Meet My…Tilo!


Just kidding. That’s totally not my tilo. That’s my teacher’s tilo.

This is mine:

Those baby leaves though!

I smuggled her into the country with a few root cuttings, and I’m experimenting with a couple pots around the apartment to see where she does best.

Tilo (Justicia pectoralis) is a beautiful, shade-loving shrub that smells like green, grassy vanilla (thanks to coumarin, the stuff that scents plants like tonka bean and sweetgrass). In English, it’s sometimes called Carpenter’s Bush, but this is mainly a tropical and Caribbean plant.

In Central and South America, you can find tilo tea in grocery stores. This is not, however, to be confused with tila–which I’ve also seen sold in Mexican grocery stores here in the States in tea bags. Tila is Linden (Tilia cordata/americana). And today we’re talking Tilo.

Tilo is most widely used in teas for cold, flu and chest congestion. In addition to being an expectorant (a mucus-loosener so you can cough it up), Tilo is mildly analgesic (pain-relieving), anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and is a gentle sedative for anxiety, sleeplessness, and even epilepsy.

It also has a few magical properties, traditionally used enhance the hallucinogenic properties and absorption of other plants, like ayahuasca and various South American snuffs.

What fascinates me most about tilo, though, is that she’s Lady Medicine. Not many hormone regulators exist in the the plant world, and there is growing scientific evidence that tilo keeps estrogen and progesterone in check, easing symptoms of menopause and PMS. There have been folk uses for this plant and womb medicine for ages in Central and South America, and it’s so cool to see modern science correlate its findings with these traditional uses.

It’s funny how these things work: I’m not enrolled in an accredited herb school because I don’t want to practice in a clinical setting. Instead I rely on my intuition and the plants themselves to guide me to the what I should probably get to know.

At first, ortiga, jackass bitters and hombre grande (bitterwood) demanded my attention. Then cuculmeca and dormilona entered the picture. This last round in Costa Rica, tilo and vervain sweetly asked for my investigation. All the while, I had been tincturing vitex, motherwort and mugwort here in the States.

The plants you need will let themselves be known to you. It’s not a coincidence that these herbs presented themselves just as I’m exploring regulating my own cycle–I had no idea that tilo has effects on hormones until I began doing research.

Anyway, I have tilo tincturing as we speak–it’ll be ready in another 3 weeks or so. In the meantime, cultivating a relationship with tilo as I nourish and water her every day is an important part of the process to getting to know the energetic effects of just having her around.

So! As always with plants, to be continued…

signaturetransparent raquel alexandra



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