L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired blood banker and laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!
The blood thirsty gods required sacrifices
The Aztecs were the main pre-Columbian natives in Mexico when it was discovered. They weren't the first, but their civilization had reached its peak during the Spanish conquest.
The native American tribes worshiped many gods that seemed to need blood sacrifices to keep the people strong and the communities well cared for. These were ancient beliefs and the Aztecs were slowly moving away from inhumane sacrifices.
At some point, the priests began to use herbs to help the victims relax before they cut their still beating hearts out of their chests and held them high for all to see. After all, a willing sacrificial victim was a lot easier to deal with than a rebellious one.
The victims were mainly found during the many "flowery" wars where the object was not to conquer other tribes, but rather to capture more sacrificial victims and thus spare the local citizens.
Some priests were devious enough to secretly drug their enemies and convince the community that this person was a witch and demanded that he or she needed to be dispatched to whichever god was in favor that week. Some may even have become head priests in this manner.
Hallucinogenic plants and herbs used by the Aztecs
Hallucinogenic preparations for confusing sacrificial victims
The Aztec priests (as well as other priests) often used hallucinogenic plant and herbal drinks to confuse the ones being sacrificed. They even used the preparations themselves to communicate with the gods.
Probably the most popular concoction that they came up with was psilocybin mushroom tea mixed with chocolate. Cacao beans were so popular with the Aztecs that they were used for money, for the enjoyment of the royals, and for the devious use of disguising "poison".
Chocolate drinks were laboriously prepared by trusted household members, servants, and priests only. These drinks were rewards or punishments as the situation demanded. Chocolate potions could alleviate pain or get rid of rivals. Chocolate was a natural flavor that obscured many dangerous herbal preparations.
Other popular herbal and plant mixes were peyote, morning glory tea, and datura. Datura is a potent hallucinogen that causes drunkenness and seems to relieve pain.
Aztec herbs used in tasty Mexican cooking!
Epazote and Lippia dulces
These two herbs are easy to grow in a home garden (see video) and make excellent additions to any Mexican dish.
Epazote is an Aztec herb discovery that is generally added to black beans, soups, tamales, and enchiladas. The flavor is mild but distinct. This herb may be used in most dishes in place of anise, fennel or tarragon.
Pre-Columbian uses for epazote included medicinal preparations to relieve flatulence, spasms, and asthma. In strong concoctions, it could be used to get rid of internal parasitic worms, and women secretly used it as a form of birth control as it could cause abortions in high doses. (Do not try this on your own!).
Aztec sweet herb, also known as Lippia dulces is 1000 times sweeter than regular table sugar and has been investigated as a sugar substitute, a cough remedy, and a treatment for bronchitis, asthma, and colic. Unfortunately, some species have a high camphor content which is unacceptable as a sweetener.
Lippia dulces could be used to disguise the flavor of many preparations and was used as a sweetener as well as a cooking ingredient. As with epazote, this herb also carries a strong warning for pregnant women as the plant induces menstruation and abortions.
Growing your own herbs
This is one of the best videos I've seen on how to grow your own herbs at home in the back yard. The tubs are small enough to be used on apartment balconies should you choose to do so.
Now don't get any ideas about drugging your enemies with herbs. Just grow tasty plants to enhance your cooking!
How to plant herbs in a tub!
© 2010 Lela
Comments - What do you think about the Aztec's use of herbs?
Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 12, 2011:
I did considerable research for this article and if the facts are incorrect, I apologize. The data is presented as discovered in various historical texts. Some of the interpretation is my imagination.
L on December 12, 2011:
Painfully disrespectful to the Aztecs and other mesoamerican cultures of the area, and many of the "facts" are downright incorrect.
frogyfish from Central United States of America on November 04, 2011:
Very interesting and informative hub.
hafeezrm from Pakistan on September 08, 2011:
Nice hub, very informative.
herbs online on July 08, 2010:
I guess there were people using herbs for the good, the bad and the downright ugly during all times. No doubt while the priests were using herbs for drugging their sacrifices there would be dozens of healers using their local herbs for helping people.
Pachuca213 on April 22, 2010:
Wow, you learn something new everyday. This was so insightful and entertaining to read. Thank you for sharing this.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 09, 2010:
nice information. I enjoy reading this hub. Thank you very much
Holle Abee from Georgia on March 02, 2010:
Fascinating hub! I always like learning something new.