Friday, May 4, 2012

The Bitter Fruit Amargosa

In South Texas and northern Mexico thousands of kids, and probably as many adults, have been forced or at least reluctantly acquiesced to take a dose of Amargosa.  The word means, “bitter” and is aptly applied.  The plant is in the family Simaroubaceae, a small clan confined primarily to tropical regions.  Amargosa is known scientifically as Castela texana—the genus in honor of a French naturalist named Castel and the species noting its presence in the state of Texas.  Amargosa extract is taken either from the roots or stems and is used in the treatment of Entamoeba histolytica.  The efficacy of this treatment has been the subject of several scientific inquiries and to date the results are promising.  But she is a bitter mouthful and when those who have swallowed the brew are asked to describe the experience the answer usually comes not with words but via facial contortions.  A friend of mine says it was his mother’s catchall cure for any sort of stomach or intestinal ailment.  “She even used it to treat skin rashes,” he said.  To which he adds, “But I’m here to tell you it’s nasty stuff.”

Below are a few scientific articles on the efficacy of Castela texana.

Amargosa is also known as Goat Bush or Allthorn Castela.