Mimosa hostilis tree

Traditional uses of Mimosa hostilis: where and what it is used for

Indigenous and rural communities use Mimosa tenuiflora in traditional medicine recipes, as an agroforestry ally and for rituals.


1. Where and what is the Mimosa hostilis used?

1.1 Mexico

1.1.1 Chiapas

1.1.2 Oaxaca

1.1.3 Yucatan

1.2 Central America

1.3 Brazil: beyond religious use

2. Traditional recipes with Mimosa hostilis

2.1 To cure wounds and burns

2.2 To combat skin pimples

2.3 Intimate use for women

Mimosa hostilis has earned a very special place in the communities of the American continent. Its uses are as versatile as the places where it grows and the names it has been given. Documented traditional uses range from relief of skin burns1 and stomach ailments2, use as fuel3, and even as part of religious rituals4.

This tree grows in southeast Mexico, Central America, and northeast Brazil5, where the most popular traditional use of Mimosa hostilis in indigenous and rural communities is to heal the skin and treat inflammation or infection6

However, treating skin damage is not the only use communities have made of it. In Mexico, Mimosa hostilis has different medicinal uses, while the plant's wood is used to build fences or as firewood or charcoal.

In Central America its use is mostly agroforestry, that is, it is incorporated into cultivation methods to obtain fuel (firewood or charcoal), construction materials, provide shade and fodder for animals7.

Meanwhile, in North-eastern Brazil its use is more associated with religious rites. However, there are communities that also use it as fuel.

The potential of Mimosa hostilis is wide and these uses are a sample of the potential of this wonderful plant, which is also known as jurema, tepezcohuite or Mimosa tenuiflora.

Below, we will tell you more about the traditional uses that the communities give it according to the region:


Where and what is the Mimosa hostilis used?

Mimosa hostilis can be found in southern Mexico, in the central region of the state of Chiapas, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca8, and in the Yucatan Peninsula9. Its presence extends to Central America and as far as Brazil.



In Mexico, the use of tepezcohuite (the name given to Mimosa hostilis) became popular in the 1980s although its healing properties had been included in traditional recipes for much longer. It was a series of catastrophes - an explosion and a volcanic eruption - during those years that forced victims to use the effectiveness of Mimosa hostilis to treat wounds and burns10.

Indigenous woman grinding bark from Tepezcohuite

Here are the uses by state:



• To build crop protection fences or paddocks11
• To obtain wood or charcoal12
• To heal burns13
• To wash superficial wounds on the skin14
• To treat skin conditions, such as blemishes, fungus, wrinkles15 and pimples1
• To cure mouth, gum or palate abrasions17
• To treat gastrointestinal problems18



• To heal wounds19
• To heal burns20
• To fight against hair loss21
• To prevent premature skin aging22
• To reduce warts and stretch marks23
• To treat vaginal itching and inflammation24 25



• To accelerate wound and burn healing and ease pain26
• To wash wounds and pimples27
• To wash wounds in domestic animals28


Central America

In Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, agroforestry use is the most predominant29. Mimosa hostilis is known in Honduras and El Salvador as black carbon30 because its wood is used as fuel. In fact, in eastern El Salvador, in the rural area of the municipality of Santa Clara, this plant is preferred over other species for firewood because it is the most abundant and produces the most charcoal31.

Agroforestry uses in Central America

• To obtain firewood32
• To produce building materials33
• Animal fodder34
• To provide shade for livestock35

In El Salvador, Mimosa hostilis also has the following uses:
• To treat peptic ulcers36
• To treat dental problems37


Brazil: beyond religious use

In Brazil, Mimosa hostilis is known as jurema or jurema preta and is used by indigenous groups in the northeast of the country and by some Afro-Brazilian communities38.

Many indigenous groups in the semi-arid region of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil consider Mimosa hostilis a sacred plant and deep respect is held for it39. The jurema has a sacred conception40; its use in indigenous groups' rituals is a way of linking tradition and ethnic identity, according to the study The Use of Medicinal Plants by the Cultural Descendants of African People in Brazil41.

Mimosa hostilis religious use

Despite the popularity of the religious use of the jurema, it is not the only one in Brazil.

In the rural communities of Itaporanga, Lagoa and Sao Mamede, also in northeastern Brazil, Mimosa hostilis is used mostly as fuel and tool for construction42, and is even used to make partitions43.

According to the study Traditional knowledge and use of Mimosa tenuiflora (Wild.) Poir. (jurema-preta) in the semi-arid region from northeastern Brazil other uses of jurema that were identified in these communities were as a rain indicator, for shade of farm animals, and for washing underwear44. The study does not detail how these uses are carried out.


Traditional recipes with Mimosa hostilis

Are you interested in how to use it? We made a documentary review of the traditional recipes, here we explain some of them:


To cure wounds and burns

In the Zoque jungle of Chiapas, the indigenous country communities of the municipalities of Cintalapa and Ocozocoautla boil the stem or bark of the Mimosa hostilis for 10 to 15 minutes45 and apply it as baths or poultices (thick, moist pastes that are placed on the affected body part)46.

In Oaxaca, in the municipalities of San Lorenzo Texmelucan, Santa Cruz Zenzontepec and Sola de Vega, the bark of the Mimosa hostilis is boiled. Then, with the warm infusion, the wounds or grains are washed 3 or 4 times a day until the affected area heals47.

