Common name: Peruvian ragweed
Spanish name: Altamisa, siete espíritus
Latin name: Ambrosia peruviana
Geo-distribution: This tropical plant is found in the Americas from Mexico to Peru to the CaribbeanBasin. It is commonly found in backyard medicinal plant gardens, as well as growing wild in vacant lots, fields and along roadsides.
Ambrosia peruviana has many common names; in Costa Rica, it is often referred to as altamisa, which is confusing, because another favorite medicinal plant, Tanacetum parthenium (European feverfew), bears the same name. This usually occurs when two plants share common properties or treat similar health conditions. Tilo is the Spanish name for the European linden tree and is also the name given to our native plant, Justicia pectoralis, which provides the same calming effects as linden tree flowers. That’s why it helps to note the scientific name for clarification.
Botanical description: An annual plant with very aromatic, pubescent, alternate, bipinnate leaves three to 10 centimeters long, with erect stems one to two meters tall. This plant has male flowers on the tips of the stems that are yellowish-green capsules, while the female flowers are located in the leaf axils at the stem. The oval seeds are three to four millimeters long with tiny spines.
Medicinal uses: A digestive stimulant and tonic, carminative (gas reliever), relaxant and painkiller, Peruvian ragweed can be used to treat colic, indigestion, stomachache and headache.
Preparation: Locals boil or steep a handful of leaves in one to two liters of water. Dosage can vary from one to three cups per day for three days. This preparation is used in emergencies and not as an everyday beverage.
Notes: This plant is not recommended for use during pregnancy or for children under 5. Some people have reported an allergic reaction to the pollen of the plant.