Medicinal Mezcal

As someone who is neither cook nor gardener (but who secretly hopes she will one day be both), It pleases me immensely to walk out my back door under the patter of late night rain on the desert palms to pick bugambilia flowers for a tea to cure my cough. There is a simplicity so complete, so filling, to be able to access medicine to one’s ails in a few short steps, that for a moment all other thoughts slip away.

It’s the second instance in four days I’ve had that experience. The other was while making my first tortillas by hand for Noel’s birthday party. They were only Maseca tortillas (Maseca is the brand of industrial corn flower used here in Mexico), and I hadn’t even done the mixing of flour with water, much less harvest or nixtamalization of the corn. But that movement—patting the soft disk back and forth between my unversed hands—triggered something that brought me squarely into the moment, all while feeling connected to the centuries–old line of woman whose flesh and blood are made of maiz. Perhaps there’s an indigenous Mexican sleeping in my soul that has begun to be roused by ancestral familiarity of these mundane actions.

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Or maybe quitting coffee has just made me more present.

Whatever the case, the cure is all around us. Anxiety? Take a moment to breathe and pat out some tortillas with a friend. Persistent cough? Boil bugambilia flowers with chopped onion to make a tea.

Mezcal also helps. A lot.

Aside from the euphoric, care-free buzz it gives us, it also makes for a great agent for herbal infusions. Several weeks ago, Noel made our first two: one for muscle tension, the other for colds. A third for anxiety is currently brewing in the cupboard. We also like to offer our sick guests a special tea of medicinal herbs, honey, lime and mezcal. Knocks you out like a NyQuil, but without all those droopy morning–after effects.

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If you can’t make it in to El Refugio for your Flu Shot, try this tea at home (with or without the mezcal):


2 handfuls of bugambilia flowers

2 fingers of an onion, chopped

2 limes

1 tbsp honey

mezcal as needed/desired

Boil flowers and onion for 10 minutes on medium. Strain and add juice of 2 limes, honey, and mezcal (2 ounces does me well). Drink and enjoy a coughless night of sleep. This tea works just as well without mezcal, but the alcohol makes for a nice nightcap.


Rachel Glueck