To cure burns, in those same communities of Oaxaca, the bark of the tree is boiled until it evaporates and only a part of the used water remains. This infusion is applied to the burned area. Roasted and ground bark can also be applied48.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mayans apply the bark powder of Mimosa Hostilis to wounds (especially burns) to soothe pain and speed healing49.

Indigenous woman healing a kid with Mimosa hostilis


To combat skin pimples

In Ocozocoautla, Chiapas, a piece of about 10 centimeters of the bark of Mimosa hostilis and a piece of the same size of copalchi (Croton glabellus), another medicinal plant, are used. Both pieces are prepared in half a liter of water and the infusion is applied in a compress with a canvas on the affected part, leaving it for about 10 to 15 minutes50.

In San Lorenzo Texmelucan, Santa Cruz Zenzontepec and Sola de Vega, Oaxaca, the same steps are followed as for treating wounds51.


Intimate use for women

In the communities of San Lorenzo Texmelucan, Santa Cruz Zenzontepec and Sola de Vega, in Oaxaca, the bark of the Mimosa hostilis is boiled and external washings are given52 to attend to the "discomforts of women", as they call the itching of the vulva and vaginal itching.

The versatility of Mimosa hostilis is not only because of the different uses that communities make of it, but also because of how different parts of the plant are used.

Did you know that, in addition to these uses, you can use Mimosa hostilis to dye textiles or tan leather?


1. Cadena-Íñiguez, P., Cruz-Morales, F.D.C., Ballinas-Albores, E. 2014) Tepezcohuite (Mimosa tenuiflora (L) Willd): el árbol de la piel. Año 7, Vol. 6 Noviembre-diciembre 2014.

2. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. 2000) Descripción, distribución, anatomía, composición química y usos de Mimosa tenuiflora (Fabaceae-Mimosoideae) en México. Revista de Biología Tropical. Vol. 48 (4): 3-2013.

3. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. 2000)

4. Albuquerque, U.P. 2001) The Use of Medicinal Plants by the Cultural Descendants of African People in Brazil. Acta Farm. Bonaerense 20 (2):139-44.

5. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L., Grether, R. 1998) Germinación, dispersión y establecimiento de plántulas de Mimosa tenuiflora (Leguminosae) en México.

6. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. 2000)

7. Urias Rivas, S.Y., Miranda Alvarenga, R.C., Amaya, M.A. 2014) Caracterización del sistema agroforestal con la especie carbón negro (Mimosa tenuiflora), en el municipio de Santa Clara, San Vicente, El Salvador, año 2012 (tesis). Universidad de El Salvador.

8. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. 2000)<

9. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

10. Camargo-Ricalde, S.L. 2000)

11. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

12. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

13. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

14. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

15. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

16. Orantes-García, C., Moreno-Moreno, R.A., Caballero-Roque, A., & Farrera-Sarmiento, O. 2018) Plantas utilizadas en la medicina tradicional de comunidades campesinas indígenas de la Selva Zoque, Chiapas, México. Boletín Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Plantas Medicinales y Aromáticas. Vol 17(5): 3-2013.

17. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

18. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

19. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010) Manual: Propagación de plantas de tepezcohuite. INDESOL. Secretaría de Desarrollo Social.

20. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

21. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

22. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

23. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

24. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

25. Galente, C. (1992) Plantas medicinales de la región istmeña para la reproducción. En Sesia, P. 1998. Medicina tradicional herbolaria y salud comunitaria en Oaxaca. Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca, CIESAS. Oaxaca México. Págs. 192- 193).

26. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

27. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

28. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

29. Flores, A., Ortíz, R., Pacheco, S., Cabrera, V. 2019) Uso de fauna y flora silvestre en la comunidad de Duyusupo y El Jocote, Choluteca, Honduras. Revista Portal de la Ciencia. Número 16

30. Benavides, J.E. 1999) Árboles y arbustos forrajeros: una alternativa agroforestal para la ganadería. Conferencia electrónica de la FAO “Agroforestería para la producción animal en Latinoamérica”. Recuperado el 1 de julio de 2020 de: http://www.fao.org/ag/aga/AGAP/FRG/agrofor1/Agrofor1.htm

31. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

32. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

33. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

34. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

35. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

36. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

37. Urias Rivas, S.Y., et al (2014).

38. Albuquerque, U. P.(2001).

39. Farias, R., Batista, D., Lucena, J., Medeiros, N., Pereira, A., da Silva, J., de Oliveira, J., Nogueira, E., Vieira, M., Belarmino, C.A., Pereira, S., Trajano, A., Silva, J., Nunes, T.K., Ferreira, R. 2014) Traditional knowledge and use of Mimosa tenuiflora (Wild.) Poir. (jurema-preta) in the semi-arid region from Northeastern Brazil. Gaia Scientia. Volumen 8 (1): 3-2013.

40. Albuquerque, U. P.(2001).

41. Albuquerque, U. P.(2001).

42. Farias, R. et al (2014).

43. Farias, R. et al (2014).

44. Farias, R. et al (2014).

45. Orantes-García, C. et al (2018).

46. Orantes-García, C. et al (2018).

47. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

48. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

49. Cadena-Íñiguez, et al (2014).

50. Gómez Pérez. A.L. 2014) Etnobotánica de las plantas medicinales y ceremoniales en Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, Chiapas (tesis). Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas.

51. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

52. (Centro Educativo Intercultural Femenino Guadalupano A.C., 2010) 2010)

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