turns this event into a whole P'urhépecha Festival". 

Such tradition of nurite tea even led the P'urhembe musical group to title one of their albums "Con aroma a nuriten", in which they play and sing the son abajeño of the same name, whose composer is Francisco Salmerón, from the community of Quinceo, municipality of Paracho, Michoacán.

Nowadays, this plant is also important in the P'urhépecha diet since in the towns of the Purepecha plateau you can taste chiliatole, a corn gruel with nurite and spicy tea (thojker kamata).

Research in recent years has shown that nurite tea contains antioxidant and antimicrobial compounds, which are of great importance for the benefits they provide to human health and support the traditional use of this plant.

The antioxidant properties of nurite tea are due to the fact that it contains a mixture of chemical compounds called flavonoids, such as naringenin, but it also has aromatic compounds such as limonene, pulegone, carvacrol, and thymol, considered antimicrobial and responsible for the aroma of nurhíteni tea.

Nurite tea is a plant that could be used as raw material for the pharmaceutical industry and in the production of beverages, but sustainable projects must be carried out for its cultivation and use since the natural populations of nuriten have decreased with the disappearance of forests and overexploitation.

By Rafael Salgado Garciglia, Doctor of Science in plant biotechnology, professor and researcher at the Institute of Chemical Biological Research.

Source: Saber Más magazine