English: sacred sage, South Dakota sage, man sage, silver wormwood, prairie sage
Genus and species: Artemisia ludoviciana
Estafiate is common throughout the continental United States and Canada and is a member of the same plant family as sunflowers and dandelions (Asteraceae), although it has very small inconspicuous flowers and somewhat fuzzy gray-white leaves and stems. Plants of this genus (Artemisia) are often mistakenly referred to as “sages,” but members of the genus are not actually sage; they just look gray and fuzzy like true sage, which is in the family of Laminaceae and the genus of Salvia. At this point, the name “sage” is so commonly given to many plants in this genus that almost everyone uses it to describe this plant. Native people of the American plains know it as sacred sage, and it is a very important plant used in many ceremonies.
Like most of the Artemisia genus, estafiate is intensely bitter, which makes it an excellent bitter tonic. Bitter herbs stimulate the digestive system by improving appetite, increasing the production of digestive enzymes and bile and strengthening the muscular response of the intestine called peristalsis. Bitters are used around the world for tummy aches and indigestion; in fact, you will find a bottle of herbal bitters on the tables of many European restaurants. Like its cousin, chamiso (Artemisia tridentata), estafiate is rich in aromatic volatile compounds that increase the secretion of moisture in the lungs to effectively address thick mucus in lung infections. Thick mucus makes coughing difficult and increases the risk of bacterial infections. The volatile oils in estafiate also alleviate menstrual cramping and stimulate a tardy menstrual period. Estafiate contains artemisin and santonin, which irritate and cause small intestinal parasitic worms, such as pinworms and other roundworms, to be expelled.
Collect estafiate by cutting with scissors or pinching the plant near the base and leaving a pair of healthy leaves so the plant can continue to support the root system. Bundle them with a rubber band. Allow them to hang and dry in a cool shady place with good airflow. When dry, use a teaspoon of the leaves per cup of water and steep for 15 minutes.
For digestion, slowly sip one-quarter of a cup 15 minutes before meals.
For a cough, drink three to five cups a day.
For menstrual cramps or a tardy period, drink two cups a day.
Consult your health care practitioner about the use of herbs or supplements, especially if you are pregnant, taking prescription medication or administering herbs to children.
Hawley is the owner of Taos Herb Company. Reach Taos Herb Company at (575) 758-1991 or taosherb.com.