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Presented by: UT El Paso / Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program & Paso del Norte Health Foundation

Chihuahua groundsel*


Compilation by Armando Gonzalez Stuart, PhD.

Scientific Name:

Packera candidissima

Botanical Family:

Asteraceae

Other Common Name:

Chucaca, chukaka, chichaka, chicúa, chucá,“miracle tea” (Quattrocchi, 2012; White, 2002; Cardenal-Fernández, 2007).
*Based on the plant’s origin and main distribution, we propose this vernacular designation. To our knowledge, there are no common names for this species in English.

Common names in Spanish:

Lechuguilla de la sierra, lechuguilla, pies de gato, “té milagro” (Quattrocchi, 2012; White, 2002; Cardenal-Fernández, 2007)
Another closely related species, P. bellidifolia, also known by the common name of “chukaka”, possesses very similar therapeutic properties. It is sometimes included along with Chihuahua groundsel in an herbal combination available in the Ciudad Juarez and other Mexican markets under the name of “té milagro” or “miracle tea” (Fregoso-Serrano et al., 2012; Quattrocchi, 2012; Bah et al., 1994).

Where is it found?

This perennial plant has yellow flowers and grows in the Tarahumara mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico. Diverse species of the Packera genus are found various regions in Northern Mexico and the Southwestern United States (Allred and Ivey, 2012; Quattrocchi, 2012; Mabberley, 2008; Cardenal-Fernández, 2007).

Parts of the plant used:

The whole plant.

How is it used?

The entire plant is steeped in hot water to make a tea (infusion). Additionally, the dried plant is boiled in water (decoction) and taken as a tea or applied externally (Cardenal –Fernández, 2007; Pereda-Miranda, 1995).

What is it used for?

The entire plant is decocted in water and applied externally in poultices and washes or added to creams in order to treat contusions or various skin problems, including infections, mange, and boils. The decoction is applied as a vaginal douche to treat fungal and other infections. In addition, pieces of the root are applied to the teeth to combat cavities and toothaches. Internally, the bitter-tasting tea is taken to treat stomach problems, ulcers, kidney problems, and venereal diseases. The tea also has cathartic (purgative) properties (Quattrocchi, 2012; Cardenal-Fernández, 2007; Pereda-Miranda, 1995).
Using various chemical analytical methods, very high levels of nitrogen-containing compounds known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids have been detected in certain species of the genus Packeria (P. candidissima and P. bellidifolia) which are included in a commercial herbal supplement known as “té milagro” or "miracle tea" (Pereda-Miranda, 1995; Bah et al., 1994). In animal models, these compounds are known to be liver toxic, as well as potentially carcinogenic, especially if consumed for prolonged periods of time. Even though intoxications due to these plants have not yet been reported in humans, they have not been studied in depth in relation to their potential human toxicity, especially with prolonged ingestion. For this reason, their internal as well as external uses are not recommended (Roeder et al., 2015; Samuelsson and Bohlin, 2015; Teschke and Eickhoff, 2015; Pereda-Miranda, 1995).

Safety / Precautions

  • Related species belonging to the same botanical genus (Packera) have been used to induce abortion. For this reason, Chihuahua groundsel or “té milagro” should not be ingested or applied topically during pregnancy and lactation (Quattrocchi, 2012).
  • Persons who have preexisting liver diseases should consult with a health professional before taking this plant (Fragoso-Serrano et al., 2012; Pereda-Miranda, 1995).
  • This plant should not be used externally or internally in prolonged treatments (Fragoso-Serrano et al., 2012; Pereda-Miranda, 1995).

Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with a health care professional first. Avoid self-medication and self-diagnosis: Always be on the safe side!

References:

Allred K, Ivey R. Flora Neomexicana II.
Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press; 2012; pp. 174-177.

Bah M, Bye R, Pereda-Miranda R. Hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in the Mexican medicinal
plant Packera candidissima (Asteraceae: Senecioneae).
J Ethnopharmacol. 1994; 43(1):19-30.

Cardenal-Fernández F. Remedios y Prácticas Curativas en la Sierra Tarahumara 2ª ed.
Chihuahua, México: Editorial Gladius; 2007; p. 129.

Fragoso-Serrano M, Figueroa-González G, Castro-Carranza E, Hernández-Solis F, Linares E,
Bye R, Pereda-Miranda R. Profiling of alkaloids and eremophilanes in miracle tea (Packera
candidissima and P. bellidifolia) products. J Nat Prod. 2012; 75(5):890-5.
doi: 10.1021/np2009412.

Mabberley D J. Mabberley’s Plant Book 3rd ed.
London: Cambridge University Press; 2008; p. 620.

Pereda-Miranda R. Bioactive Natural Products from Traditionally Used Mexican Plants. Chapter
Five. In: Arnason J, Mata R, and Romeo JT (Editors). Phytochemistry of Medicinal Plants.
New York: Plenum Press; 1995; pp. 103-108.

Quattrocchi U. World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants (Vol. 4).
Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2012; p. 192.

Roeder E, Wiedenfeld H, Edgar JA. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in medicinal plants from North
America. Pharmazie. 2015; 70(6):357-67.

Samuelsson G, Bohlin L. Drugs of Natural Origin: A Treatise of Pharmacognosy 7th ed.
Stockholm: Swedish Pharmaceutical Society; 2015; pp. 664-666.

Teschke R, Eickhoff A. Herbal hepatotoxicity in traditional and modern medicine: actual key
issues and new encouraging steps. Front Pharmacol. 2015; 6:72. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2015.00072.

White R. Elsevier’s Dictionary of Plant Names of North America Including Mexico.
Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2003; p. 136.